Philippe Myers

Flyers prospect Philippe Myers heating up

Zack Hill/Flyers

Flyers prospect Philippe Myers heating up

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — It’s been 13 months since Philippe Myers felt this good about his game. 

It’s been that long since he took a nasty hit from Luke Kunin behind the net in Canada’s quarterfinal matchup against the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championships. It was also at that tournament where TSN analyst Bob McKenzie tweeted Myers looked “NHL ready, or close to it.” Not long afterward, former NHL executive and current analyst Craig Button listed Myers as a top 10 prospect currently not playing in the NHL.

Incredibly high praise for the 6-foot-5 defenseman who wasn’t drafted as an 18-year-old while playing with Rouyn-Noranda in the QJMHL and eventually signed as a free agent with the Flyers in September 2015.

His first professional season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, though. Like Samuel Morin, Myers has been dealing with a nagging groin injury that has forced him to miss 17 AHL games so far.    

“The first half of the season wasn’t the half that I wanted,” Myers said. “I was hurt for the first couple of games. I missed about half of them. Lately, my groin’s been strengthening up and I feel a lot stronger and more stable on the ice.

“I feel like I can move a lot better, and that’s huge. Skating is a big part of hockey. I’ve just been feeling myself, getting to the stuff that I was doing last year and regaining those good habits. I felt like myself on the ice a couple weeks ago for the first time this year. I felt comfortable moving. I wasn’t feeling any pain at all.”

Myers' feeling of immobility prevented him from being a complete all-around player, so his attention was squarely focused on positional play in the defensive zone and winning one-on-one battles that are essential to developing into an NHL-caliber defenseman. 

In 28 games with the Phantoms this season, Myers has contributed three goals and nine assists. This after a three-year junior career that saw him score 29 goals and record 63 assists for 92 points.

“I’ve been trying to chip in offensively when I can, but obviously we have a defensive-first mindset here,” Myers said. “Good offense starts with good defense. You got to take care of your own end before you can join in on the rush.

“You just got to seize the opportunity, and when the opportunity is there you just gotta go. And if it’s not there, you don’t go. Not trying to force things — that’s something I’ve had to work on throughout the year and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it, and now I just got to keep at it and keep the little details going.”

Organizationally, the Flyers' philosophy with their defensemen is comparable to rings around a tree. The outside arc is solidifying the basics, and as their respective games adapt to the speed of the AHL, that circle shrinks and they can start working on the finer details. Impressively, despite his injuries, Myers is considered to be on the same track as Travis Sanheim was a year ago when his game started to take off with the Phantoms.   

“There’s a process where you take care of the big things first and with all of our D, it’s about the ice surface first,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said. “It's about not complicating your life on the breakout and making that first early pass when it's there. Now it's about the positional play, it’s about the defending part of it, the abrasiveness at the net front. Good stick, the positioning of the stick. The little details come over time. You can’t have everything all at once. It’s just information overload.

“When you consider the last three to four weeks, Philippe has played some of his best hockey. But he’s done it in half the time because he’s missed half the amount of games and half the amount of practices. You wonder where he’d be right now if he didn’t have the nagging injuries.”

With Morin out for an extended amount of time, Myers now comprises the Phantoms' top pairing along with Sanheim, who was assigned to the Phantoms this week after playing 35 games and scoring one goal, with the Flyers. When you evaluate Morin, Myers and Sanheim, they’re three players with unique skill sets, but Myers appears to be more of a hybrid of the other two. Sanheim has the offensive flair while Morin's specialty is physicality.

“[Myers'] ability is to get up and down the ice and make plays, and use his shot and defend. He’s a sneaky, hard player.” Gordon said. “He’s got a little bit of Sam in him at times when players have to pay a price when they go near him. It’s maybe not as dramatic as Sam, but he does play with an edge and he has that offensive upside.”

In between playing three games over four days paired with Sanheim together and logging 22 to 25 minutes, Myers also enjoyed his 21st birthday this past week. Nothing too celebratory despite the significance. He simply looks back at this past year and realizes how much he’s endured and matured.

“I just think I grew as a person, and as a player, I feel like my confidence is coming back,” Myers said. “I’m happy with the way things are going now, and I’m going to keep building on that.”

Flyers prospects heating up as new year rings in

Photo: Aaron Bell | OHL Images

Flyers prospects heating up as new year rings in

With the playoff round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships beginning Tuesday, we’re going to hold off on touching on the U-20 tournament until it’s over.

Four Flyers prospects are participating, with three — Carter Hart (Canada), German Rubtsov (Russia) and Linus Högberg (Sweden) — still in play to medal.

Maksim Sushko starred for Belarus but will be part of the relegation round. Belarus failed to win a game in the preliminary round.

Here is the playoff round TV schedule.

Let’s kick off the new year with our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
It was another week of pure dominance for Frost and his Greyhounds, who won three more games and extended their winning streak to 23 games. Frost had another monster week, collecting two multi-point games and lengthening his point streak to 14 games, during which he has 10 goals and 22 assists. He now leads the OHL with 60 points, is tied for the league lead in assists with 39 and leads the league with a plus-46 rating.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Lindblom added two more goals to his résumé last week, and the 21-year-old winger now is creeping into the AHL leaders in points. Lindblom had an effective game during the Phantoms’ 3-1 win Friday over Charlotte, potting his third power-play goal of the year. Then in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Checkers, Lindblom added a late tally. With 25 points, Lindblom is now tied for sixth in the AHL in rookie scoring.

Alex Lyon, G, 25, 6-1/200, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
While Lyon may have been the most disappointing prospect before the Christmas break, the second-year goaltender had a solid rebound last week after returning to the AHL. Lyon served as the Flyers’ backup for three weeks on an emergency basis as Michal Neuvirth healed from a lower-body injury.

Lyon made his first start Friday night since Dec. 1 and lost his shutout bid with 9:07 left in Lehigh Valley’s 3-1 win over Charlotte. The 25-year-old turned away 28 shots in the first game of a back-to-back set with the Checkers. Then on Saturday, Lyon was solid again for the Phantoms, stopping 39 shots in a 4-2 loss.

Still, an encouraging sign for Lyon. Perhaps the time spent with the Flyers served Lyon well. Let’s see if he can carry the momentum forward.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/209, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
One concern surrounding Myers coming into this season was his health. He battled a concussion and a whiplash in his final season of junior, but when he was healthy, his stock skyrocketed. In his first pro season, Myers has dealt with a lower-body injury, believed to be a groin, and has missed 17 games. He returned on Dec. 23 and picked up two assists in three games last week. In four games back, he has two assists with a minus-1 rating. Myers remains a high-end prospect, but injuries have slowed the hype.

Quick hits
Wade Allison picked up his 15th goal of the season Thursday in No. 12 Western Michigan’s 5-2 win over Bowling Green. Allison leads the NCAA with 28 points.

• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski extended his point streak to four games, with a goal Friday and an assist Saturday. Laczynski leads OSU with 16 assists and 25 points.

• Phantoms injury hits: Samuel Morin and Mikhail Vorobyev remain out. Both haven’t played since Dec. 12.

Matthew Strome stayed hot for Hamilton, extending his point streak to eight games. Strome now has 21 goals and 40 points in 35 games this season.

Mike Vecchione picked up a goal and an assist in three games last week after sitting out since Dec. 9. He has eight goals and 23 points in 29 games with the Phantoms.

Pascal Laberge made his Quebec debut Saturday in a 4-1 loss to Baie-Comeau, finishing as a minus-2. In his second game Sunday, he was also pointless.

Isaac Ratcliffe, of the Guelph Storm, had back-to-back two-goal games over the weekend. He was pointless Sunday but now has 18 goals in 35 games this season.

• Kitchener’s Connor Bunnaman extended his point streak to seven games with a two-point game Thursday and a goal Friday. He has 10 points during this point streak.

Future Flyers Report: Honors, shutouts and more for Carter Hart

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Honors, shutouts and more for Carter Hart

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.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
While nothing is going right for the Flyers at the NHL level, there’s plenty to be optimistic about down on the farm, which many fans don’t want to hear. The hard truth is, the Flyers’ rebuild is bigger than we originally believed and the team can't hide it anymore.

One of the bright spots is Hart, who picked up three honors last week. Hart was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for November, the WHL Goaltender of the Week and also the CHL Goaltender of the Week. His phenomenal play didn’t go unnoticed.

And Hart continued to be strong in net for the Silvertips last week. Hart stopped 32 of 33 shots Friday in Everett’s 3-1 win over Kamloops, and then pitched his fourth shutout of the season with a 30-save effort in a 3-0 win Saturday over Saskatoon. He’s been so good that even the Saskatoon Twitter account had some fun Saturday night.

All jokes aside, Hart’s numbers are ridiculous. The 19-year-old is tearing up the WHL and words are getting hard to describe it. Hart has won his last five starts and eight of his last nine starts. In his lone loss in his last nine games, he allowed two goals on 50 shots. Hart, in November, had a 1.29 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage. He allowed just 13 goals on the 326 shots he faced in the month.

This season, Hart leads the WHL with a 1.46 GAA, .956 save percentage and four shutouts, and he missed 12 games this season because of mono. Hart already has a CHL Goaltender of the Year award under his belt and probably should have won it again last season. If he keeps this up, it’ll be hard to not give him the award again. If he does get it, he’ll become the first goalie to win the award twice.

Asked about his goaltender prospects last Wednesday, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall told NBC Sports Philadelphia that the Flyers have “a couple kids out in junior and in Europe that we’re very high on but that’s in the distant future.”

You can bet Hart is one of those kids. Hart will be turning 20 in August and he’ll turn pro next season. The safe money is he’ll spend at least one year with the Phantoms, but we could be seeing him in the Flyers’ orange and black in 2019-20, though that is a very early prediction.

College prospects
The Flyers have a trio of collegiate prospects making noise — two in their sophomore campaigns and one in their junior season — and last week was another big week.

Let’s begin with Cooper Marody, who shined with three assists Saturday night for Michigan in an exhibition against the USNTDP U-18 team. The Wolverines won, 7-3.

Tanner Laczynski had a goal and two assists Friday night in No. 11 Ohio State’s 5-5 tie with Penn State. Laczynski was pointless in a 4-0 loss Saturday to the Nittany Lions.

And Wade Allison picked up his 11th goal of the season Friday night in No. 10 Western Michigan’s 4-3 loss to No. 6 North Dakota. Allison has 20 points in 17 games this year.

The three prospects are having huge seasons and rank among the best in the nation. Marody has 21 points, tied with four players for fourth in the country. Marody’s 17 assists are second in the nation. Allison and Laczynski each have 20 points, which are tied with two others for fifth in the country. Allison’s 11 goals are tied for third.

Marody is averaging 1.5 points per game, which is fifth in the country. Laczynski is at 1.25 points per game, while Allison is at 1.18 points per game. All three are in the top 20 in the country in that category. It’s been quite the season for these three players.

Quick hits
• Nothing to see from Sault Ste. Marie’s Morgan Frost last week except for another four-point game. Frost missed Friday because of breaking a team rule, but returned Sunday and recorded a two-point game.

Frost has 14 points in his last six games. He has 29 assists and 42 points in 28 games. He leads the OHL with a plus-29 rating and is sixth in points per game at 1.56.

Danick Martel had one assist in three games last week in Lehigh Valley after the Flyers returned him to the AHL.

• Dynamo St. Petersburg goalie Kirill Ustimenko has started 14 straight games and 23 of the team’s last 24 games. Ustimenko stopped 56 of 60 shots last week.

Ustimenko leads the MHL with five shutouts. In 28 games, Ustimenko has a 1.79 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

• After a four-game pointless skid, Mike Vecchione has assists in back-to-back games. He’s third among AHL rookies with 14 assists and fifth in points with 20.

German Rubtsov picked up his third goal with Acadie-Bathurst on Friday night against Val-d'Or and had a two-assist game Sunday against Moncton. Rubtsov now has 11 points in 10 games since the Titan acquired him from Chicoutimi.

• Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon had one of his steadiest weeks this season, though it did include a blooper goal last Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to Binghamton.

Lyon then backstopped the Phantoms to a 7-2 win Friday over Hershey in the first game he’s allowed fewer than three goals since Nov. 8. (The Flyers last won a game Nov. 9.)

Oskar Lindblom had an assist in the Phantoms’ win Friday over Hershey. He has 13 points in 23 games but appears to be inching closer and closer to breaking out.

• Both Samuel Morin and Philippe Myers are out with injuries as the Phantoms’ blue line is quite banged up. It could be a while for both Morin and Myers to return.

Connor Bunnaman’s seven-game point streak ended Saturday. Bunnaman had an assist Wednesday. During the streak, he had seven assists and 10 points.

Matthew Strome had another solid week for Hamilton. Strome had a pair of helpers in the Bulldogs’ 4-3 win Thursday over Saginaw and then a goal and two assists Sunday in a 4-3 win over Mississauga. He has eight points in his last four games.

• Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski had another big week but saw a five-game point streak end Saturday night. Twarynski had a hat trick last Wednesday and then a goal and assist Friday night. He had 10 points during his five-game point streak.

• Owen Sound winger Maksim Sushko had a three-goal, four-point week. He has 14 goals and 23 points in 25 games this season.

Wyatt Kalynuk had two assists Friday in No. 14 Wisconsin’s 5-4 loss to No. 7 Minnesota. Kalynuk, a freshman, leads the Badgers with 12 assists.