Philippe Myers

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

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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:

Notes, quotes and tidbits from Flyers development camp: 3-on-3 tournament day

Notes, quotes and tidbits from Flyers development camp: 3-on-3 tournament day

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers Skate Zone parking lot was filled to the brim.

Among the fans, Tuesday was easily the most popular and heavily-attended day of Flyers development camp, as a 3-on-3 tournament brought a close to the on-ice portion of this year's youth gathering.

Wednesday wraps up development camp with the team's annual AAA Trial on the Isle in Stone Harbor, New Jersey — also a fun and fan-friendly event.

As for the 3-on-3 competition, the Flyers split a full sheet of ice in half, allowing two games to be played at once. That, along with other media availability during the action, makes it difficult to observe everything that happened on the ice.

But with that said, let's give you the highlights from what we saw and heard on the final day at Flyers Skate Zone.

German, German, German!
German Rubtsov, the Flyers' 2016 first-round pick, was head and shoulders above most of the 40 prospects in camp.

He was a treat to watch Tuesday.

The 19-year-old center looks like he already has NHL hands and control. He's nifty with the puck and put a pretty move on Carter Hart to score one of his three goals on the afternoon.

Rubtsov's team, which also featured Radel Fazleev and Tanner Laczynski, won the tournament. Here's the bunch celebrating.

Men among boys
While Flyers general manager Ron Hextall claims development camp is not for evaluation, it’s hard not to look at a couple players who are obviously ready to no longer be a part of it.

During the 3-on-3 tournament, defensemen Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers both looked far too advanced to be playing with players their ages. Sanheim was on Team Grey and Myers was on Team Black. When the two played against each other, it was a pleasure to watch.

Sanheim scored twice in about a minute against Team Black. He ripped a slap shot from 10-feet out on Felix Sandstrom and then tucked a rebound past Sandstrom. Overall, Sanheim scored four times. Myers scored just once but definitely looks above his age level.

Fresh wings
Matthew Strome possesses skills of a first- or second-rounder, but his skating flaws are what dropped him to the fourth round, where the Flyers snagged the winger at 106th overall last month.

Yes, Strome's skating will be a bit of a project, but he can do a lot of other things that jump out in a positive way. 

Strome put his stickhandling on display with a sweet goal on Hart.

Another player that showed his stuff was camp invite Ivan Kosorenkov, who scored a goal while also exhibiting quick skates and talented hands.

Don't be surprised to see him in September's training camp. Sure, development camp isn't for evaluation, but the undrafted winger showed that much at Flyers Skate Zone.

West Coast livin'
As is the life in minor league hockey, Hart is used to long bus rides.

With air travel permitted just for the WHL championship round, travel can be a grind. From Everett, Washington, to Brandon, Manitoba, it’s about a 21-hour drive without traffic.

“Some guys bring Xboxes, TVs in the back and you have a little bit of shelter,” Hart said. “We’re right on the coast there and [Brandon is] in the boonies. It’s a grilling bus ride, but it’s a good way to spend some time with your teammates. It’s a good way to come together.”

When asked Tuesday about Nolan Patrick, Hart said their paths haven’t crossed much.

“It’s a 20-, 25-hour bus ride if we go over there to play,” Hart said. “We only play them once a year. I've only played Nolan three times in my career. So I don’t really know him too well. He seems like a nice guy from when I met him and from what I’ve heard, he’s very skilled. 

“Well, he went second overall so he's definitely skilled. Seems like a down-to-earth guy and I think the Flyers are lucky to have a high-skilled prospect like him."

Patrick did not participate in on-ice activities during development camp after undergoing abdominal surgery June 13 but was at camp all five days.

Hakstol on Lindblom
Oskar Lindblom scored a goal and was impressive all camp.

You could really see his growth.

As a raw 2014 fifth-round pick, these development sessions have been important to the Swedish winger and now he's ready to push for a roster spot in September.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last Friday. "So I'm just trying to push myself every day and be better."

Lindblom attracted the eyes of many at development camp. He'll have the eyes of Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol in training camp.

"As you look at some of the completeness of his game, when you look at the skill package — and let's be clear, it's just a skill package because we're not in a competitive situation here," Hakstol said Tuesday. "Even the 3-on-3 games, that's a half-ice 3-on-3 game. That's not the competitiveness that training camp will bring, but I like the maturity that I see in his game on the ice … and the same thing off the ice."

Enter Sandstrom
Three-on-three tournaments are not exactly goaltender-friendly, but Sandstrom was quite impressive.

Sandstrom had a bit of a rough go in the first game against Team White, allowing four goals. But from Game 2 on, he was solid. He made several nice stops from a 20-year-old goalie with no defense in front of him against Team Orange in the second game. For fans of goaltenders, the matchup that was most enticing was Team Black vs. Team Orange, when it was Sandstrom (Black) vs. Hart (Orange). For the record, Sandstrom shut out Hart's team, 4-0.

Who got the better on Tuesday in a totally meaningless tournament? Our pick would be Sandstrom.

Results and what's next
Here are the Flyers' official scoring results from the 3-on-3 tournament.

Olle Lycksell — 5
Travis Sanheim — 4
David Kase — 4
Nicolas Aube-Kubel — 3
Radel Fazleev — 3
German Rubtsov — 3
Linus Hogberg — 3
David Bernhardt — 2
Brendan Warren — 2
Maksim Sushko — 2
Wyatt Kalynuk — 2
Mark Friedman — 1
Cam Lee — 1
Oskar Lindblom — 1
Wade Allison — 1
Phil Myers — 1
Matthew Strome — 1
Noah Cates — 1
Isaac Ratcliffe — 1
David Drake — 1
Tanner Laczynski — 1
Ivan Kosorenkov — 1
Connor Bunnaman — 1
Derek Lodermeier — 1

And if you're interested in heading to the beach to see the prospects on Wednesday, here's the schedule.

5 players to watch for 2017 Flyers development camp

5 players to watch for 2017 Flyers development camp

General manager Ron Hextall doesn’t have high expectations for the incoming prospects during the Flyers development camp. It’s more a process of understanding expectations, learning how to be a professional and meeting some of the organization’s prospects in the process (see story).  

While you won’t be treated to up-and-down scrimmaging that showcases individual skills, here’s a look at five of the more intriguing prospects to keep an eye on:   

1. Oskar Lindblom (No. 54)
Everything about the 20-year-old (turns 21 on Aug. 15) left winger suggests he’s ready for the NHL, and the Flyers feel the same as he signed his entry-level deal back in May. 

Lindblom was named the top forward for 2016-17 in the Swedish Elite League, where he put up 26 goals and 35 assists for 61 points in 72 games between the regular season and playoffs.

The Flyers have produced very few late-round gems in the draft, but Lindblom appears to be a steal in Hextall’s first draft with the Flyers as he was selected in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 2014 entry draft. He fell mostly because his skating was below average, and we’ll see how much he’s worked on that during the development camp.

Overall, Lindblom has size, added muscle and plays a solid all-around game that certainly makes capable of scoring goals.

2. Philippe Myers (No. 61)
The Flyers’ blue line cupboard is stocked with young talent, and with Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin expected to be the frontrunners for spots on the big club, Myers has become somewhat of the forgotten guy. 

NHL analyst Bob McKenzie tweeted back in January that Myers looked close to being NHL-ready based on the D-man’s play at the 2016 World Junior Championships. Myers is slightly smaller in build than Morin, but he has a big shot (scored 27 goals in a season and a half in the QMJHL). 

Hextall was blown away during a free-agent tryout in 2015 after Myers went undrafted the year before. Myers suffered a concussion during the WJC that kept him out until mid-February.

It will be very interesting to see him with the other prospects this week.

3. German Rubtsov (No. 63)
There was something unique about Rubtsov when Hextall made him the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft as he selected the Russian over some big, highly skilled wingers. 

Hextall admitted the organization did more character digging on Rubtsov than perhaps any player he’s drafted. Rubtsov did not participate in the team’s prospect camp a year ago, so this will be our first look at him. 

Rubtsov carved up the QMJHL in the short amount of time he played, and in all likelihood, he will return to Chicoutimi for next season. 

From what little I’ve seen from Rubtsov, he has really good hockey sense and is the ideal two-way center Hextall prefers.

4. Morgan Frost (No. 68)
Of the five prospects listed here, Frost is the youngest and furthest away from making the NHL. However, the name should stick with you considering he’s the player the entire scouting department was sold on when Hextall decided to add a late first-round pick when the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn to St. Louis.  

You may have also read Frost’s (now deleted) tweet from 2013 when he called the Flyers s--- following the team’s 7-0 blowout to the Capitals. Frost was just a kid and he’s obviously wised up as scouts and analysts rave about his smarts. 

Frost also has excellent acceleration on the ice, which is much needed for a team that lacks overall speed.    

5. Carter Hart (No. 79)
With Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott signed to respective two-year contracts, one of the goalie prospects should emerge to be “the guy” for the 2019-20 season.

Right now, Carter Hart appears to be the frontrunner. He was the No. 1 goaltender in the CHL with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League last season.

Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon referred to Hart as “so physically gifted” and, impressively, he’s also incredibly mature for an 18-year-old with a deep understanding of the history of the goaltending position. 

After he backstopped Team Canada to the silver medal at the World Junior Championships, Flyers fans can see for themselves the next franchise goalie since the guy who drafted him.