Future Flyers Report: Alex Lyon finds footing with Phantoms

Future Flyers Report: Alex Lyon finds footing with Phantoms

Last week featured more of the same uneven play for the Flyers, plus a message being sent to star defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere with a benching (see Weekly Observations).

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.

In this edition, we feature a rookie pro goalie finding his footing in Lehigh Valley, a winger who’s been called up a few times on fire in the AHL and more.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
With Anthony Stolarz's call-up to the Flyers last Monday, Lyon was thrust into the starting role with the Phantoms until Stolarz returns when Michal Neuvirth is healthy. Not such a bad week, either, for the first-year pro. Lyon turned away 82 of 90 shots he faced last week, winning two of three games for the Phantoms, who saw their eight-game winning streak snapped in a 5-2 loss in Bridgeport on Saturday night.

On Wednesday, Lyon stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, during which he turned away 13 shots in the final stanza. Afterward, Lyon said, via Highland Park Hockey’s Tim Riday, he’s “much more comfortable as a starter because I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life as a guy who’s played every single game.” Friday, he had a busier night with 33 of 36 saves in a 4-3 overtime win at Providence. Lyon let up two goals on 15 shots in the first period and one on 12 shots in the second but held off the Bruins for a combined nine shots in the third period and OT.

Lyon did give up four goals on 23 shots in Lehigh Valley’s 5-2 loss at Bridgeport on Saturday. Still, Lyon’s progression from his first few games until now is promising. Lyon said it’s easier for him when a team leans on him, and with Stolarz in the NHL, he’ll have his chance to prove that.

Taylor Leier, LW, 5-10/176, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Leier has already had a cup of coffee with the Flyers this season, albeit in a healthy scratch role. He was called up on Oct. 25 as insurance if Sean Couturier was forced to miss the Flyers’ game against Buffalo, but Couturier was able to play. He also received a call-up last season and played in six games with the Flyers, so he’s getting close. Before the season, assistant GM Chris Pryor said: "[Ron Hextall's] been saying patience, and Taylor is a perfect example of that. 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.”

So how has Leier fared in his third pro season? Well, he had a big week last week with the Phantoms, registering four points in three games. On Friday, he had his third multi-point game of the season, and now has points in five of his last seven games. Overall, he has 10 assists, 14 points and 33 shots on goal in 15 games — an excellent start.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Russian Knights (MHL)
Still no official word on whether Rubtsov will remain in North America. There was speculation the Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick would join Chicoutimi of the QMJHL after the CIBC Canada-Russia Series, which ended last Thursday. Last Monday, general manager Ron Hextall said as far as he knows, nothing has changed with Rubtsov.

The original plan was for the center to stay in Russia for two more years, as he is under contract with HC Vityaz. Chicoutimi owns his CHL rights. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean told the Courier-Post that the process to bring Rubtsov over from Russia began in the summer, and “there’s a desire from the kid to come overseas since the beginning.” The KHL contract remains the sticking point as to whether or not Rubtsov can come over.

Rubtsov was in North America for the Canada-Russia Series, playing in five of the six games for Russia during the series. The pivot had a two-goal game on Nov. 10 against Team OHL, but was held pointless in his four other games.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
If you have followed this report this season, you may have noticed Hart has been a mainstay each week, and rightfully so. The netminder continues to be a force in the WHL and continues to give Flyers fans hope they have another goalie to hang their hats on in the future — like Stolarz and Lyon. Last week was no different for the 2016 second-round pick.

Hart denied 70 of 75 shots he saw in three games for the Silvertips, with his best game of the week coming last Tuesday — 27 stops on 28 shots. Following up that effort, Hart surrendered two goals on 23 shots Wednesday in a 2-1 overtime loss to Kamloops, where he flashed some big-save ability late in the game. His .928 save percentage on the season remains atop the WHL’s leaderboards. Last season’s CHL Goaltender of the Year, Hart is playing himself into the conversation to win the award again this season.

Quick hits
• Lehigh Valley assigned forward Tyrell Goulbourne to its ECHL affiliate, Reading, last Wednesday. He had been a healthy scratch for most of the season with the Phantoms.

• Phantoms defenseman Travis Sanheim added two assists in three games, and now has eight assists in his first 15 professional games.

• Brynäs IF’s Oskar Lindblom is in a little bit of a slump, having gone three straight games without a point. Still, he’s tied for the team lead with 17 points in 19 games.

• Toros goalie Ivan Fedotov made his VHL debut last week, stopping 43 of 45 shots in two games.

• Piráti Chomutov’s David Kase remains out with an undisclosed injury. He hasn’t played in an Extraliga game since Oct. 30. He has seven points in 15 games this year.

• Rouyn-Noranda defenseman Philippe Myers had a huge game for the Huskies on Saturday night, recording two goals and an assist in an 8-3 win over Rimouski. He skated twice for Team QJMHL in the Canada-Russia series, but was pointless.

Samuel Dove-McFalls had another two-point week for Saint John’s, this time netting a goal and an assist on Friday in Sea Dogs’ 6-3 win over the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge remains out because of a concussion — hasn’t played since Oct. 15. Laberge was in Philly for the Flyers’ game Thursday against Winnipeg.

• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski continued his torrid start to his freshman campaign with back-to-back two-point games Friday and Saturday against Rensselaer. Laczynski now leads the Buckeyes with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) in 13 games.

• Another freshman Flyers prospect, Wade Allison, had solid week for Western Michigan with goals in back-to-back games against Air Force. Allison has six goals and nine points in 12 games this season for the Broncos.

Mark Friedman is heating up at Bowling Green. The junior defenseman had a three-assist game Saturday against Alabama-Huntsville and also picked up a helper Friday against the Chargers. He has six points during his current four-game point streak.

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Before the Flyers get in the spirit for a sixth straight win on Saturday night, they’ll get you in the holiday spirit, too.

Prior to puck drop against the Stars on NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Flyers will put on a unique holiday-themed light show, which will illuminate the Wells Fargo Center and its ice.

The “Holiday Light Spectacular,” which is presented by the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, will be a 10-minute show starting at 7 p.m., as all fans will be given light-up bracelets to complement a fun Flyers holiday video featured on the ice.

“This show is a new, can’t-miss holiday attraction in Philadelphia and one that we hope becomes an annual tradition for us,” Shawn Tilger, the Flyers’ executive vice president, chief operating officer, alternate governor, said in a release by the team. “This show is in line with the holiday staples of the region, and we’re excited to bring entertainment of this caliber to Flyers fans here on Saturday night.”

For fans with youngsters, Santa Claus will also be in attendance, taking free photos on the main concourse.

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5


It was a Flyers’ win with a capital “U.” 

That’s “U” as in ugly.

However, it was still good enough to beat the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres, as the Flyers skated away with a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night (see observations).

It’s the type of game the Flyers lost earlier in the season during their previous homestead when they came out sloppy against the lowly Arizona Coyotes in an eventual 4-3 loss in overtime.  

“I thought this was a boring game,” Jakub Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Nothing was uglier than the game’s first goal when Brian Elliott attempted to play the puck behind his net. Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons intercepted Elliott’s pass and fed the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who had a wide-open, unattended net in front of him.

“They came hard and a little miscommunication,” Elliott said. “Bad play on my part and we did a heck of a job of coming back and tying that up. That can go sideways in a hurry. We sorted it out, but our first period was kind of sloppy.”

After Elliott nearly made the same mistake again in the opening period, the Flyers rebounded to the tie game at 1-1 as Travis Sanheim scored his first NHL goal off a feed from Dale Weise (see highlights). However, even Sanheim admitted, the goal was a silver lining from a dark cloud that was looming over him defensively with failed clears and breakdowns in coverage.  

“I don’t think we were very happy with our first period, especially me,” Sanheim said. “Minus the goal, I thought that might have been my worst period of the season, but I think we bounced back and battled hard in the final 40 and came through with the win.”

“He’s been pressing for a little while, so I was so happy to see him get a smile on his face,” Weise said of Sanheim’s goal. “That’s going to do wonders for his game. You see a shift after he gets another chance there. I’m so happy for him.”

Sanheim’s season in some ways has mirrored that of the Flyers’ schedule — a yo-yo performance with bouts of inconsistency. Coming off a 10-game winless stretch, the Flyers have now won five straight. Throughout both streaks, head coach Dave Hakstol has stuck with Sanheim when some coaches may have wavered. 

“There’s always lessons along the way, especially for a young defenseman,” Hakstol said. “He’s had some bumps in the road that every defenseman is going to go through. Tonight’s maybe a little indicative of that. Travis is always honest with himself and the evaluation of his own play, and for me, that always helps keep his feet on the ground and move on to the next challenge.”

“I want to make hard plays and I’ve got to make sure the puck gets over our blue line,” Sanheim said. “It’s easier to sit back and say I could have done this, I could have done that. Going forward, I’ve just got to try and limit those mistakes and try and play a harder game.” 

The Flyers eventually produced the breakthrough goal late in the second period on a tic-tac-toe play started by Michael Raffl, who fed a pass to Voracek and then onto Valtteri Filppula for the one-time goal.

“Those are the best wins,” said Raffl, who played in his 300th career game. “You’re pretty happy when you win 4-1 and you play your best game. It’s easy to laugh, but that was a war out there and the last period, especially, but we came together as a group.”

Of the 14 one-goal games the Flyers have played this season, this was just the third time they earned a victory. Many of those games when they failed to earn a winning decision came after regulation.

“It’s all about confidence,” Voracek said. “Two or three weeks ago when we went into the third period, we would lose that game. Now it’s about making sure those loose pucks get out of the zone and don’t make any dumb decisions.”

“I think it’s huge. When we were in that streak, we blew a lot of leads late in games,” Weise said. “Minus the last two minutes where I think we sat back a little, I thought we did a good job of moving the puck forward, forechecking and not sitting back too much. It’s more of a mental thing to win those type of games.”