Flyers

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

CHICAGO — Isaac Ratcliffe was the biggest player in this year's NHL draft at 6-foot-6, though a little light at 200 pounds for that frame.

He plays like Wayne Simmonds at the net with a physical edge and he's a left winger, too.

How badly did the Flyers want him?

So much so, they moved their second-round pick (44) along with a third (75) and fourth (108) to Arizona on Saturday morning to take the Coyotes' pick at No. 35 and select the big winger from the OHL's Guelph Storm (see Day 2 tracker).

"They definitely showed interest and going through a trade like that to get me here, it definitely makes me feel happier where I am," Ratcliffe said.

"Even on top of all the emotions and the excitement I am feeling right now, being in this organization and city, it's definitely going to be awesome for the future."

He models his game after the Rangers' Rick Nash, who is 6-foot-4, 212 pounds.

"He's a big guy like myself and he moves well," the 18-year-old Ratcliffe said. "He has that offensive instinct but he plays well in the defensive zone. Any position on the ice, whether power play or penalty kill, he can take over any aspect of the ice with his size and abilities."

General manager Ron Hextall forecasted coming into the draft that the Flyers would be looking to beef up on the wings, given the lack of such on the organizational depth chart. Ratcliffe plays both sides of the ice.

He met with the Flyers at the NHL Scouting Combine, but most of the contact came before that with amateur scout Rick Pracey.

Ratcliffe seems like a prototypical Flyer.

"I'm a big guy, I think I can play both offensively and defensively," he said. "Really, that full-ice game and playing all areas in the zone. Adding that to their lineup, and being able to maneuver my way into their lineup, being with a lot of those guys ... I think I can bring a lot to the table."

He was ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting.

"Coming into the draft, I didn't have any expectations," Ratcliffe said. "I knew how unpredictable it can be. I know there are a lot of great players in this draft. I didn't know if I'd go [Friday] or today."

His goal is to add more speed to his game and to fill out his tall frame.

"I'm definitely going to have to get a lot stronger, too, to try and make my way to the next level," he said. "I need to prove to them they made the right pick here. I'm still developing. I got the height now, I need to put on a little weight now to get that size."

Ratcliffe had a prediction for Flyers fans, too.  

"In the next one to two years, you're going to see that progress and start to see how big a player I can be and that I can be one of the top players in this draft with my size, with my talent," Ratcliffe said. "I can definitely be a player who's going to be a force in the future."

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

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John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).