Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

We know about Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.

Everyone has the 19-year-old building blocks circled as the Flyers’ two biggest roster hopefuls entering 2016 training camp.

But could anyone surprise?

Let’s take a look at five sleepers, players whom may not make the roster out of camp but might impress and join the orange and back at some point this season.

Robert Hagg, D, 6-2/210, No. 48
The Swede may not provide the offensive jolt like his defensive counterparts, but Hagg is sound in his own zone and seasoned for 21 years old. He provides quality size, a mature build — which is a big checkmark with general manager Ron Hextall — and penalty-kill experience. With two seasons at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley under his belt, as well as four Flyers development camps, the 2013 second-round pick feels ready. “Absolutely,” he said in July. “I don’t know the time, but hopefully I can get a shot this year, that’s my goal for the year. We will see.” The Flyers’ blue line is far from sacrosanct and injuries/moves happen. Hagg, knowing his role, may be one of the more NHL-ready prospects in which Hextall would feel comfortable calling up.

Roman Lyubimov, C, 6-2/207, No. 60
Lyubimov is not your average rookie, having played 185 career games in the KHL, where he also competed in 39 postseason contests. The Flyers signed him away from Russia on a one-year, two-way deal in July after the 24-year-old “really popped at the World Championships this past year,” according to Hextall. Lyubimov is a depth forward likely headed to the Phantoms, but he’s here to compete and will certainly have his chances throughout the season to make the Flyers.

Taylor Leier, LW, 5-11/177, No. 58
A 2012 fourth-round pick of the Flyers, Leier had a cup of coffee with the big club last season when he was called up for six games in November. The 22-year-old produced at the junior level and has two AHL seasons on his résumé, the last being a 20-goal, 29-assist campaign in which he led the Phantoms in power-play markers (10) and was second in points (49). His time could be coming soon. “[Hextall's] been saying patience, and Taylor is a perfect example of that,” Flyers assistant GM and director of player personnel Chris Pryor said to in July. “He has to grow as a pro and took a big step last year. He’s on the cusp from the AHL to playing in the NHL. Needs to get a little bigger.”

Tyrell Goulbourne, LW, 6-0/199, No. 56
Goulbourne brings feistiness to the ice and is a pest for opponents because of how hard he plays. Scoring isn’t his forte, but he can impact a penalty kill and brings an edge. The 22-year-old, a prototypical dirty-work player, made his presence felt in Wednesday’s prospect game against the Islanders. He’s likely a year away from the Flyers, but his style of game will have the team’s attention in Lehigh Valley.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/198, No. 49
The standout at Yale and the Flyers agreed to a contract for a reason after Lyon decided to forgo his senior year. The Flyers are high on the 23-year-old, who could climb the team’s goaltending depth chart. We’ve seen goalies get hurt and Lyon could be a dark-horse option for the club as a backup if he outcompetes Anthony Stolarz at Lehigh Valley. “He's very polished,” Hextall said in July. “We expect big things from him.” One thing is sure and that’s the Phantoms’ netminders will be fun to watch.

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

One Czech is out, and another has checked in.

Petr Mrazek has endured a rather eventful past 24 hours. Following news of the trade to the Flyers, Mrazek didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m. and was awake at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Philadelphia that had him at the Wells Fargo Center in time for the Flyers' morning skate.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Mrazek said Tuesday. “I got a call at 9:30 from (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland and then Ron Hextall. Yeah, I’m excited. A couple of months ago I had a good conversation with Ken Holland about it and he said if he had a good opportunity to do it, he was going to try and move me. I was really happy.”

With Michal Neuvirth now expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, and Brian Elliott scheduled to be out until late March recovering from core muscle surgery, Mrazek will now be the Flyers' go-to guy in net. 

“Petr’s a proven guy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That goes without saying. We’ve said all along we have confidence in Alex (Lyon) and he’s starting tonight, but Hexy alluded to it, going out and getting an established veteran NHL goaltender and that’s what Petr is.”

Mrazek’s game has definitely reached another level since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 26-year-old netminder has a 5-3-2 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save percentage since Jan. 1. 

“I changed a couple of things during the summer,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t play much the first half of the season and it was tough for me to find my game playing once in two weeks or once in three weeks. It was tough but I worked hard during that stretch on the ice to try and improve my game, and I think over the past few months it was going in the right direction.”

Mrazek will also find comfort in a clubhouse with three Czech teammates: forward Jakub Voracek, defenseman Radko Gudas and Neuvirth. They’ve played together at the IIHF World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.

“I won’t be surprised if we signed Jags after the Olympics,” Voracek said jokingly regarding Jaromir Jagr. “Obviously, something needs to be done regarding Neuvy and Elliott. Petr’s a great goalie and I think we’re having a great season this year. Obviously, he’s very competitive. As long as we find a way to win with him in the net, that’s all that matters.”  

“They’re different style goalies for sure,” Gudas said of the differences between Mrazek and Neuvirth. “He’s a great goaltender who challenges a lot. That’s a good thing for us to have someone who cares as much as he does. I think our goalies were doing a really good job of keeping our defense intact and keeping them honest, and I think Petr is going to do the same thing, especially our young D corps, and help them out.” 

In Bloom
Many expected Oskar Lindblom to make the Flyers out of training camp. Few expected the call-up to come during the heat of a playoff race. 

Regardless, the 21-year-old Swede will make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Canadiens and should see an extended look into March following an upper-body injury to Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' power forward is expected to miss the next two to three weeks of action.

“I’ve grown as a person and as a player,” Lindblom said. “I just felt I had to go down there (Lehigh Valley) and just do my thing and get better every day.”

“It’s so valuable going into the American League and have the opportunity to gain that experience, especially for Oskar being his first year in the smaller NHL rink,” Hakstol said. “He’s grown as a player. I think his confidence has always been good.”

Certainly, confidence won’t be lacking as Lindblom was lighting it up with the Phantoms, scoring a goal in three straight games, along with another scoring streak that included five goals in a six-game span.  

“I don’t know why I’ve been that way this season,” Lindblom said. “But it’s good when it comes and I need to keep riding on that wave a little bit.”

“He’s got a great shot, great hockey sense,” Claude Giroux said. “He’s been playing some great hockey with the Phantoms, and he’s a great guy in the locker room, too, so I’m pretty excited to see him on the ice since I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

Lindblom will be on the Flyers' third line along with center Scott Laughton and winger Michael Raffl.

“He’s a smart player, a really heady player,” Laughton said. “I’m excited to play with him. I haven’t talked to him too much. I’m sure we’ll talk more before the game with what me and Raffl like to do and we’ll go out there and continue to push forward and look for him in the slot where he likes to score goals.”

Projected lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Jordan Weal

Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Andrew MacDonald-Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon

Petr Mrazek

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

There's more bad news on the injury front for the Flyers.

Winger Wayne Simmonds (upper-body injury) will miss two to three weeks and goalie Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury) will be out the next four to five weeks.

With Monday's news that the Flyers had recalled surging forward prospect Oskar Lindblom (see story), a corresponding move seemed imminent. With Simmonds out, Jordan Weal took his place on Nolan Patrick's line, which had been clicking lately, during Tuesday's morning skate. It appears Lindblom will see his first NHL action on Scott Laughton's line along with Michael Raffl.

With Brian Elliott likely out for the rest of the regular season and Neuvirth's status, the Flyers' trade for goalie Petr Mrazek makes obvious sense (see story). Mrazek was on the ice for morning skate and will be available tonight vs. the Canadiens (7 p.m./NBCSP), according to GM Ron Hextall, who was a guest on 97.5 The Fanatic's midday show.