Feeling like NHLers, Flyers prospects Phil Myers, Oskar Lindblom ready to reach dreams

Feeling like NHLers, Flyers prospects Phil Myers, Oskar Lindblom ready to reach dreams

TORONTO — Skating around in an empty rink in August for a photo shoot might not seem like much, but for prospects Phil Myers and Oskar Lindblom, donning the Flyers' colors while on the ice together gave the pair an opportunity to envision what their 2017-18 season might look like.

Myers and Lindblom were on the ice together this week at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre inside the historic Maple Leaf Gardens for the annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase — an opportunity for trading card giant Upper Deck to shoot the players for upcoming products.

The Flyers prospects spent a large part of Monday afternoon on the ice together, feeding each other for one-timers and getting to know the rest of the rookie class from around the NHL.

“That’s what I dream about, so keep it going and try and make a spot in Philly,” Lindblom said of wearing the Flyers' colors.

Myers got to see his life in Flyers colors last October when he suited up in preseason games.

“Obviously I’m going to go [to training camp] with the mindset of making the team, that’s my ultimate goal,” Myers said. “It’s been my dream since I was a child.”

Myers heads to camp this year with the confidence of a full summer of training behind him. Last summer, offseason hip surgery hindered his ability to work out and the 20-year-old admitted to being out of shape during preseason play.

“I had stages this summer,” Myers said. “It started with putting weight on, then we were doing power and then at the end it’s more speed stuff. It’s paid off so far and I feel good. So I’m happy.”

The defenseman spent a bulk of his summer training in his hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. He also trained with the Flyers for 3½ weeks. The 2015 free-agent signing didn’t do any extravagant trips this offseason, but he did catch a few concerts.

“I went to a concert in Philly, the Zac Brown Band, and I went to a music festival in Montreal, Ile Soniq, which was pretty fun,” Myers said. “It was a fun weekend, but I was still reasonable, I got the training in. It’s important to stay on track.”

With the youth movement in full swing, Myers sees an opportunity to follow the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov on a young Flyers' blue line. 

Even with an opportunity, the Flyers should have up to two rookies on the back end; Myers knows there’ll be stiff competition with the likes of Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim also competing to be everyday NHLers.

“A little competition is always good,” Myers said. “All the guys are ... we all get along really well. We’re juggling to try to help each other make the team. It’s going to be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.”

For Lindblom, this is his second taste of North American hockey. The native of Gavle, Sweden, has spent parts of the past four seasons playing for Brynäs IF in the SHL, but got a small sample of American Hockey League action when he dressed in eight games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms two seasons ago.

“That was good for me just to see how it is over here, feel the environment, feel the games, good experience,” Lindblom said. “It’s a lot faster here, but give it a couple of games and then you’re in it. I went to Philly last weekend, trained there, after a couple of weeks, I’m going to be fine.”  

The 21-year-old scored 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games last season — up from the 25 points in 48 games he produced during the 2015-16 season.

Lindblom credits his development for the increase in point production.

“One year older, faster and stronger,” he said. “More skilled overall. I played with two good players over there, they helped me a lot.”

Though there are roster spots open, and Lindblom is certain to challenge for one, the 6-foot-2, 192-pound forward isn’t opposed to further seasoning in the AHL, if that’s what’s recommended.

“If I’m not good enough to play in the NHL, then I’ll need to take a little longer way, but that’s how they do it over here,” Lindblom said. “That’s not a big thing for me to go to the AHL. If it happens, it happens, and we’ll go from there.”

The influx of youth has veterans such as Wayne Simmonds excited for the upcoming season.

“There's a ton of 'em. Our prospect pool is probably top two in the league, so you can go down the list: Sanheim, Morin, Hagg, Lindblom — there’s a million guys I could keep naming off,” Simmonds said at the BioSteel Camp last week. “We’re going to have a lot of young defensemen coming in and I think it’s going to make our team better.

“With a good mix of youth and veterans, I think the youth can spark the veterans a little bit and the veterans will help bring the younger guys [along].”

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl