Phil Myers, bulked up and healthy, pledges this Flyers training camp will be different

Phil Myers, bulked up and healthy, pledges this Flyers training camp will be different

VOORHEES, N.J. — Standing at his stall at Flyers Skate Zone during last weekend’s development camp, defenseman Phil Myers towered over everyone else, but there was one noticeable difference.

Myers added about 10 pounds of muscle over the summer, and it shows. On the ice, he looked out of place. He belonged with the orange and black on his sweater. No doubt.

It just didn’t look as if he needed to be on the same sheet with his peers anymore. Perhaps it was the benefits of a full summer of training. Injuries derailed his training last summer.

“I had the same surgery as (Shayne) Gostisbehere,” Myers said. “He had one hip, and Sam Morin, all of those guys got the same thing I did.”

There was a sprained knee suffered at the 2016 Memorial Cup. There was a pubic plate detachment and a torn labrum in his left hip. He underwent hip surgery on June 22, 2016. The recovery wiped out Myers’ summer training. On Sept. 26, 2016, he was medically cleared to return. The next night, he dove into the fray against the New York Islanders.

How did it go? Myers finished as a plus-two with three hits and a blocked shot in 22:39.

“I felt out of shape, obviously, last year,” he said. “The day after I got cleared, I jumped into a preseason game. It jumped up pretty quick. … This summer is going to be different.”

The Flyers insist development camp is not for evaluation. That may be true. Its purpose is to teach prospects how to work and live as a professional hockey player. No matter how much Myers looked like a pro amid his peers, it will not impact his odds come September's training camp when spots are earned in a competitive environment.
Myers, 20, is graduating to the professional ranks this season, and where he plays will be up to him. The Flyers have two openings on their blue line, and general manager Ron Hextall is leaving them up for prospects to grab. Robert Hagg and Morin are the front runners.
Don’t count Myers out just yet.
The Moncton, New Brunswick, native was among the Flyers’ final cuts last October. He stuck around longer than many expected and that was without any summer training.
His training this summer has been broken down into phases. The first phase was bulking up and putting on muscle. Mission accomplished. The next phase, according to Myers, is “heavier stuff,” which he said is strength training. His plan is to stay in the Philadelphia area for two weeks after development camp to train and come back 10 days early to skate before the big camp begins in September.
“You get stronger and faster,” Myers said. “I’m going to focus on what I can do and what I can control. That’s what I did last year. I just took as much in as possible and tried to get ready as fast as I could because I didn’t really have a lot of time. This year, I have much more time so I’m taking things much more slowly and more controlled.”
Last season was another in which Myers trended upward, though it was one mired with injuries; he suffered whiplash in October and a concussion against Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships. Myers, the only undrafted player on Team Canada’s roster, was arguably the team’s best defenseman before the concussion. His play at the world juniors led to TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeting Myers “looks NHL ready, or close to it.”
The smooth-skating 6-foot-5 blueliner registered double-digit goals (10) and 35 points in 34 regular-season games with Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL in 2016-17. He ended the regular season on a five-game point streak. He added nine points in 13 playoff games. He finished his QMJHL career with 29 goals and 92 points in 203 games. Like Carter Hart, Myers joined the Phantoms once his season ended but didn’t play.
“The injury struggles that he, unfortunately, went through there, those are all opportunities to learn and grow,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You can see the growth in Phil off-ice when you look at his stature. You just want to see him come into camp and come in and compete as hard as he did last year and improve on the results from last year.”
Myers may be at a disadvantage come September. Because of last year's injury-ridden season and the fact that he's coming straight from junior, he may be a few legs behind Hagg, Morin and even Travis Sanheim, who was at his fourth development camp last weekend (see story)
While every player’s developmental path is different, Myers has to beat out at least two players with professional experience already and two — Hagg and Morin — who looked the part during their NHL debuts in April. It’s a safe bet that Myers begins at Lehigh Valley.
“If he comes in and he’s the best guy or we feel he’s the best guy,” Hextall said of Myers, “he’s going to play. The other guys, whenever you played in the American League, you have a leg up. You expect those guys to come in and be a little more NHL ready than a kid coming right out of junior, but the players are going to dictate who’s on our team.”

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl