Flyers

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera's move, sweet connection, more

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Zack Hill/AP Images

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera's move, sweet connection, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — It was around 7 a.m. in his native Finland when Jori Lehtera was woken up by his wife.
 
"She said, 'We're going to go to Philly,'" Lehtera recalled Saturday.
 
He had been traded to the Flyers.
 
"I was like, 'OK,'" Lehtera said. "And I kept sleeping."
 
No big deal, huh?
 
"I'm just kidding," he said with a laugh. "I started to Google the place."
 
This came during June when Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers on the night of the NHL draft in the deal that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues.
 
Lehtera, a 29-year-old center, now finds himself in Voorhees for his first training camp with the Flyers. And just like when he started researching Philadelphia, Lehtera is excited about his new beginning. Last season — his third with the Blues and in the NHL — the 2008 third-round pick set career lows across the board, scoring 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 64 games for a minus-6 rating. He was also a healthy scratch in three of the team's 11 playoff games.
 
"The whole last year was frustrating," he said. "I'm really happy to get a fresh start here. Really excited."
 
Through two days of training camp, Lehtera has been paired on a line with fellow Finn Valtteri Filppula. The two are well-acquainted, having worked out together in previous summers. Lehtera and Filppula are two of many options the Flyers have at the center position. Should Lehtera have to play the wing, that's no problem he said.
 
"I've played winger before in the world cup, Olympics, world championships," he said. "I'm fine with that."

So what did he find out about Philadelphia on that Google search?
 
"It's a big city," he said.
 
Then Claude Giroux, at the locker stall right next to his new teammate, chimed in.
 
"Great media!" the Flyers' captain said with a huge smile.
 
Game time
Following two days of camp, the Flyers jump right into their preseason schedule with a 1 p.m. game Sunday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

As for who plays among the 57 players on the training camp roster will be announced Sunday morning, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.
 
Per NHL rules, a club has to dress at least eight veterans for an exhibition game, while a first-round pick from the most recent year's entry draft can constitute as one.
 
Regardless, we'll find out the lineup Sunday morning. Expect more junior and AHL players than established NHLers, though, as early roster cuts could come as soon as Monday morning.
 
What does the preseason opener mean for Hakstol?
 
"We've barely touched on or talked about a system," he said. "It's not going to be about systems tomorrow, it'll be more so about individuals going out and playing to their strengths and doing that throughout the 60 minutes. We're coming off a couple of real hard days. I would expect at some point in time — we might get a little low on energy at some point in time in the 60 minutes. I'm not concerned with that. I want to see guys that are able to rise above that a little bit, continue to think the game well and play hard and play intelligent."
 
Captain to kid
The morning session with the first group provided an exciting sequence between Giroux and anticipated prospect Oskar Lindblom.
 
In a 2-on-2 drill, Giroux slipped a pretty pass through traffic to Lindblom, who skillfully deflected it home for a goal. The play just so happened to occur on the south end of the rink where fans are allowed to watch along the glass.
 
Fans packed Flyers Skate Zone at 9:15 a.m. for festivities and to watch practice.
 
They certainly took delight in the Giroux-Lindblom connection.
 
Back together?
It appears Dean Lombardi is reuniting with Ron Hextall.
 
The Flyers have hired the ex-general manager, according to a report Saturday by The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun. In what function he'll serve Hextall has not yet been reported.
 
Hextall was Lombardi's assistant GM when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. The Kings, who also won the Cup under Lombardi's watch in 2014, fired the 59-year-old in April.
 
Lombardi was a scout for the Flyers from 2003 to 2006.
 
Patrick's line
Like Day 1, No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick was paired with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers clearly want to see how Patrick and Lindblom fare with NHL talent as the organization's two biggest roster hopefuls in camp.
 
Weal has been impressive with his speed and puck-handling. Once he gets a head of steam, he makes things happen.
 
He has also been impressed by Patrick.
 
"He's a smart player, you can tell right away," Weal said. "He's calm in the middle of the ice. It's nice to have a guy like that that has a good presence in there and is calm with the puck and can make plays out to the wingers. It's the first couple of days, so we're just starting to get to know to each other and I think it's just going to keep on getting better from here."
 
Hard to believe Patrick turns just 19 Tuesday?
 
"They're getting younger and younger, you know?" Weal said. "It's pretty crazy. He's a talented kid and it'll be nice if we can get to play together a little more moving forward."
 
Crushin' Cole
Forward prospect Cole Bardreau seemed to hit just about everything in sight Saturday.
 
Bardeau is only 5-foot-10 but 194 pounds and fearless physically. Playing in the first group, he bulldozed Mark Friedman (5-10/192) — an energy guy himself — in front of the net and sent Ivan Kosorenkov (5-10/187) hard into the boards shortly thereafter.
 
The all-out style is Bardreau's calling card.

"It's part of who he is as a player, he's in the middle of everything," Hakstol said. "In the first couple of days, he's certainly a guy that is trying to take advantage of every opportunity. There's no part-time to what he's done so far in the first couple of days. And I guess I would expect that out of him. He's an energy-type player, he plays the game in your face. He did that all last year when he was in the lineup in Lehigh. He's continued to do that here early this week."
 
The 24-year-old will more than likely start 2017-18 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and provide that edge in hopes of being a depth option for the Flyers if needed.
 
Injury note
Forward prospect Pascal Laberge, who left Friday's morning practice early to be examined by a doctor for an undisclosed issue, is fine and was back on the ice Saturday.
 
He played alongside prospects German Rubtsov and Kosorenkov.
 
"It felt good, the second practice of the main camp, we had a good pace out there and I think we worked well," Laberge said. "It was fun.
 
"They're Russian players, they have a lot of skills, I think I can bring skills, too. We have a great line out there and hopefully, we can play together tomorrow or later in the camp."
 
Quotables
"Your first goal is always to make the playoffs and then you go from there. I think our division is tough, but at the same time, our team, we're molding as a good team pretty quick here. Having those young guys come in and make a difference for us right away, I think it's going to make us a pretty dangerous team."
 
- Claude Giroux
 
"It's really intense, a lot is concentrated on the D joining the rush and scoring. It's the first two days, I'm sure they have their reasons for certain drills. We just have to trust the process, go out there and do what they're asking us to do. The first couple days haven't been really goalie-friendly, let's just say that. The D drills will come out soon and we'll be sorting out defensive-zone coverages and things like that."
 
- Brian Elliott
 
Group lines, pairings and goalies
They were nearly identical to Day 1.
 
Morning
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier-Mikhail Vorobyev-Colin McDonald
Pascal Laberge/Anthony Salinitri-German Rubtsov-Ivan Kosorenkov
Greg Carey-Corban Knight-Cole Bardreau
 
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald    
Will O'Neill-Mark Alt
Maxim Lamarche-Mark Friedman
 
Brian Elliott    
Alex Lyon    
John Muse
 
Afternoon
Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Connor Bunnaman/Carsen Twarynski-Phil Varone-Mike Vecchione
Tyrell Goulbourne-Radel Fazleev-Danick Martel
 
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
T.J. Brennan-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Phil Myers
Frank Hora-Reece Wilcox/James de Haas
 
Michal Neuvirth
Carter Hart
Leland Irving

Future Flyers Report: Is it time for Samuel Morin, Mike Vecchione call-ups?

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USA Today Images

Future Flyers Report: Is it time for Samuel Morin, Mike Vecchione call-ups?

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Samuel Morin, D, 21, 6-7/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
After Radko Gudas was slapped with a 10-game suspension Sunday, many pointed to Morin as a call-up option to replace Gudas. Here's why that won't happen.

Morin returned just last week after missing a few weeks with an injury. That's one reason. Another is, Andrew MacDonald is nearing a return from his lower-body injury. He could return as early as Tuesday. Mark Alt has played adequately, and if MacDonald is ready to return, the Flyers would need an extra body, not a regular on the blue line.

The Flyers are not going to have Morin sit in the press box. That much is clear. When MacDonald suffered his injury, the Flyers wanted to call Morin up. They announced it but later found Morin was injured himself. Hence the Alt call-up. Tough luck for Morin.

Many believed Morin showed enough to make the Flyers in the preseason. I was among them. I still would like to see the Flyers have Morin with Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim here. But the Flyers were and are not comfortable with three rookies on defense, and the blue line hasn't been the team's wart.

So Morin will have to stay patient for his opportunity. It will come. Unfortunately, Morin's best route to the NHL this season is a long-term injury to a defenseman already here.

As for what Morin did last week. Morin returned Wednesday and had a rough showing in the Phantoms' 6-2 loss to Belleville. But it wasn't a strong game for any Phantom. On Friday night, Morin had an assist and a fight in Lehigh Valley's 5-2 win over Laval.

Mike Vecchione, C, 24, 5-10/194, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
As the Flyers’ scoring woes outside of their top line continue, the noise for shaking up the roster will continue to get louder and louder, and rightfully so. Many are calling for Danick Martel, who is scoring at a ridiculous clip with the Phantoms. But the more realistic call-up is Vecchione, who had yet another big week as he's banging on the NHL's doorstep.

Vecchione had a pair of two-goal games, including a three-point night, in two games. He accounted for both goals Wednesday in the Phantoms’ 6-2 loss to Belleville and then three points in Friday’s 5-2 win over Laval. After collecting five points in two games last week, Vecchione now leads AHL rookies with 18 points. He ranks second on the Phantoms in goals (6), assists (12), points (18) and points-per-game (1.06).

Now comes the question: Could we see Vecchione in a Flyers uniform soon? It’s a fair question to ask, especially considering the Flyers’ scoring imbalance. I’d like to see Vecchione come up because I think he would be an instant upgrade over Dale Weise, a Ron Hextall signing and a player the Flyers continue to put in a top-nine role.

Vecchione is producing at the AHL level, and he appears physically ready for the NHL too. At some point, the Flyers have to try something. It's still early in the season, but there are enough warning signs that this scoring imbalance could be a problem all year long. Vecchione is an in-house option that could provide an offensive spark to this team.

I doubt we'll see Vecchione get a call-up anytime soon, though. The Flyers are committed to Weise. They have Jori Lehtera and Matt Read in the press box. It doesn't seem like they're open to bringing Vecchione, or anyone else, up yet. That could change soon.

It should.

Connor Bunnaman, C, 19, 6-1/207, Kitchener (OHL)
Bunnaman’s four-game goal streak ended last Tuesday, but it was still a productive week for the Rangers’ captain. Bunnaman recorded three goals and three assists in a four-game week. He had a tally in Kitchener’s 7-5 win Friday over Guelph, scored the game-winner and added an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Barrie and then a goal and an assist Sunday in a 4-1 win over Peterborough.

Bunnaman, in his fourth OHL season, leads the Rangers with 14 goals and ranks second with 20 points. During his current 10-game point binge, Bunnaman has nine goals and 12 points, failing to register a point in just one game.

Anthony Salinitri, C, 19, 5-11/170, Sarnia (OHL)
Salinitri continued to ride an offensive wave last week for the Sting, collecting his first hat trick of the season while his point streak reached four games before ending Sunday.

On Friday night, Salinitri led Sarnia to a 6-3 win over Windsor with his first hat trick of the season and his third of his OHL career. He scored the game’s first goal, broke a 2-2 tie and then scored the game-winner. All three of his goals had an impact. Salinitri had an assist Thursday in Sarnia’s 5-3 loss to Flint. During his four-game point streak, Salinitri had six goals and eight points. He has 23 points in 23 games this season.

Quick Hits
Cooper Marody had two more multi-point games for Michigan. Marody now has eight straight multi-point games, compiling 19 points over that span.

• A big week for Carter Hart, who recorded his 21st career WHL shutout last Wednesday, tying him with Leland Irving for Everett’s franchise record.

Hart’s shutout last week was also his second straight. He then turned in a 31-save performance in a win over Seattle. Then on Sunday, Hart stopped 48 shots in a 2-1 loss to Regina.

Wade Allison had an assist Friday and a two-goals Saturday as No. 15 Western Michigan swept UNO. He has 12 goals and 29 points so far in his sophomore season.

Philippe Myers returned last week after missing four games with a groin injury. Myers had an assist Saturday in the Phantoms’ 5-2 win over Laval.

• Hamilton’s Matthew Strome is heating up. Strome had three goals, including a two-goal game, and four points in three games. He currently has a seven-game point streak, recording six goals and 13 points during that span. 

Wyatt Kalynuk had a four-assist weekend, including a three-assist game for No. 6 Wisconsin, who beat No. 17 Michigan, 7-3, Friday and tied Michigan, 4-4, Saturday.

• Clarkson defenseman Terrance Amorosa had an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. Amorosa has four goals and 13 points 14 games into his senior season.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was suspended 10 games Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his slashing penalty to the back of the neck of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault.​

The incident occurred 9:50 in the first period of the Winnipeg game that saw Gudas receive a five-minute major and a 10-game misconduct as a result of the play.

Gudas has already served one game of that suspension, as he sat out Saturday’s home game against the Calgary Flames awaiting Sunday morning’s phone hearing.

Gudas will forfeit just over $408,000 as a result of his actions. The Flyers defenseman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until Dec. 12 when the Flyers host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This marks the longest suspension of Gudas’ career. He was slapped with a six-game suspension for his blow to Bruins forward Austin Czarnik in a 2016 preseason game. His first suspension in a Flyers sweater came back on Dec. 2, 2015, when he received three games for an illegal check to the head of Senators center Mika Zibanejad.

The suspension may ultimately help Gudas, who has appeared to be favoring his shoulder in recent games, limiting his ability to deliver his typical bone-jarring hits.