Carter Hart

Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

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Zack Hill/Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

This week sees the Flyers conclude their season-opening four-game road trip Tuesday in Nashville for the Predators’ home opener and their own home opener Saturday against Washington.

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we’ll check in on three members of the 2016 draft class and a goalie prospect who’s one injury away from reaching the NHL.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Let’s begin with the undesirable news first. Hart, the consensus top goaltending prospect in the Flyers’ organization, will be out of action for some time because of mononucleosis, according to The Herald’s Jesse Geleynse. The Silvertips last Wednesday signed goalie Kyle Dumba to back up Dorrin Luding while Hart recuperates.

It might be a while before we see Hart back in net. Mono can take serious time to recover from — just ask Sean Couturier, who battled it during the 2010-11 offseason and it potentially cost him from being drafted in the top three. While missing significant time would stunt his development, mono probably shouldn’t raise any major red flags long term.

Hart has appeared in just two games this season. He stopped 35 of 38 shots in his first start in picking up a win against Kelowna on Sept. 29. Then, Hart allowed three goals on 25 shots in relief in a loss to Tri-City on Sept. 30. What will be worth watching when he returns is how quickly will he get back to looking like his normal self.

German Rubtsov, C, 19, 6-0/187, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
After missing the Saguenéens’ first four games because of paperwork issues, Rubtsov made his 2017-18 campaign debut last week and made an immediate impact for Chicoutimi. Rubtsov picked up third-star honors and a dandy of an assist in his season debut last Wednesday, a 4-0 win over Victoriaville. On Sunday, Rubtsov added two more assists, both secondary, in the Saguenéens’ 5-0 shutout of Shawinigan.

Rubtsov faces his first full season in North America. He finally came over from Russia near the end of last season once he was able to negotiate a release from the KHL, where he couldn't cement a significant role. Once with Chicoutimi, Rubtsov flashed the hockey sense and ability that caught the Flyers' eye in the 2016 draft. An injury cut his QMJHL season short, though. Now in North America full time and after a summer and preseason with the Flyers, Rubtsov will become more comfortable as he goes along. The skills are there, and if you caught him during development camp or even rookie camp, you saw the speed and playmaking. He's still a prospect fans should be excited about.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison, who turns 20 on Saturday, had quite the start to his sophomore season with the Broncos this past Friday. Allison, one of three 2016 second-round picks, netted two goals and an assist in No. 20 Western Michigan’s 6-1 win over Ferris State. On the first goal, Allison beat Ferris State goalie Justin Kapelmaster, tapping home a 2-on-1 pass. The second goal was more impressive. With a 3-0 lead late in the second period, Allison showcased his howitzer with a long slap shot goal on the power play. After a decent freshman campaign, Allison could be in line for a big jump in his second year.

Alex Lyon, G, 24, 6-1/200, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
With Anthony Stolarz out for the foreseeable future, Lyon will carry the brunt of the workload for the Phantoms in his second professional season, which has gotten off of to a busy start. Lyon started both games this past weekend, turning away 61 shots in two games. He allowed two goals on 31 shots in the Phantoms’ 7-2 season-opening win in Allentown Saturday night against Hershey and then stopped 35 of 36 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss Sunday at Hartford. That’s 125 minutes on back-to-back nights with travel.

Lyon looked sharp in the preseason with the Flyers, which should comfort the front office should an injury hit either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth. It’s a big season for Lyon, who’s on his second one-year contract. A strong second season and Lyon could position himself for an NHL backup role next year, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.

Quick hits
Carsen Twarynski, who returned to Kelowna from Phantoms training camp last week, registered a goal, three assists, and points in each of his first three games this season. Dating back to last season, Twarynski now has an eight-point, six-game streak going.

• This is worth noting: Isaac Ratcliffe appears to be a volume shooter, which the Flyers certainly could use in the future. Ratcliffe had an assist in each of his two games this past weekend for Guelph, and on Friday night, he fired eight shots on goal. He had just one shot Saturday but on the season, he has 28 in six games — 4.6 shots per game.

• Not exactly the best week for Morgan Frost, who went pointless in two games. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centerman also struggled in the faceoff circle. Frost was 10 for 34 (29.4 percent) in the dot, with a 3 for 16 game Thursday and 7 for 18 Friday. On the season, he’s won just 44.4 percent (56 for 126) of his faceoffs.

Phil Myers recorded his first pro point in his first game Saturday night, a primary assist on Danick Martel’s hat trick goal in the Phantoms’ 7-2 opening win over Hershey.

Mike Vecchione also recorded his first pro point Saturday night and followed up with another assist Sunday. In two games, Vecchione has centered Martel and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Both of Vecchione’s assists have come on Martel goals.

• And let’s talk about Mikhail Vorobyev picking up his first career North American point. Vorobyev had the lone assist on Greg Carey’s third-period marker Saturday. He’s the pivot on a line with Carey and Corban Knight.

• Owen Sound winger Maksim Sushko had his first multipoint game of the season last Wednesday against Sarnia, registering a goal on his only shot and a primary assist on the Attack’s game-tying goal in the third period. Owen Sound lost, 6-5, in a shootout. Sushko, a 2017 fourth-round pick, has points in three straight games. However, he did not play Saturday. He has points in three consecutive games and a goal in two straight.

• Pascal Laberge missed a game last week because of a lower-body injury that wasn’t serious enough for him to sit out Sunday’s game against Sherbrooke in which he picked up a goal — his third of the season — and an assist in Victoriaville’s 5-4 win.

Noah Cates recorded a secondary assist with two shots in the Omaha Lancers’ 2-1 loss to the Tri-City Storm in their season opener Friday night.

• Remember Matej Tomek? Sure you do. The Slovak goalie prospect recruited to North Dakota who then failed to earn playing time before leaving for the USHL this season. Tomek is now with the Waterloo Black Hawks and stopped 22 of 24 shots in his first game. Playing time is important for Tomek and he’ll get it with the Black Hawks.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom stopped 14 of 15 shots in his only game last week, picking up a win Thursday against Karlskrona.

• Two more assists for David Kase, whose SHL career is off to a solid start. Kase has four assists and seven points in his first seven games with Mora IK.

Michael Raffl, Matt Read healthy and in shape, looking for rebound seasons

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USA Today Images

Michael Raffl, Matt Read healthy and in shape, looking for rebound seasons

VOORHEES, N.J. — Their 20-goal seasons seem like an eternity ago, and now Matt Read and Michael Raffl are spending this year’s training camp trying to prove themselves all over again.

“A little bit, yeah,” Read said recently. “I try and tell myself every day to be the hardest-working guy out there, and move your feet as much as you can, win puck battles and the other things will come as we go. Just try and be in a lot better shape than I was, not that I was in bad shape, but just try and play a full game and every shift at a high pace. Just keep working hard and hopefully, things can turn around, opportunities will come, and you just got to bear down on them.

“You've got to have something inside you that drives you through the summer,” Raffl said. “You've got to have a goal in mind. I want to come to camp and be the fittest guy in here. That’s all I can do in terms of how I prepare, especially with last season and all the injuries. I don’t want another year like that.”

From the day Read arrived in 2011, he seized his opportunities by utilizing his speed and relying on his hardest-working-guy attitude. His 24 goals led all rookies and he finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting behind Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and New Jersey’s Adam Henrique as the league’s top rookie. Read was considered one of the Flyers' most productive even-strength forwards. You may be surprised to know, but during that stretch (2011-14), only Claude Giroux’s 49 and Jakub Voracek’s 47 even-strength goals topped Read’s three-year total of 46. 

Read was rewarded with a four-year, $14.5 million contract and he hasn’t been the same since suffering a high ankle sprain just a month into that new deal. Once the injury became publicized, every time Read went through a scoring drought, questions regarding the ankle would resurface, and yet, he never missed any significant time playing through pain.    

Two years after Read burst onto the scene, Raffl followed suit, earning a roster spot with the Flyers straight out of camp as another undrafted rookie. Raffl’s transition to the NHL was not nearly as impactful as Read’s, as he scored nine goals to go along with 22 points in his rookie season. However, Raffl found his niche during his sophomore season, scoring a career-high 21 goals playing on a line with Giroux and Voracek. The big-bodied Raffl quickly understood that to keep up with highly-skilled players, the best thing to do was crash the net and good things would happen. Like Read, Raffl also benefitted financially by inking a three-year, $7 million extension.

However, last season was Raffl’s worst in orange and black. He never felt right battling through an upper-body injury during the first month of the season and then missing the final six weeks after suffering an MCL sprain.

“I was banged up all the way through,” Raffl said. ”I had a long summer and a lot of time to work on some stuff. I feel fantastic out there right now.”

Both guys felt better when their cellphones went silent back in June as Vegas was composing its expansion roster. And even though Read and Raffl were left exposed, the Golden Knights selected Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Raffl clearly had no ambitions of continuing his career in Nevada.

"I like it here, I like where I’m at. I love Philadelphia,” Raffl said. “This is where I’ve signed for three years. I want to be here.” 

Read, on the other hand, had a more realistic and philosophical approach to the situation.

“It’s completely out of your hands,” Read said. “If it happened, it happened. If it doesn’t, you just come back to camp here and get ready for the season. If it’s out of your control, why worry about it, why fret about it? You just prepare yourself and it doesn’t matter if you’re there or you come back here. You just have to show up and be able to have a good season again. It’s out of your hands and I didn’t worry about it too much.”

Now Read and Raffl are back in the same dressing room and, for the first week of camp even, on the same line along with Scott Laughton. Together that trio proved to be a hard-checking line against Islanders superstar John Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee in the preseason opener.

“Laughts brings a lot of speed to the middle and Raffy is obviously someone on the forecheck who separates a guy from the puck, and when he has the puck he usually does the right thing with it,” Read said. “It’s easy to play with those guys and we had fun. We had a lot of ice time. It’s a good way to start the preseason."

They may be together now, but one of those final roster spots could essentially come down to Read or Raffl.

Roster cuts
The Flyers reduced their roster by 18 players Thursday morning. Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener — OHL), Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville — QMJHL), Ivan Kosorenkov (Victoriaville — QMJHL), German Rubtsov (Chicoutimi — QMJHL) and Carter Hart (Everett — WHL) were returned to their junior teams.

Rubtsov, the Flyers' 2016 first-round pick, was returned to his junior team, rather than sent to the AHL for which he was eligible.

Forwards Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Tyrell Goulbourne, Danick Martel, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, defensemen James de Haas, Mark Friedman, Maxim Lamarche, Phil Myers, Reece Wilcox, and goaltenders Leland Irving and John Muse were assigned to the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Flyers' training camp roster now stands at 36.

“Obviously, today there’s separation in terms of where we go from here in camp,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We still have a good number of players in camp. Today is the day when the competition starts to rise in terms of some of the tougher decisions that are coming down the road here.”

Tonight in the preseason game against the Bruins, Hakstol will be forced to dress nine players who suited up in the split-squad games against the Islanders, including Taylor Leier, who continues to make a strong push to make the opening night roster (see story).

“Taylor Leier will be back in the lineup tonight,” Hakstol said. “He’s coming off a really good performance last night. Those are the kind of performances and that’s the type of impact you want to see out of the young players who are working to make our hockey team.”

Here is tonight's roster:

Felix Sandstrom, Carter Hart, Flyers' tandem of the future? Count on it

Felix Sandstrom, Carter Hart, Flyers' tandem of the future? Count on it

VOORHEES, N.J. — When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall played, the former goaltender always viewed his partner and himself as a part of a tandem. Or so he says 18 years later.

By studying Hextall’s goaltending decisions during his time in his current post, his philosophy has become indisputable: draft a ton of goalies and tandems are imperative.

Hextall has drafted five goalies in the four drafts he’s been in charge, signed a college free agent (Alex Lyon) and the Flyers currently have nine netminders in their organization.

The effectiveness of platoons played a factor in the Flyers’ biggest free-agent move of the summer and immediate future in net. Brian Elliott welcomes tandems. Steve Mason didn’t.

Elliott will partner with Michal Neuvirth for the next two seasons in Philadelphia, but then what? We all expect one of the Flyers’ highly-touted prospects to be here in three years.

Whether that’s either Carter Hart or Felix Sandstrom, two goalies drafted by Hextall with bright futures, or either Lyon or Anthony Stolarz will be determined in the next two years.

Hart and Sandstrom are the two prospects everyone expects to compete for the No. 1 job when they’re seasoned enough to be in the NHL, but the question turns to their role.

Does Hextall envision either Hart or Sandstrom taking a stranglehold of the No. 1 job, while the other either serves as the backup or gets squeezed out of the equation?

You can bet on that being the case.

“The goalie dictates that,” Hextall said last Friday during development camp at Flyers Skate Zone. “You still need two goalies. I never want to have a backup that you say, ‘OK, he’s a 10- or 15-game guy.’ What if your guy gets hurt, where do you go? It’s always a tandem.

“You need someone capable of playing 30 games. Fifty-thirty, that’s a tandem. Fifty-five-twenty-five, that’s a tandem. The goaltender will dictate the games to some degree.”
 
On Day 1 of development camp last Friday, Hart and Sandstrom were paired together during the first goalie session at 8 a.m. and the second in the afternoon.
 
If the vision going forward includes them splitting time between the pipes, it doesn’t hurt that the goalies were positioned two stalls from each other at camp.
 
It also doesn’t hurt that they were at development camp last summer and they’ll likely be together again next summer. Building a rapport now should pay off in the long run.
 
“I was here last year with [Sandstrom],” Hart said, “so I got to know him pretty well. We were on the same volleyball team for the Trial on the Isle. We didn’t have great partners.

“I don’t know who they were. I don’t want to say any names. I think we finished last.”

Hart, who turns 19 next month, received a taste of pro life at the end of last season, when he joined the Lehigh Valley Phantoms largely as a spectator in the AHL playoffs, though he did back up once.
 
The 2016 second-round pick will spend the 2017-18 season in the WHL with Everett before making the jump full-time professionally in 2018-19 when he’s 20 (see story).
 
As for Sandstrom, the 20-year-old had the option to jump overseas this season to play at Lehigh Valley with his contract with Brynäs IF expiring after last season.
 
Instead, the Swede decided to re-up for one more year with Brynäs, while his teammate, winger Oskar Lindblom, opted to come to North America full-time. Lindblom is expected to make the Flyers’ roster in training camp, but beginning the year in the AHL is an option too.

“I’m in a good position at home in Sweden,” Sandstrom said. “I get to play a lot. Really like my goalie coach there, too. I’m in a good position at home. No reason to rush. I think I need one more year to develop more and be even more ready to come over here.”

Leaving Sweden didn’t really compute much for Sandstrom, a 2015 third-round pick who in 2016-17 posted respectable numbers for Brynäs in his second full season in the SHL.

There is a numbers game in Lehigh Valley with Lyon and Stolarz, both restricted free agents. There wasn’t much playing time available with the Phantoms.

In 46 regular-season games last season, Sandstrom compiled a 14-7 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .908 save percentage with two shutouts. During the postseason, he had a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage in 13 games as Brynäs lost in the finals.

Sandstrom reiterated his desire to play in the NHL and “be a reason why the Flyers win games” at development camp. With the logistics, it just didn’t make sense this year.

When he does come over — as it is with all European players — the rink will be his biggest adjustment. The smaller rink creates for different angles for goalies. It takes time to adjust.

“It’s a different type of game with the rinks,” Sandstrom said. “More shots, more straight to the net. I like that. I think I can handle that. It’s pretty good. I’m a pretty good skater, too.

“It’s more often that they shoot from places [here], where, in Sweden, they often don’t shoot. Because when you go on the boards here, it’s a scoring chance. If you shoot from there in Sweden, it’s not as dangerous.”