Mikhail Vorobyev

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

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Zack Hill/Flyers

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

The Flyers on Wednesday afternoon sent forwards Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev to AHL Lehigh Valley as their opening night roster begins to take shape.

With Vecchione and Vorobyev cut, the Flyers' roster now stands at 28 players. Forwards Cole Bardreau and Colin McDonald and goalie Anthony Stolarz are injured. They're expected to begin the season on injured reserve.

What Vecchione and Vorobyev's demotions mean is that the Flyers now have to trim two more players to get down to their 23-man roster by Oct. 3. Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Tuesday he expects the final roster decisions to come down to the wire.

It appears Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom have shown enough in training camp and preseason to secure spots. The Flyers' current roster has 15 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

Patrick has two assists in five preseason games, while Lindblom has a goal and an assist. Lindblom scored Tuesday against the Rangers. Both have shown a commitment to a 200-foot game, which the Flyers preach.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is not expected to carry eight defensemen, so it's safe to say the final cuts will be one defenseman and one forward. Taylor Leier, Matt Read and Jori Lehtera are all competing for spots as a fourth-liner and an extra forward. Leier had another solid showing Tuesday against the Rangers.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Defensive prospects Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are competing for those two spots, and it remains possible all three could break camp with the team.

Hagg, Morin and Sanheim are still here after the latest round of cuts. Hagg has been steady all camp, Morin had a big game Tuesday with a goal one night after Sanheim sent a statement Monday with a two-goal game.

While it remains a long shot all three will be here, it's still a possibility. Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald haven't been great, and Hextall has repeatedly said he'd make room for prospects if they prove they're ready.

Some may be surprised that Vecchione didn't make the roster, or even argue that he wasn't given a fair shake in preseason. The former Hobey Baker finalist played in just two preseason games, and he was the 13th forward Tuesday.

That was another sign Vecchione wasn't going to make the team. To be fair, Vecchione was trying to make the team as a right winger, not at center, which the Flyers signed him as in March.

"Obviously when they draft Nolan, it's going to be a little tougher, but it's nothing I haven't seen before," Vecchione said recently. "They're going to take whoever is the best fit for the team. Right now, I'm on the wing, so it's a little different perspective. But, yeah, that doesn't change my mindset, what I'm going to do. I knew coming in it wasn't going to be easy, they didn't guarantee me anything and I knew I had to work for it, so, like I said, nothing new for me. I'm just looking forward to the challenge."

Vorobyev was recalled from the Phantoms for Tuesday's game after previously being sent to Lehigh Valley. He'll begin his first season in North America in the AHL, but he could be in the conversation for a roster spot next year.

On Tuesday, Vorobyev centered Lindblom and Travis Konecny. The trio clicked, and Vorobyev again showed the playmaking ability he flashed at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team Russia.

"I thought he played a heck of a hockey game," Hakstol said of Vorobyev. "I thought every situation that we put him into, I thought he went out and did a good job. He went out and made a couple of high-end plays offensively, and then up and down the rink."

Russian prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Ivan Kosorenkov show their skills in Flyers rookie game

Russian prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Ivan Kosorenkov show their skills in Flyers rookie game

Fans flocked to the Wells Fargo Center to check out Nolan Patrick and the organization’s stocked pantry of defensemen.

And yet, it was a pair of Russians who seemed to generate the most buzz during Wednesday night’s rookie game that saw the Flyers lose to the Islanders, 4-3, in overtime (see observations).

The pairing of center Mikhail Vorobyev and right winger Ivan Kosorenkov displayed a unique chemistry on a line with Carsen Twarynski. Vorobyev led all Flyers rookies with a pair of assists, including one play in which he spotted a pinching Travis Sanheim on a backdoor cut.

“Even on my goal there, Vorobyev, his vision to be able to find me backdoor,” Sanheim said. “I thought that was pretty good on him, and I thought all night they were both working hard and creating quite a bit.”

Vorobyev displayed an ability to hold the puck on his stick and wait for plays to develop, whereas other young centers might not have the patience to wait for a lane to open up. Selected 104th overall in the 2015 draft, Vorobyev signed his entry-level deal back in April and will report to the Phantoms when the season begins.

“You can see his skill level — he’s going to make some plays,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said after serving as head coach for this game. “He’s a big body, especially up the middle to have a guy with that size and skill, he’s going to be a nice option for us.” 

Kosorenkov, who is slightly smaller than Vorobyev, has learned to speak understandable English. He came to the Flyers during the team’s development camp back in July after he went undrafted playing one season for Victoriaville in the QMJHL, and was invited back for the team’s rookie camp. Watching Kosorenkov Wednesday, he’s built like a mini version of Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko, with a burst of speed once the puck is on his stick and an ability to protect the puck in traffic, an element he’s been working on.

“We learned this thing in development camp, protecting the puck in the corners and battling every day,” Kosorenkov said. “I really worked on that this summer in camps. I think I improved in this area. I know it's very important for the NHL game and the North American game.”

Kosorenkov is hoping he has shown enough throughout development and rookie camp to earn his own entry-level deal, and spending more time in the U.S. will only prove beneficial for both players. 

“Obviously it’s going to be a little harder for them, they don’t speak English that much," defenseman Sam Morin said. "When they get past this language barrier, it’s going to be so much easier for them. I understood them a little bit when I came here, but their skills are unreal. It’s impressive. All those guys are good with the puck.”

News and notes
• One word to describe Nolan Patrick’s first game in a Flyers sweater would be steady. The second overall pick in the June draft felt no pain three months removed from core muscle surgery.

“I felt great until that last play in overtime,” Patrick said. “I ran out of gas going in on the offensive and then trying to get a backcheck. Other than that, I thought I played a good game for my first game since March.”

• Defenseman Phil Myers left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return for precautionary reasons. It’s not known when Myers sustained the injury, but it forced the Flyers to play with five defensemen, where fatigue and a lack of familiarity clearly played a part in third-period breakdowns.

“Our D was pushed to the limits, especially when we were stuck in the zone so much they couldn’t get their gaps,” Gordon said. “I think that’s something where you’re playing an exhibition game, there hasn’t been a lot of system work, so you’re going to get guys who are a little bit off the page.”

• John Stevens, the son of the former Flyers coach (2006-09) with the same name, scored the Islanders' first goal that tied the game at 1-1.  

“Yeah, it was pretty special. I grew up going to games here my whole life pretty much,” Stevens said. “A lot of people in the building are the same people that are here when I was growing up. So it is a pretty cool experience.”

Flyers-Islanders rookie game observations: Some prospects impress in 4-3 OT loss

Flyers-Islanders rookie game observations: Some prospects impress in 4-3 OT loss

In front of a sizable Wells Fargo Center crowd somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-13,000, the Flyers surrendered a two-goal lead before losing to the Islanders, 4-3, in overtime of Wednesday night's rookie game.

The Flyers received all three goals from defensemen (James de Haas, Travis Sanheim, Mark Friedman), while dominating the opening period, outshooting the Islanders, 18-8. However, the Flyers were unable to generate any sustained offensive pressure over the final 35 minutes of regulation.

Goaltender Alex Lyon started the game and stopped 13 of 14 shots. Carter Hart, a 2016 second-round pick, came in with 9:53 remaining in the second period and stonewalled the Isles, stopping 19 of 22 shots. Hart had no chance on New York’s third-period goal that cut the lead to 3-2.

For the Islanders, Mitch Vande Sompel scored the overtime winner, while Sebastian Aho tied it with 1:32 left in the third period.

Flyers forward Connor Bunnaman had three opportunities to win it in overtime with a breakaway, a shot from in close and a penalty shot, but was denied on all three by Islanders goalie Mitch Gillam, who stopped all five shots he faced.

This summer's No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick went scoreless but looked strong and had a nice backhand attempt in the first period.

Defenseman Phil Myers left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return for precautionary reasons.

Flyers' three stars:

• Mark Friedman (D) — While most eyes were focused on Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim, Friedman simply went about his business and turned in a very solid effort. Looked calm and relaxed. Displayed speed on a couple of puck rushes. Was very positionally sound playing alongside Morin. The 2014 third-round pick scored on a slap shot from the right side of the blue line that gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

• Mikhail Vorobyev (C) — The Flyers' best center on this night displayed his creative side working in tandem with right winger Ivan Kosorenkov (see story). The chemistry between the two Russians was obvious. Vorobyev displayed some keen vision and strong passing ability as he assisted on a pair of goals. The line of Vorobyev-Carsen Twarynski-Kosorenkov was the Flyers' most productive line 5-on-5.

• Travis Sanheim (D) — Aside from a mix-up between Sanheim and playing partner Myers that led to the Islanders' first goal, Sanheim gave us a little bit of everything. The 2014 first-round pick didn’t get rattled playing the puck in his own end, while also engaging in rough play with Islanders winger Travis St. Denis. He loves to jump in on the offensive end. His pinch led to the Flyers' second goal. Without an official timekeeper, I’d venture to guess Sanheim led the Flyers in ice time.