Flyers-Islanders rookie game: 5 players to watch

Flyers-Islanders rookie game: 5 players to watch

For an organization that has been recently ranked in the top five in terms of caliber of players and depth, there is much anticipation surrounding tonight's rookie game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

This will serve as another test for many of the Flyers' prospects, who dominated at the junior level, to showcase their potential in a game in which their talent and skill level are comparable with their opponents. If you’re general manager Ron Hextall, you want to see players stand out and excel, because if they can’t elevate their game during a rookie game, they’ll obviously have a much tougher time when the veterans report Friday.

So, here are five guys to keep your eyes on for tonight’s rookie game, which can be streamed on the Flyers' official website:

German Rubtsov, No. 63, C
Go back to the 2016 NHL draft and the Flyers had some big, skilled wingers to choose from: Kieffer Bellows, Julien Gauthier, Max Jones and Riley Tufte. Instead, Hextall elected to trade down and select Rubtsov, a natural center who was moved to left wing last season with the Saguenéens of the QMJHL after coming over from Russia midseason. He seemed to adjust without much of a problem. While his quickest route to the NHL may be on the wing, Rubtsov will be centering Oskar Lindblom and Pascal Laberge, two very talented wingers, tonight. This trio could very well be the Flyers' most productive line and I expect they’ll have a number of quality scoring chances.

Oskar Lindblom, No. 54, LW
Hextall's quote following Day 1 of his very first draft as the Flyers' GM was, “We need to hit some home runs with our later picks.” It's one that has been branded into my brain, and Lindblom may be the Flyers' equivalent to the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins. A 2014 fifth-round pick (138th overall), Lindblom could be that home run hitter. Dave Hakstol commented on Lindblom's high hockey IQ, lightning quick release and a player ready to compete with the big boys. Lindblom needs to show he can be dominant at times during this rookie game.

Carter Hart, No. 79, G 
Unless you watched the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships, you probably haven't seen an entire game from Hart, who has been one of the most consistent and steady goaltenders in the CHL playing for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon commented on how fundamentally sound Hart is with positioning and structure inside the crease. The first netminder selected in the 2016 draft, Hart also possesses a maturity and deep knowledge of the goaltending position as he’s spent time studying former Vezina Trophy winners Carey Price and Braden Holtby over the years. You can expect Hart to split time tonight with Alex Lyon, and I’m intrigued to see how composed he’ll be in a game like this.

Phil Myers, No. 61, D
What separates Myers from Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Ivan Provorov? He’s right-handed, and having a right-handed shot has been a real need for the Flyers on their blueline. That doesn’t mean you rush Myers to the NHL level, but it will eventually create some much-needed balance. Myers said he has brought a tremendous amount of confidence into camp, and physically, he has developed as he has filled out over the past year. The emphasis for Myers has been to simplify his game and not think as much, and I think we’ll see that paired with Sanheim tonight.

Morgan Frost, No. 68, C
With three drafts under his belt, it appears Hextall and his scouting staff prefer 18-year-olds who are maybe more developed mentally than they are physically. Frost would fit that description, as the front office raves about his hockey sense, overall intelligence and his ability to incorporate his teammates. While he doesn’t have an explosive offensive game, he’s responsible defensively and reads plays well in the defensive zone. He has the frame of a typical 18-year-old but that will come over time as he continues to develop, adding size and muscle. Plus, don’t you want to get a glimpse of who the Flyers selected in the Brayden Schenn deal?

Anticipated lineup
Oskar Lindblom-German Rubtsov-Pascal Laberge
Connor Bunnaman-Nolan Patrick-Maksim Sushko
Carsen Twarynski-Mikhail Vorobyev-Ivan Kosorenkov
Isaac Ratcliffe-Morgan Frost-Matthew Strome

Travis Sanheim-Phil Myers
Sam Morin-Mark Friedman
Frank Hora-James de Haas

Alex Lyon
Carter Hart

Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

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Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

WASHINGTON -- Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and the Calgary Flames beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Monday night.

Gaudreau scored and assisted on Sean Monahan's goal, one of two on the power play for Calgary, which has won four of its past five. Mikael Backlund and captain Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who got 29 saves from Mike Smith.

Gaudreau, nicknamed "Johnny Hockey," has eight goals and 11 assists during his point streak. Led by the Carneys Point, New Jersey, native, the Flames are 7-3-0 in that time.

Lars Eller scored the only goal for the Capitals, who took five minor penalties and lost for the third time in four games. Braden Holtby allowed four goals on 39 shots.

The Flames came in feeling good after a comeback victory in Philadelphia and a 1950s-themed train ride to Washington. But the Capitals took a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds in when Jakub Vrana found Eller for his fourth goal of the season.

Calgary controlled much of the play from that point on, tying it on Gaudreau's goal 4:49 in and taking a lead on Monahan's power-play goal 5:22 into the second. Monahan had a goal and an assist after a power-play hat trick Saturday against the Flyers.

Washington's parade to the penalty box gave the Flames momentum and then their third goal at 4:38 of the second when Backlund buried a loose puck. Giordano's goal to make it 4-1 was effectively a third power-play goal as it came 1 second after ex-Flames forward Alex Chiasson's penalty expired (see full recap).

Blue Jackets edge Sabres for 4th straight win
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sergei Bobrovsky made three of his 30 saves on a power play in the final two minutes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets. Markus Nutivaara had two assists.

Buffalo dropped its sixth straight game. Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart scored for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots.

Bobrovsky made his biggest save when he slid across the crease to kick away a Ryan O'Reilly one-timer with 1:49 remaining. Bobrovsky got a piece of Kyle Okposo's shot off the rebound and the puck trickled across the goal line while Okposo fell into the net. Officials determined on replay that the goal did not count.

The Blue Jackets scored first for the fifth straight game when Dubois collected a loose puck in the slot and lifted a wrist shot over Lehner four minutes into the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand set up Dubois' third goal of the season with a pass from behind the net.

Panarin scored his fifth on a high wrist shot from the right circle 5:47 into the third. Jenner added his third goal of the year on a play in front of the net midway through the period (see full recap).

Raanta, Coyotes end Maple Leafs' win streak
TORONTO -- Antti Raanta made 26 saves and the Arizona Coyotes ended the Toronto Maple Leafs' winning streak at six games with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Brendan Perlini, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder scored for the Coyotes (5-15-3), who have won three in a row for the first time this season.

Arizona rookie Clayton Keller had two assists to give him 20 points in 23 games.

James van Riemsdyk scored for the Maple Leafs (14-8-0).

Frederik Andersen had his shutout streak snapped at 1:41:28 when the Coyotes scored in the first period. Andersen, who made 28 saves, had blanked the opponent in back-to-back games.

Toronto star Auston Matthews, playing in his 100th career game, appeared to tie it 2-all with 3:50 to play but the goal was overturned after a replay review because of goalie interference by Zach Hyman (see full recap).

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

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Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.