Flyers

Nolan Patrick begins push to make Flyers as rookie camp gets underway

Nolan Patrick begins push to make Flyers as rookie camp gets underway

VOORHEES, N.J. — Five days ago, Nolan Patrick was in rural Canada shooting ducks. Now, the future Flyers center is focused entirely on shooting pucks following a rather eventful offseason that included the draft and offseason surgery.

“It was exciting,” Patrick said Monday following his first practice in a Flyers sweater. “My first time skating with some of the guys here. I got in a good amount of time and training this summer so I’m feeling confident in my game and it went well.”

Patrick has begun his push at making the Flyers' opening night roster. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft was one of 25 prospects on the ice for the first day of Flyers rookie camp after arriving in Philadelphia over the weekend.

“I thought he had a good day, looked strong,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think we’ll able to see his progression as he goes through camp. Sometimes, as young players, there’s different points in camp where you see young guys hit a wall. ... He’s just got to go out and continue building his game and, as you go to main camp, it’s going to get tougher.”  

Patrick said he finally felt 100 percent around three weeks ago when he regained his conditioning skating three times a week before increasing his workload to four times a week in the days leading up to camp. Part of his offseason regimen included off-ice work in a remote location near the Manitoba/Ontario border with a group of NHL veterans that included three-time Stanley Cup champion and fellow Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews.

“He’s a really intelligent guy. One of the best guys I’ve ever met,” Patrick said about Toews. “I’d be here all day if I listed the things he taught me. ... He knows a lot about different kinds of training, nutrition and stuff like that.”  

Patrick’s offseason skating program in Philadelphia was delayed because of an abscessed boil that formed on his face.

“I was hiding with a hood up for a bit there,” Patrick said regarding the condition, which lasted about five days.

Once Patrick got past that unexpected obstacle, his regimen included what he referred to as “a lot of mobility stuff” and “getting his hips back to where they needed to be” as he looks to make the jump from the Western Hockey League straight to the NHL.

“That’s my goal coming in," Patrick said. "Just going to compete as hard as I can, and do everything I can to earn a spot. The main thing for me is competing every day and playing as hard as I can.”  

Rookie line combos
For an organization with one of the deepest talent pools of prospects in the NHL, there’s a real possibility that as many as four rookies could start the season on the Flyers' opening night roster, with two on defense to go along with Patrick and winger Oskar Lindblom. Last season, defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny, the Flyers' two first-round picks in the 2015 draft, made the big club out of camp.

“I think the sense of opportunity has been made very clear over the summertime,” Hakstol said. “There’s opportunity for veterans and there’s opportunity for young guys. Guys should be excited. There’s guys in position hopefully to have good camps and to take advantage of some of those opportunities.”

Line combinations for Day 1 of camp:

Radel Fazleev — Mike Vecchione — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Connor Bunnaman — Nolan Patrick — Anthony Salinitri

Carsen Twarynski — Mikhail Vorobyev — Ivan Kosorenkov

Oskar Lindblom — German Rubtsov — Pascal Laberge

Isaac Ratcliffe — Morgan Frost — Matthew Strome/Maksim Sushko

News and notes
• Defenseman Robert Hagg is not part of the rookie camp even if 2017-18 will serve as his rookie season. With three full professional seasons at the AHL level (over 200 games played) and seven defensemen on the rookie roster, general manager Ron Hextall allowed Hagg to join the veterans for the beginning of camp on Sept. 15.

• Hakstol will evaluate Wednesday’s rookie game against the Islanders from the press box of the Wells Fargo Center with Flyers assistant coach Gord Murphy and Phantoms assistant Kerry Huffman behind the bench.  

• Shayne Gostisbehere had planned originally to fly his family out of Florida by way of charter to avoid Hurricane Irma, but after further deliberations, the Gostisbeheres elected to fuel up and hit the road. His sister drove from the Tampa area to Nashville while Gostisbehere's parents made the drive safely from Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina. Aside from some leakage at his sister’s residence, it appears their homes remained intact.

Preseason TV schedule
The Flyers' preseason broadcast schedule was announced on Monday.

Of the seven preseason games the Flyers will play, three will be broadcasted on TCN — Sept. 26 vs. the New York Rangers (7 p.m.), Sept. 28 vs. Boston (7 p.m.), Oct. 1 vs. the New York Islanders (5 p.m.).

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

Wayne Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

VOORHEES, N.J. — There were so many, Wayne Simmonds even lost track.

"I actually forgot about that one," he said with a laugh.

The Flyers' power forward was referring to the torn ligament in his thumb, the lone injury to declare victory with Simmonds this season.

And don't think he didn't have his battles.

As Simmonds sat down at his end-of-the-season press conference Wednesday, the list of injuries could have unrolled from his chair and out the door.

With some picking and prodding, one by one he ran them off.

In total?

A tear in his pelvic area, fractured ankle, pulled groin, busted mouth (twice) and the torn ligament in his thumb.

Simmonds missed only seven games in 2017-18, with the thumb finally dragging the unbreakable man off the ice.

Call him crazy, call him naïve, but don't question his dedication or toughness.

"I think for me, I don't know if it's the right thing, but I can't not play," Simmonds said. "It's just geared in my head to where if I'm not dead or I'm not deathly sick, I'm going to try and get out there and do whatever I can. Whether the coach is going to play me, or whatever minutes he wanted to play me, that was up to him. I'm definitely going to sacrifice my body for the team, that's for sure."

The trigger to the mess came well before his season-opening hat trick. Simmonds' pelvic tear was diagnosed in training camp, an injury he believes was suffered prior to report day.

"But I had no idea," Simmonds said. "You start doing all the skate testing and everything like that, and you find out pretty quickly."

The 29-year-old, coming off back-to-back 30-plus-goal seasons, was then faced with a dilemma. Surgery to repair the tear was an option, but that meant missing a month to a month and a half of action.

"It wasn't something I wanted to do," Simmonds said. "I thought I'd be able to play through it and do a decently good job. I didn't play up to my expectations this year. It was a very frustrating year. Things didn't go the way I wanted but if I can play, I'm going to play."

The decision boiled down to something pretty simple.

"They showed me the MRI and I was like, 'Can I play?'" Simmonds said. "Yeah, I can play."

The problem was the injury brought side effects.

"Having that, that leaves other things," Simmonds said. "Your body is overcompensating and other stuff starts breaking down. It wasn't good."

Because of it, Simmonds said he then pulled his groin in October before fracturing his ankle not long after following a power-play shot to the foot.

"It kind of just broke," Simmonds said. "It wasn't a weight-bearing bone, so you're still able to play with that."

However, he wasn't able to play from Feb. 20 to March 4. He also underwent serious dental work in February.

In all, it sounded like hell.

"When everything's piling on top of one another, it sucks," he said.

Simmonds finished the regular season with 24 goals, 22 assists and a minus-16 rating in 75 games. During the first-round playoff exit to the Penguins, he had two assists in six games.

He seldom looked like himself.

"That was the biggest thing. It didn't allow me to have the power I usually have," Simmonds said. "It was extremely frustrating. Obviously you want to be able to do something and you're able to do it usually, and then your brain is telling your body to do it and your body's not doing it."

Simmonds, who said surgery on his pelvis is likely, now faces an offseason in which he's eligible for an extension starting July 1 ahead of his 2018-19 contract year.

"I know this year wasn't ideal for me and they probably didn't see from me what was required for an extension," Simmonds said. "This is definitely where I want to be.

"This is where I want to be for the rest of my career."

Banged up or not.

Flyers’ goaltending grades and outlook for next season

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Flyers’ goaltending grades and outlook for next season

Over the next three days, we’ll evaluate the Flyers at each position, give a regular season and postseason grade and provide an outlook for their roster status for the 2018-19 season. First up, goaltending: 

Brian Elliott

Regular Season:
(23-11-7, 2.66 GAA, .909 save percentage)

Playoffs: C- 
(1-3, 4.74 GAA, .856 save percentage)

Elliott seized the starting job at the beginning of the season and helped pull the team out of the depths of a 10-game winless streak. His quality start percentage of .476 was below league average, but he was solid in games when given a lead until he suffered a core muscle injury that required surgery in February. Dave Hakstol pulled “Moose” in two of the four playoff games he started in the playoffs.

Elliott admitted he needed to tear up the scar tissue once he resumed hockey activities to gain a full range of motion. A month ago, the pain was so unbearable it prevented him from putting on shoes and socks. He certainly wasn’t healthy in the six games he played in April, which contributed to his poor play and he’s still dealing with issues. He will spend the majority of his offseason in Philadelphia and expects to be 100 percent by training camp.

2018-19 outlook: Elliott has one year remaining on the two-year deal he signed in the summer of 2017 and will enter 2018-19 as the Flyers’ starting goaltender as long as he’s healthy.  

Michal Neuvirth

Regular Season: B- 
(9-7-3, 2.60 GAA, .915 save percentage)

Playoffs:
(1-1, 4.40 GAA, .847 save percentage)

How unreliable was Neuvirth this season? At no point did Neuvirth start three consecutive games as he was plagued with a multitude of injuries. Had the Flyers won Sunday, Game 7 would have been the first time. Neuvirth was solid in the Flyers’ Game 5 victory in Pittsburgh, but he wouldn’t have overcome the Flyers' defensive breakdowns over the course of an entire series.   

Neuvirth will have arthroscopic surgery on both hips and his injury frequency has now led him to hire sports performance trainer Adam Francilia, Neuvirth's third different trainer over the past three years. Francilia has been instrumental in the offseason conditioning of goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Devan Dubnyk. “It’s going to be hard for my family,” Neuvirth said. He will spend the majority of his offseason in Kelowna, British Columbia. 

2018-19 outlook: Like Elliott, Neuvirth is signed through next season and will likely start the season as Elliott’s backup. However, if the Flyers feel Neuvirth’s injury risk is too high, they may be more inclined to trade Neuvirth and bring in someone more reliable.

Petr Mrazek

Regular Season: C-
(14-13-6, 3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage)

Playoffs: No grade
(1 GP, 3.87 GAA, .857 save percentage)

With three wins in his first three starts, Ron Hextall appeared to have engineered one of the great goaltending heists in Flyers history. However, reality set in and Mrazek’s game quickly tanked. In his final 13 regular starts, Mrazek allowed three or more goals in all but two of those games and was he pulled in the second period in one of those two. His only playoff action came in relief of Elliott in Game 1.

While Mrazek stated in his exit interview he was able to show teams what he could do once he got a chance to play, he ultimately cost himself millions of dollars by slumping in March.

2018-19 outlook: Mrazek is a restricted free agent and the Flyers can qualify him at 105 percent of his $4 million salary for next season. No way that happens, so the Flyers can attempt to trade Mrazek to a team that will qualify him or he will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. 

Alex Lyon

Regular Season: B-
(4-2-1, 2.75 GAA, .905 save percentage)

Playoffs: No grade

With injuries to Elliott and Neuvirth, Lyon provided stability during a stormy period when the Flyers’ season could have gone off the rails. He earned his first win in relief on Neuvirth at Madison Square Garden, and for whatever reason, Lyon had considerably better numbers coming off the bench. He had a tendency of lunging for pucks and he looked unsettling at times, but still found a way to get the job done.  

2018-19 outlook: Lyon is the Phantoms’ starter in the AHL playoffs, but with the addition of Carter Hart next season and the impending health of Anthony Stolarz, there’s a chance Lyon could be third on the depth chart as the Flyers could have a rare surplus in goaltending at the minor league level. Don’t be surprised if Lyon is traded this summer to a team that may view him as an NHL backup or an AHL starter.