Flyers

Future Flyers Report: German Rubtsov tearing up the Q, Robert Hagg hot, look at Phantoms' goalies

Future Flyers Report: German Rubtsov tearing up the Q, Robert Hagg hot, look at Phantoms' goalies

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 week’s report, we highlight the Phantoms’ goalie situation, a defenseman on the brink of the NHL, a center tearing up the QMJHL and much, much more. Let’s dig in.

Robert Hagg, D, 6-1/191, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Hagg’s development progresses a step forward each game, a positive sign for the Flyers. With the NHL trade deadline approaching — March 1 — Hagg could find himself as a call-up if the Flyers decide to sell at the deadline, or find a taker for an expiring contract on the blue line (Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz). Last week, Hagg continued to see his more assertive play in his own zone begin to translate to the stat sheet. He registered two goals and two assists in three games last week, including a goal and an assist on his 22nd birthday Wednesday.

It took Hagg eight games to get his first point of the season and 16 games to record his third. In his last 15 games alone, he has three goals and five assists and is a plus-7. He’s second on the Phantoms with a plus-11 rating and is on track to finish as a plus player for the first time since he played just 10 games in 2013-14. Last season, he finished as a minus-11. Through 42 games this year, he’s at a plus-22 jump in that category. There is an argument as to how much weight we should put into plus/minus, but that's a considerable jump.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Another Future Flyers Report, another check-in on Rubtsov. After escaping an injury scare, Rubtsov didn’t miss any time last week for the Saguenéens and didn’t miss a beat, either. The 2016 first-round pick had his first multi-goal game in the Q, his fourth and fifth multi-point games and seven points in three games last week. He was named the first star (one goal, two assists) of Chicoutimi’s 4-3 win over Rimouski on Sunday, and the second star (two goals, one assist) of the Saguenéens’ 5-2 win over Val-d’Or on Thursday. Since coming over from the KHL, the center has six goals and 10 assists in 10 games. With the increased role and playing on the North American surface, the Flyers have to feel a lot better about Rubtsov’s development now than they did two months ago, and he’s quickly become a must-watch forward in the QMJHL.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Let’s check in on the Phantoms’ goaltending situation. Coach Scott Gordon has done an excellent job splitting the net up between Lyon and Anthony Stolarz since Stolarz returned to Lehigh Valley on Jan. 6. Let’s begin with Lyon, a first-year pro who has started nine of the 17 games since Stolarz’s return. Lyon got the starting nod in two of Lehigh Valley’s three games last week with mixed results. On Wednesday, Lyon turned in a 27-save shutout, his third of the season and his professional career. But on Saturday night, the Yale product allowed four goals on 21 shots in the Phantoms’ 4-3 loss to St. John’s. His 20 wins have him second in the AHL behind Tristan Jarry and Jack Campbell, who both have 21.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Stolarz got the nod Friday against St. John’s and stopped 19 of 21 shots faced in a 4-2 win. It was his eighth start since his stint with the Flyers while Michal Neuvirth battled a left knee injury. With how Gordon has divvied up the net, it’s a safe bet Stolarz gets the start Tuesday at Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. The Phantoms have four games this week, so it could be a 50/50 split. What’s interesting going forward is both Stolarz and Lyon are restricted free agents after the season and the Flyers will certainly want to bring both back. Consider both Neuvirth and Steve Mason are unrestricted free agents, too, it’s also a safe bet that either Stolarz or Lyon could be the Flyers’ backup next season to either Neuvirth or Mason. The super early favorite has to be Stolarz considering his experience, both in the AHL and NHL.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
For precautionary reasons, according to Sons of Penn’s Alexander Appleyard, Lindblom was held out of the Sweden Hockey Games portion of the Euro Hockey Tour because of a lower-body injury. Lindblom has been cleared to play for Brynäs IF when the SHL season resumes Tuesday. Last week, Lindblom spoke with Brynäs’ Kari Litmanen about his season, his development and how often he talks with the Flyers. Here are some highlights, with the help of Google Translate.

On his development: “The strength and speed have been developed and I feel like I can do a little more with the puck than before. My development has meant that I can keep the puck an extra second and the little extra seconds allow me to get away a pass for a shot.”

On communication with Flyers: “I’m talking the most with their development responsible for forwards. During the season, it is quite a bit of contact — that the focus is on the present. (The Flyers) usually sends video links and clips of match situations I’ll check in order to develop my game and get better.”

Quick hits
• Rouyn-Noranda defenseman Philippe Myers was cleared to return from his concussion, suffered at the world juniors, last week, but did not play. He’ll likely play Wednesday.

• Phantoms forwards Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton are battling injuries. Leier has missed five straight games, while Laughton suffered his injury Friday. Gordon did not offer any new information Saturday, per Highland Park Hockey’s Tony Androckitis.

Sam Morin had his second career multi-point game last week with the Phantoms, registering a goal and an assist in Lehigh Valley’s 5-0 win over Binghamton on Wednesday.

Pascal Laberge tallied a goal and an assist and was named the No. 1 star in Victoriaville’s 4-3 shootout win over Québec on Saturday. In the shootout, Laberge deked Québec goalie Evgeny Kiselev with a nifty move and scored, but it was ruled no good because he didn’t keep the puck going forward. Close call. You can decide yourself here if it was a goal or not.

• Another shutout for Everett’s Carter Hart, who turned in a 31-save blanking of Moose Jaw Saturday. Hart now has a WHL-leading eight shutouts and 2.01 goals-against average.

• Ohio State freshman Tanner Laczynski has gotten back on track after a brief slump after returning from the world juniors. Laczynski had a goal and two assists in two games against Minnesota. He now has two goals and three assists in his last five games. 

Merrick Madsen made 32 saves and yielded two goals in No. 4 Harvard’s 6-2 rout of No. 6 Union on Friday.

• Western Michigan winger Wade Allison added an assist Friday against Nebraska-Omaha. His five-game point streak was snapped Saturday. He has nine points in his last nine games.

Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

CALGARY, Alberta — Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and the Flyers from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

"We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family," Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

"This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family."

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League's Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

BOX SCORE

The entire play was a thing of beauty.  

The only debate was which part was prettier: Claude Giroux’s pass or Sean Couturier’s shot?

“I don’t know," Couturier said. "Ask him and see what he thinks."

“It’s a pretty special play to be able to get that puck into open ice to let Coots skate onto it,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.

After Couturier won a faceoff in the defensive zone, the puck eventually swung towards the far boards in the neutral zone. Giroux delivered a backhand pass between his legs and the legs of Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev before Couturier chased it down and uncorked a perfectly placed shot that found the top-right portion of the net (see highlights).

“The puck was rolling so I just shot as hard as I could,” Couturier said. 

"I saw Coots had a foot race and usually he doesn’t beat the other guy, but he was able to beat him there,” Giroux said half-jokingly. “He’s been playing great hockey and it’s fun to be on his line.

“It’s that kind of play that you can’t really describe. I’ll put it somewhere where he might be able to get it."

Couturier’s game-winner with 2:55 remaining in regulation Tuesday was part of the Flyers' three-goal third-period outburst on the way to a 4-2 win (see observations). It was the team's fourth consecutive victory, making it the first time since February 2014 the Flyers have strung together four straight wins in regulation, improving their record to 12-11-7.

The Flyers also snapped a six-game winless streak at the Wells Fargo Center dating back to Nov. 9.

“The last three games before this one, we had the lead and everybody bought in on how we wanted to play to keep the lead, and now we had a different test,” Giroux said. “We’re down a goal and guys just have a feeling in the room that we’re going to come back. It’s a good feeling right now.”

The Couturier-Giroux combination got the Flyers on the board in the opening period when Couturier won the draw in the offensive zone after sliding the puck behind him and Giroux finished with a one-time blast that beat Frederik Andersen.

“We switch around and try different things offensively,” Couturier said. “Having him on the right side there, G is ready for a one-timer if I win it and lucky enough the puck ended up right on his tape.”

Not only did the Flyers have a pair of first-rounders on their top line, Hakstol also elected to pair fellow first-round picks Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny on the team’s fourth line. Together with Taylor Leier they brought an element of speed and energy that led to the Flyers' game-tying tally in the third period when Konecny’s shot grazed off two Maple Leafs for just his second goal in his last 20 games.

“It was definitely part of our game plan to outskate their D and get in there,” Konecny said. “As a unit of three, we know we can cheat a little bit and get in on the forecheck because we know we can get back and defend in the right spots, so yeah, we were on top of them.”

“You guys can label them whatever you want,” Hakstol said. “They’re just one of our lines. We thought that line combination made sense with the speed and pace that all three of those guys play at. It’s one small tweak to our lineup that we made coming off the road trip out west.”

The Maple Leafs came into the game a little short on star power with top center Auston Matthews day to day with an upper-body injury. However, it hadn’t affected the Leafs in previous games as Toronto had a 5-0 record in contests Matthews had missed. Head coach Mike Babcock believed Tuesday night’s game was more of a missed opportunity.

“To me, we gifted two goals,” Babcock said. “The one tough play the goalie touched the goal and then the play where they come in, we are above those. To me, you can’t do that.”

The Flyers took down the Maple Leafs for the second time this season. They’ll meet one more time on Jan. 18 at the Wells Fargo Center.