Taylor Leier

Flyers Rookie Report: Travis Sanheim's teaching moments overshadow solid start

Flyers Rookie Report: Travis Sanheim's teaching moments overshadow solid start

Today, we’re introducing a new wrinkle to our Flyers coverage this season. Every so often, we’ll take a look at the Flyers rookies’ progress with a Rookie Report, similar in nature to our Future Flyers Report, which runs every Monday morning. The Rookie Report will have its similarities but will also have its own unique blend to it.

We’re four games into the Nolan Patrick-led youth movement. The Flyers began the season with five rookies, though just four played on their four-game road trip.

Samuel Morin on Wednesday was sent to Lehigh Valley, where he will continue to fine-tune his game. That leaves Robert Hagg, Taylor Leier, Patrick and Travis Sanheim.

As the future begins now, we’re going to track their development throughout their first seasons. We’ll utilize film reviews and other forms of evaluating players. Let’s get going.

Teaching moments
Sanheim, to little bewilderment, beat out Morin for the second open spot on the Flyers’ defense, even though Morin seemingly had a strong enough camp to make the team. There is a strong argument all three young blueliners showed enough in the preseason.

But it’s clear Flyers GM Ron Hextall, despite previously indicating he’d make room for a kid if they prove they’re ready, wasn’t comfortable carrying three rookie defensemen. It should be noted we don’t see what goes into the decision-making behind the scenes.

Either way, Sanheim is here to stay. The 21-year-old had a bumpy start to his NHL career last Thursday in Los Angeles and then Anaheim last Saturday night. Let's go to the film.

This play began as a result of a neutral-zone turnover by Scott Laughton. Above you can see Radko Gudas in front of Kyle Clifford and Sanheim turning around. Sanheim squares up, sees Trevor Lewis coming and begins to backpedal.

As Lewis enters the faceoff circle, Sanheim's eyes are still focused on the puck and a little too high, allowing Lewis to creep behind him. As two Flyers pressure Nick Shore, the forward sees Lewis, feeds him the puck before Sanheim can break it up.

It's an easy goal for Lewis on a play where Brian Elliott had no chance, and it ended up being the game-winner for the Kings.

“Yeah, I saw him,” Sanheim said of Lewis. “My gap was a little off. With the turnover, I wish I was a little farther up. I think then he doesn’t see that play. I wish I could have had a better gap. That’s a mistake and something I can learn from.”

Two nights later in Anaheim, Sanheim had another moment on the Ducks' first goal. Sanheim and Hagg were caught on the ice together, which isn't ideal, but the two were in Lehigh Valley together last season so it's not like they haven't communicated before.

The play began in the corner, with Hagg playing strong on Ondrej Kase. After a short puck battle, Jakub Voracek and Antoine Vermette join in. The puck eventually breaks free.

Sanheim, with Hagg still in the corner, aggressively goes for a poke check on Josh Manson while Vermette begins to break across ice to unmarked territory.

Below, you'll see Hagg getting back into his position but Sanheim remains stationary. Voracek and Claude Giroux are all focused on the puck, Kase and Manson.

Vermette is completely alone.

Kase finds Vermette for the easy tap-in goal as Hagg and Sanheim are literally right next to each other. It was a little too much aggressiveness in his own zone by Sanheim.

The poke check wasn't the best play there for Sanheim. As the puck popped out, it was a 2-on-1 situation. Sanheim went for the puck, got beat and Vermette was left all alone.

“We ended up getting beat — we got beat out on a 2-on-2 on the wall,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said afterward. “One of their players spun off of that battle and it ended up catching Sanny in between. Really there’s not a lot I’d probably ask him to do differently on that play. He got caught between in a little bit.”

Analysis
We’re highlighting these two plays because they were obvious mistakes made by a rookie in his first two games. They’re learning moments and that’s what they are.

Sanheim had a rough second period in Los Angeles but bounced back in the third. Hakstol stayed with him in the third, and even used him late in the period with the game on the line and the need for more blue-line activity.

With Sanheim, there are going to be growing pains. That’s expected, of course. Even Ivan Provorov had them last season. Sanheim’s puck-moving and shot are clearly NHL ready and he showed in preseason his defensive play has improved. He still has to improve his coverage, as evidenced above, but the only way he can do that is by playing.

It appears the leash on Sanheim isn’t short. The coaching staff appears ready to let Sanheim make the mistakes and learn from them. That’s a positive because, after the Kings’ game, some felt Morin may get one final look before the competition was over.

Hakstol didn’t go to Morin or insert Brandon Manning back into the lineup in Anaheim, and outside of the Vermette goal, Sanheim didn’t have any other major miscues. That will be important for him. How quickly can he move on and learn from a mistake?

“I thought he picked up where he left off in the third period in L.A., which was back to playing his game,” Hakstol said after the Ducks game. “He used his feet well, I thought he played a pretty confident game.”

Quick hits
• In the Flyers’ season opener Oct. 4 in San Jose, Hagg brilliantly stifled a 2-on-1 against the Sharks’ Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc, forcing Thornton to turn back and regroup. Thornton did just that and Labanc eventually did score San Jose’s first goal.

Hagg sees the 2-on-1 developing before center ice and positions himself accordingly. Once Thornton gets to the blue line, Hagg has two choices here: Attack the puck carrier before the play gets deeper or stay in position while he waits for help, delaying his decision.

It’s one he had to make in real time. Attack the carrier and get beat, Brian Elliott is facing a 1-on-1 break. But Hagg makes a smart play in attacking Thornton. He bent down with his stick on the ice, taking away the pass option and forcing Thornton to circle back. The Sharks scored moments later, but Hagg played this 2-on-1 perfectly.

• One thing worth noting about Patrick is his passing from behind the net. Patrick scored his first Tuesday in Nashville but picked up his career first point in Anaheim last Saturday. Patrick, from behind the net, found his former Brandon teammate, Provorov, for a one-timer just as a power play expired. It’s a type of pass the Flyers will certainly benefit from this season.

• One of the bright spots thus far has been the Flyers’ fourth line featuring Leier, a rookie, Laughton, a former first-rounder who finally made the show full-time, and Michael Raffl. Leier and Laughton have uncanny chemistry from their time together with the Phantoms. They were the Flyers’ most consistent line throughout preseason.

The line creates energy, works hard and always seems to be in the offensive zone. In fact, after four games, the Flyers’ fourth line is dominating the Corsi department. Let’s highlight a play made by Leier against San Jose that was absolutely bonkers.

Before the pass, the line had forechecked and spent 12 seconds in the Sharks' zone and when San Jose finally escaped its own zone, 38 seconds had passed. But this play started with a Provorov pinch, freeing up the puck for Leier to skate behind the Sharks’ net, then he anticipates where Laughton will be, spins around and sets Laughton up for a prime chance. Martin Jones made the save, but Leier's pass was ridiculous.

Stats
Leier: 4 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-2, 11:30 TOI
Hagg: 4 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, even, 18:12 TOI
Patrick: 4 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, plus-3, 13:53 TOI
Sanheim: 3 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-2, 11:55 TOI

Taylor Leier's mom has priceless reaction to hearing her son made the Flyers

Taylor Leier's mom has priceless reaction to hearing her son made the Flyers

Flyers rookie Taylor Leier has appeared in 16 NHL games over the past two seasons. But this year is different for the 23-year old.

With an impressive camp and preseason, Leier edged out Matt Read, Oskar Lindblom and others to solidify his spot as a full-time NHL player.

After being told he made the team, Leier called his mom to share the good news. 

And, as you can see in the video above, Leier’s mom couldn’t contain her excitement as her son’s dream came true.

On the ice, Leier is a member of the Flyers’ speedy and revamped fourth line alongside Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl. 

Matt Read clears waivers as Flyers' roster is set ... for now

Matt Read clears waivers as Flyers' roster is set ... for now

Updated: 3:12 p.m.

Maybe Matt Read hasn't seen his last days in a Flyers uniform.
 
The 31-year-old winger cleared waivers and was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, as the Flyers are set with their 23-man roster ahead of Wednesday night's season opener in San Jose, California, against the Sharks.
 
The Flyers' waiving of Read on Monday was to open a spot for 23-year-old Taylor Leier, a 2012 fourth-round pick who impressed in the preseason with three points (two goals, one assist) in four games. Read, a veteran of six seasons — all with the Flyers — has not been able to rediscover his early success and is on the final year of a four-year, $14.5 million deal. With Read headed to the AHL, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Greg Paone has more on what it means monetarily for the Flyers right here.
 
But Read may be back soon. While the Flyers' roster is at the NHL-mandated 23, things could change once defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's health is assured. Gostisbehere suffered an upper-body injury in last Sunday's preseason finale, forcing the Flyers to carry rookie defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim all to the West Coast, with eight overall blueliners on the roster. Gostisbehere took part in Tuesday's practice and said he's good to go for Wednesday.
 
General manager Ron Hextall will not keep his young prospects just to be extras. When the Flyers are completely confident in Gostisbehere's health, either Morin or Sanheim (the latter more likely) will be sent to the AHL, while a forward (very possibly Read) will be recalled.
 
Gostisbehere has not been placed on injured reserve, another sign that his issue is not overly serious and all three rookie defensemen are on board for safety measures.
 
Nonetheless, the roster is ready for now, as are the Flyers, who open the 2017-18 season with a four-game road trip.
 
Here's a look at the 23 players for opening night Wednesday and our best projection of the Game 1 lineup:
 
Forwards (13)
 
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Wayne Simmonds
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise
 
Defensemen (8)

Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim
 
Goalies (2)
 
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
 
Projected lineup
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
 
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
 
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
 
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Taylor Leier
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
 
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
 
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
 
Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
 
Brian Elliott
 
Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera, and defensemen Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.