Flyers

Mike Vecchione 'couldn't be happier' to join Flyers

Mike Vecchione 'couldn't be happier' to join Flyers

Mike Vecchione attended last July's Flyers development camp.
 
Forgetting for a moment what his former Union College teammate Shayne Gostisbehere had told him about the organization, Vecchione went into the camp with eyes wide open.
 
He liked what he saw. He remembered what he saw. And that was added reasoning for signing with the Flyers on Friday morning (see story).
 
"In my heart, I felt I had the best opportunity in Philly and I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out," Vecchione said during a conference call.
 
"With the whole Philly organization, I got to meet everyone when I went to development camp, the coaches, Mr. Hextall, the rest of the front office guys, a lot of the players. I just had that experience being around everybody, learning from their systems and learning from guys.
 
"I talked to Ghost. He obviously wanted me to go there, but at the same time, it's what's best for me and my future and it's ultimately my decision."
 
Vecchione is the first top-three finalist from Union College up for the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegian in the country. Gostisbehere was a top-10 finalist only.
 
This is a major step going right from the college ranks to the NHL -- not even "Ghost" was able to bypass the AHL.
 
"Obviously it's a huge jump," Gostisbehere said of his newest teammate. "You can't say it's not. It's totally different. I went right [into] the American League and I thought that was a bit of a jump for me coming right from college.
 
"But Veccs is a different player. He's 24 years old and I think his game's way too mature for the college level. It's going to be cool to see it translate to the professional level."
 
Vecchione made it clear he prefers to play center.
 
"We talked about that a little bit," Vecchione said. "Obviously, I'm a centerman. Four good years at Union and that's where my comfort zone is. When you're in the middle you have a lot more room to make some plays, but obviously, at center, comes a lot more responsibility in the D-zone. Just being responsible in all three zones, actually."

Hextall said he needed to see how things "shake out" during training camp next fall but he is leaning toward center as well, which means Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would move to the wing.
 
Then again, Vecchione didn't totally rule out wing either.
 
"We did talk about my flexibility to play wing," he said. "I played wing a lot in high school and junior hockey and then converted to center as a college guy. I'm really happy that they're gonna put me in at center.
 
"It's that comfort level to stick with what I know best there. I feel like my game is at center, providing offense there and obviously being strong defensively is something that we talked about, so if I'm not providing offense, I can be a good asset defensively and vice versa."
 
Hextall said Vecchione needs at least one practice with the team before playing. It wasn't certain whether he would make Saturday's morning skate.
 
The earliest Vecchione could play would be Sunday night's game in New York against the Rangers, one of the teams who wanted his services.
 
"They want me to come in and play some games," he said. "That wasn't a deciding factor whether I'd get into some games this year or try out and get in some games next year.
 
"I definitely want to get some experience in at the end of this year, get my feet wet, get my feel for everything, figure out the systems that Philly runs and get acclimated to the whole organization and how they operate over there. Hopefully, I can get into some games soon."

Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Claude Giroux's redemption tour beats on

It was a busy week on the ice for the team that calls South Philadelphia home.

And that busy week ended with plenty of positive vibes for the Flyers after a 2-1-0 showing.

They kicked things off with a commanding 5-1 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, followed that up with a tough 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday evening and wrapped up the week with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon as the five-game homestand rolled on.

There’s plenty to get to, so, now that the ink is dry, let’s dive right into the week that was for the Flyers.

• In the days and weeks leading up to this season, there were a plethora of questions surrounding the Flyers, and to some extents, there still are as the season is still in its infancy, just eight games in. But the captain is already answering all the questions about him, and there were a lot of them. Claude Giroux played a key role again this week for the Flyers, scoring two goals — a breakaway snipe Tuesday past Roberto Luongo and a power-play slam dunk past Cam Talbot to open the scoring Saturday.

Giroux's tally against the Oilers was his fifth of the season. For comparison’s sake, Giroux didn’t record his fifth goal last season until Nov. 29, the 24th game of the season. Two things are noticeable when it comes to Giroux. Yes, the move to left wing alongside Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek is paying dividends and providing energy, not just for Giroux, but also as a whole for the line, which continues to produce. Couturier scored his fourth of the season Tuesday and Voracek, while still scoreless, is tied for third in the league with 10 assists.

But much more importantly for Giroux, he’s clearly healthy again, which wasn’t the case most of the last season as the effects from hip surgery lingered and anchored him. The fact of the matter is, in many ways, Giroux is still the engine of the Flyers’ offense and the cog that makes it go. The puck is still on his stick a ton and opposing teams still key in on him. It comes as no surprise a healthy, producing Giroux is igniting a Flyers offense that is averaging 3.50 goals. As the captain goes, so do the Flyers. So far, better than so good.

• You can say what you want about Andrew MacDonald and his play and his contract. But that’s a different conversation for a different day. There’s no doubting MacDonald is one tough hombre after blocking a debilitating slap shot off the knee Saturday and fighting through it to continue killing a penalty in the third period. If you’re still wondering why MacDonald wears an “A” on his sweater during road games, wonder no more. He’s a tough, valued veteran who has the respect of the locker room thanks to plays like that. The Flyers announced Sunday he will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, presumably from that play. If you’re one of the ones behind a keyboard celebrating his injury on Twitter, grow up.

• There’s really not much shame in the loss to Nashville on Thursday. The defending Western Conference champion Predators, just as good as they were last year when they came within two wins of the Stanley Cup, just smothered the Flyers. And when the Flyers did have chances, Pekka Rinne was there between the pipes to snuff them out. His third-period pad save on Couturier, who had just pulled off a nifty maneuver in the slot, was a dandy that kept the Preds on top. A loss is a loss and it’s frustrating, but the Flyers hung with one of the most complete teams in the league twice in the span of nine days.

• Wayne Simmonds just continues to do Wayne Simmonds things. On Thursday against the Preds, Simmonds took an errant stick to the mouth as he was observing the action on the bench. He left but later returned to the game. Of course, he was right back in the lineup Saturday afternoon, albeit with a mouth protector attached to his helmet.

And of course, he scored Saturday’s game-winner with 2:15 left in regulation off a lovely feed from Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds admitted afterward he was losing pucks in his feet due to the impaired vision from the mouth protector and he would have to get some dead teeth extracted soon. That last part sounds just awful, by the way.

But as far as toughness and results on the ice from Simmonds, it’s gotten to the point where we expect nothing less. No surprise, but he now leads the Flyers with six goals on the young season.

• It was the best and worst this week for prized rookie Nolan Patrick. On Tuesday, he wowed the Panthers, his Flyers teammates and the entire Wells Fargo Center with a dazzling, through-the-legs drop pass to Dale Weise, who then promptly deposited the Flyers’ fourth goal of the evening in the victory over the Panthers (see video). Seriously, what an unreal pass that was. That was uncanny awareness and hockey sense and incredible skill. And remember, he’s just 19 years old.

We got a reminder Saturday afternoon that he is just 19 and the lumps will come along with the highlight reel plays. During the second period against Edmonton, Patrick found himself with the puck in the corner in the defensive zone. He hesitated, perhaps mesmerized by the broken stick on the ice in front of him, and was quickly surrounded by the Oilers’ Patrick Maroon, who picked the rook’s pocket, drove toward the net and beat Brian Elliott to knot the game at 1-1.

A tough learning experience for Patrick, but the teenager will learn from it and get better. It’s the kind of thing you just naturally have to expect from a 19-year-old just eight games into his NHL career.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Anaheim (7 p.m./NBCSP), Thursday at Ottawa (7:30 p.m./NBCSP), Saturday at Toronto (7 p.m./NBCSP+).

Injury to Andrew MacDonald could clear way for Flyers' top prospect

Injury to Andrew MacDonald could clear way for Flyers' top prospect

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman but he's currently injured. Mark Alt could be another option for the Flyers.