Dhiren Mahiban

Feeling like NHLers, Flyers prospects Phil Myers, Oskar Lindblom ready to reach dreams

Feeling like NHLers, Flyers prospects Phil Myers, Oskar Lindblom ready to reach dreams

TORONTO — Skating around in an empty rink in August for a photo shoot might not seem like much, but for prospects Phil Myers and Oskar Lindblom, donning the Flyers' colors while on the ice together gave the pair an opportunity to envision what their 2017-18 season might look like.

Myers and Lindblom were on the ice together this week at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre inside the historic Maple Leaf Gardens for the annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase — an opportunity for trading card giant Upper Deck to shoot the players for upcoming products.

The Flyers prospects spent a large part of Monday afternoon on the ice together, feeding each other for one-timers and getting to know the rest of the rookie class from around the NHL.

“That’s what I dream about, so keep it going and try and make a spot in Philly,” Lindblom said of wearing the Flyers' colors.

Myers got to see his life in Flyers colors last October when he suited up in preseason games.

“Obviously I’m going to go [to training camp] with the mindset of making the team, that’s my ultimate goal,” Myers said. “It’s been my dream since I was a child.”

Myers heads to camp this year with the confidence of a full summer of training behind him. Last summer, offseason hip surgery hindered his ability to work out and the 20-year-old admitted to being out of shape during preseason play.

“I had stages this summer,” Myers said. “It started with putting weight on, then we were doing power and then at the end it’s more speed stuff. It’s paid off so far and I feel good. So I’m happy.”

The defenseman spent a bulk of his summer training in his hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. He also trained with the Flyers for 3½ weeks. The 2015 free-agent signing didn’t do any extravagant trips this offseason, but he did catch a few concerts.

“I went to a concert in Philly, the Zac Brown Band, and I went to a music festival in Montreal, Ile Soniq, which was pretty fun,” Myers said. “It was a fun weekend, but I was still reasonable, I got the training in. It’s important to stay on track.”

With the youth movement in full swing, Myers sees an opportunity to follow the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov on a young Flyers' blue line. 

Even with an opportunity, the Flyers should have up to two rookies on the back end; Myers knows there’ll be stiff competition with the likes of Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim also competing to be everyday NHLers.

“A little competition is always good,” Myers said. “All the guys are ... we all get along really well. We’re juggling to try to help each other make the team. It’s going to be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.”

For Lindblom, this is his second taste of North American hockey. The native of Gavle, Sweden, has spent parts of the past four seasons playing for Brynäs IF in the SHL, but got a small sample of American Hockey League action when he dressed in eight games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms two seasons ago.

“That was good for me just to see how it is over here, feel the environment, feel the games, good experience,” Lindblom said. “It’s a lot faster here, but give it a couple of games and then you’re in it. I went to Philly last weekend, trained there, after a couple of weeks, I’m going to be fine.”  

The 21-year-old scored 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games last season — up from the 25 points in 48 games he produced during the 2015-16 season.

Lindblom credits his development for the increase in point production.

“One year older, faster and stronger,” he said. “More skilled overall. I played with two good players over there, they helped me a lot.”

Though there are roster spots open, and Lindblom is certain to challenge for one, the 6-foot-2, 192-pound forward isn’t opposed to further seasoning in the AHL, if that’s what’s recommended.

“If I’m not good enough to play in the NHL, then I’ll need to take a little longer way, but that’s how they do it over here,” Lindblom said. “That’s not a big thing for me to go to the AHL. If it happens, it happens, and we’ll go from there.”

The influx of youth has veterans such as Wayne Simmonds excited for the upcoming season.

“There's a ton of 'em. Our prospect pool is probably top two in the league, so you can go down the list: Sanheim, Morin, Hagg, Lindblom — there’s a million guys I could keep naming off,” Simmonds said at the BioSteel Camp last week. “We’re going to have a lot of young defensemen coming in and I think it’s going to make our team better.

“With a good mix of youth and veterans, I think the youth can spark the veterans a little bit and the veterans will help bring the younger guys [along].”

Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

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USA Today Images

Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

TORONTO — Heading into his seventh season with the Flyers, and 10th overall, Wayne Simmonds is looking forward to building off a second consecutive 30-plus-goal season while helping lead a young group back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With everyone from second overall pick Nolan Patrick to blueliners Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim all vying for roster spots, Simmonds, 28, is seeing the game change before his eyes.

“I think I’m kind of getting up there. This year is my 10th year, right? So I see some names, I’m not just saying on our team alone, but in the whole league, game is changing a little bit,” Simmonds said Wednesday at the annual BioSteel Camp in Toronto. “All I can do is lead by example. I’m going to go in there and play the game the way I play and hopefully those guys will follow.”

Following the 2016-17 season, which saw the Flyers go 39-33-10 while finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, Simmonds represented Canada at the IIHF World Championships, registering two assists in 10 games while helping the Canadians win a silver medal.

Prior to getting into his offseason workout program, Simmonds and his fiancee Crystal Corey took a much-needed vacation.

“I got a chance to go to Jamaica with my fiancee, so we did that at the beginning of the summer after we came back from world championship,” Simmonds said. “We just went to Montego Bay, kept it close, we didn’t want to drive too far from the airport.

“Saw a lot of the island, took a drive to Negril, spent a day in Negril, which was actually beautiful white sand beaches and great restaurants and stuff like that, so it was pretty cool.”

The summer also saw Simmonds lose a few close teammates as the Flyers parted ways with goaltender Steve Mason and forward Brayden Schenn, among others.

“Very sad to see him go, I have a really good relationship with Steve,” Simmonds said. “We played together for a long time going all the way back to world juniors, winning a gold medal with him, so it’s sad to see him go, but it’s just part of the business. Guys change teams here and there and you’ve just got to accept it.”

Despite not playing with Brian Elliott, who was brought in to replace Mason, Simmonds already has a relationship with the goaltender, who spent last season in Calgary.

“I got a chance to talk to [Elliott] a little bit through text,” Simmonds said. “I actually know him and his wife a little bit. His wife is actually the godmother of one of my best friend’s kids, so we’ve got a connection there.”

Simmonds also sees Schenn’s departure as an opening for second-year forward Travis Konecny.

“I think that’s going to give T.K. an unbelievable opportunity,” Simmonds said. “The way he plays the game, the way he thinks the game, the speed he plays it at and the confidence level he was building towards last year — you could see it at the end of last year and at the world championship when he kind of broke out.

“He played unbelievable. He’s probably top three or four in our team in scoring — he’s a great player and I think the more ice time you give him, the better he’s going to get.”

The Flyers saw an eight-point drop-off last season compared to 2015-16, when they made the playoffs, and with an influx of young players expected, expectations aren’t high. The Hockey News predicted the Flyers to once again finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division in its annual yearbook issue. Despite the outlook, Simmonds believes there’s room for his club to build off last season.

“This year we’re going to have a lot of young defensemen coming in and I think it’s going to make our team better,” he said. “With a good mix of youth and veterans, I think the youth can spark the veterans a little bit and the veterans will help bring the younger guys [along].”

The Flyers head into the 2017-18 season looking to avoid missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since going five straight seasons without playoff hockey from 1990-94.

The weight of trying to qualify for the playoffs in a tough Metropolitan Division is no added pressure on the leadership group, according to Simmonds. 

“Go out there, play my game and lead the way I lead,” he said. “There’s no pressure for us. We’ve got to go in there and just play hockey. We didn’t fulfill what we wanted to do last year, so it’s up to us, I think, as leaders of the group to lead the way for the young guys and have everyone pulling the rope in the same direction.”

Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If Keith Primeau had his way, his son Cayden would've learned how to skate and the basics of the game before making a decision to play goal. However, from a young age, Cayden Primeau insisted he'd don the pads and tend the net, a decision he doesn't regret today.

"He was pretty hesitant at first," Cayden Primeau recalled at the recent NHL Scouting Combine. "I was just relentless and persistent — he just finally caved in and I've stuck with it ever since."

A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, including parts of six in Philly, Keith Primeau was outnumbered when it came to his youngest son's wishes to be a goalie.

"I was of the mindset that you need to learn to skate and play the game a little bit first," the former Flyers captain said. "Then if you still have an interest in playing goal, then you could play goal.

"But right from Day 1 he wanted to be a goaltender and at my wife's wishes and against my better judgment, I allowed him to put pads on. Right from the first day, he was able to stop a puck, too, so there wasn't much chance I was going to get him out of the net."

As Cayden Primeau prepares to take the next step in his hockey career — the 17-year-old is the sixth-ranked goaltender in ISS Hockey's 2017 draft guide — Keith Primeau still doesn't know where the passion for the position came from.

"Right from the beginning, he wanted to play goal. It wasn't like at the time he was watching Brian Boucher and saying, 'I want to emulate Brian Boucher,'" said Keith Primeau, whose younger brother, Wayne Primeau, also enjoyed a lengthy career as a center in the NHL. "I did some television work a few years ago and I was asking Marty Turco and Kevin Weeks — they were sitting on the panel with me — I'm a player, I know how to train as a player, I don't know goalie-specific stuff and so he's been able to lean on other people who are goaltenders or of that profession."

Born in Voorhees, New Jersey, Cayden Primeau spent this past season playing for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he posted a 14-11-1 record to go along with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound puck stopper is a butterfly-style goaltender that moves well and does a good job of using his edges.

Scouts say Primeau has very good hockey sense and feel for the game. He plays his angles well and tracks the puck through traffic well.

"Tall, lanky goalie with long limbs — has trouble catching with his glove," ISS Hockey scout Brent Parker said. "Strong post-to-post. When playing paddle down, he maintains good size and positioning.

"Rebound control was poor on his blocker side with both blocker and pads. Good balance in both the stand-up and butterfly positions. Plays at the top of his crease. Plays angles well and good overall positioning. Lots of upside."

With his dad being a member of the Flyers, Primeau said he often watched Steve Mason closely, but when it comes to modeling his game, he tries to emulate Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne.

"Always trying to take things from him and try to implement them into my own game," Primeau said. "I like to do that with a bunch of other goalies, but my favorite is probably Pekka Rinne.

"I like that he uses his athleticism to his advantage, I like how he's aggressive and makes it challenging for shooters."

Primeau hopes to one day follow his dad's footsteps to the NHL, but he won't be taking the same route. Keith Primeau spent three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro during the 1990-91 season.

The OHL's Mississauga Steelheads own Cayden Primeau's rights, but he's chosen to go the college route and will spend next season at Northeastern.

"College hockey in Boston, hockey alone in Boston, is just one thing in itself and then when I started talking to Northeastern, I went to visit the campus, it was beautiful and I loved it, so I felt like it was the right fit," said Cayden, whose cousin, Mason Primeau, recently committed to the OHL's Guelph Storm.

"Obviously the OHL is a great route, but for me personally, I believe college is the best route."

Primeau will have a familiar face on the team next season as Nolan Stevens, the son of former Flyers coach John Stevens, is expected to return for a fourth season with the Huskies.

Keith Primeau was the third overall selection of the Detroit Red Wings 27 years ago — an experience he remembers like it was yesterday. Waiting for his name to be called at BC Place Stadium, Primeau was certain he was going to the Vancouver Canucks.

"I knew that Quebec was going to take Owen Nolan and just from my conversations with Pat Quinn, I felt real strongly that I was going to Vancouver," Primeau recalled of his discussions with the late Flyers coach.

"I guess that's the one variable that you can't control. Until your name is called, everybody sits there anxiously waiting for that moment. It's exciting, but at the same time, nerve-racking."

The Flyers have selected four goaltenders over the past two NHL drafts, including Carter Hart in the second round (48th overall) last year, so the chances Cayden ends up with the Flyers are likely slim, but Keith's advice for his son heading into the draft June 23-24 in Chicago is simple.

"We all know this is just the first step," Keith said. "There's a long road to go, the work begins after the draft. Just enjoy the experience. Don't get caught up too much in where you're drafted, be excited about where you go and be ready to just take on the next challenge."