Flyers

A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

Ronnie Attard is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

He loves the physical nature of the game — playing with a mean streak, delivering hits and standing up for teammates.

"That's something that has been a staple of my game since I was a little kid, something that my dad instilled in me," Attard said in June. "If you're the hardest player to play against out on the ice, people are going to notice you."

What also gets you noticed? Thirty goals by a defenseman. That's what Attard pulled off with the USHL's Tri-City Storm in 2018-19. It turned him into a third-round selection of the Flyers this summer after Attard had been draft eligible twice and never heard his name called. He's a 20-year-old with booming potential.

"I still use that staple of being good defensively," Attard said. "Then I started incorporating my offense, which is a double whammy."

With the Storm, Attard blew up in one year. He went from 15 points and a minus-9 rating through 50 games in 2017-18 to 30 goals, 65 points and a plus-47 mark over 48 games to win 2018-19 USHL Player of the Year.

How in the world did he go from undrafted to double whammy, just like that?

You see where he was a year or two ago to where he is now, his mobility, he's gotten a lot stronger, he's gained a ton of confidence, especially on the offensive side of things. He's always been a competitive kid and a hard-nosed kid, but to see where his overall game has come, it hit you in the face when you went to watch him play.

Obviously, we're not expecting him to score 30 goals a year in the NHL, but that stat you can't hide from, either. You score 30 goals in any league in 48 games, you are doing something right.

- Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr

Strength and confidence can do wonders for a young player. Attard brewed the combination by working out at Western Michigan with former NHL head coach Andy Murray and the Broncos.

"Coach Murray called me up last summer and wanted me to be a part of their strength program and get on the ice there," Attard said. "That's been the biggest thing — being on the ice with his players, seeing what they do and they taught me a lot.

"I went back to my junior team and had a bunch of confidence."

Western Michigan will be a team to keep an eye on for Flyers fans in 2019-20. Attard is entering his freshman year for the Broncos, while fellow Flyers prospect Wade Allison will be a senior winger with something to prove.

"I know him pretty well, I've been kind of following in his footsteps," Attard said of Allison. "He played at Tri-City and then went to Western, and I did the same thing. We know a lot of mutual people and we get along really well.

"He gave me the rundown and how things are handled there. It's another top-notch organization, Andy Murray's been around the game a long time, so hoping to learn a lot from him."

Despite his big shot and 30-goal breakout season, Attard knows he's far from a finished product.

"My skating and just my consistency," Attard said of the areas in which he wants to improve. "There are some nights where I'm the best player out on the ice and there are other nights where I'm just kind of irrelevant. I want to be able to bring that every night, just knowing what it takes to get my game at that 100 percent level.

"I just want to keep getting better, develop my footwork, my consistency level, even my shot has a little work to be put into it. Once I think I can come to this level and succeed and be an impact and help these guys out, that's when I'm going to make the jump."

Attard turned heads with the jump he made last season.

How fast could he tackle college?

"He's going to a Western Michigan program with quality coaching," Flahr said. "He should be an interesting watch here over the next couple of years."

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Flyers vs. Rangers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Rangers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Ready for some playoff-like hockey?

A home-and-home set that will feel like the postseason is on tap for the Flyers (36-20-7) and Rangers (35-24-4), starting Friday night in Philadelphia.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers and Rangers are two of the NHL's hottest teams.

They happen to be division rivals and play each other twice over the next three days.

The Flyers have won four straight and are 14-5-1 since Jan. 8 with an NHL-best 3.60 goals per game. The Rangers have won five straight and are 9-1-0 over their last 10 games.

These next two games are pivotal for both clubs. For the Flyers, they can continue to fortify their playoff hopes while delivering a haymaker to New York's chances.

With 79 points, the Flyers are in third place of the Metropolitan Division and only a point back of the second-place Penguins. Thanks to their surge, the Rangers are only two points out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot and five behind the Flyers.

Pittsburgh, Carolina and Columbus are also in action tonight. Buckle up.

• Kevin Hayes has kept tabs on his old team.

He knows of New York's run and sees the damage Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have caused.

Panarin, who has 32 goals and 55 assists, is on an 11-game point streak (five goals, 11 assists), while Zibanejad has scored a goal in six straight games and owns 27 points over his last 18 games (13 goals, 14 assists).

The Rangers have won nine straight road games by a combined score of 34-17.

I watch some of their games when I’m at home on the couch," Hayes said Friday after morning skate. "It looks like they’re buying in defensively, they’ve got five guys back to the house pretty much every time it’s in the zone, and then their elite players are putting up some serious numbers.

Mika was out for a lot of games. You watch him, for me, from when I first met him, he’s the biggest improvement I’ve seen on the ice. That guy is lighting it up this year. I don’t think he gets enough credit, he probably gets a lot of credit with the New York media, but around the league, I don’t think he gets enough credit. He’s an elite player in this league and he’s dominating right now.

I think taking away him and Panarin are big keys for the game tonight and on Sunday.

• Derek Grant and Nate Thompson will each play their second game with the Flyers.

In their Philly debuts, both centers played 12-plus minutes.

Grant's responsibilities could grow with each game.

“Derek Grant, we’ve got some experimenting to do there," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We see some potential, we see a lot of smarts without the puck. We’ll let them play, see how they do tonight and we’re going to figure this out here as we move forward.”

• Carter Hart is 17-2-2 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .941 save percentage at home.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Tyler Pitlick
Michael Raffl-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers give 15-year-old fan a contract, and then the day of his life

Flyers give 15-year-old fan a contract, and then the day of his life

The Flyers announced an eye-catching transaction Thursday: a one-day contract with a young local hockey fan, 15-year-old Blake Steigauf.

Steigauf, an enormous Flyers fan and a sophomore at Manheim Central High School who was diagnosed with cancer last April, partnered with Make-A-Wish Philadelphia and on Thursday spent a dream day with the Flyers.

Currently a player for Manehim Central's high school hockey team, Steigauf hit the ice with his favorite player, Flyers captain Claude Giroux, and spent time on the ice during practice with the team.

After taking a few shots — and netting a few goals — against Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, Steigauf and Giroux were chatting when Giroux gave Steigauf his stick and told the young star it was his to keep.

When Giroux gave Steigauf his stick, Elliott swooped in from behind and chirped the Flyers captain: "You've scored more with it than he has."

After practice, Giroux talked about Steigauf's game, and leaned into the razzing.

"You can see that [Steigauf's] been playing," Giroux said. "He's got a good shot. It was good. I gave him my stick, so hopefully ... those sticks don't score a lot of goals, but hopefully he's gonna change that."

In his locker stall after practice, Steigauf was thrilled.

"I'm speechless," Steigauf said. "It was just phenomenal out there. All the guys, they're truly amazing."

Steigauf and Giroux shared lunch together, where Steigauf hopefully gave Giroux a few pointers:

After practice, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher announced the one-day contract at a press conference. Steigauf will join the Flyers on Friday for their Feb. 28 game against the Rangers, according to the team:

Blake's game-day experience will mirror that of his new official teammates, arriving at the arena through the private player's entrance, dressing in an official locker room stall, and lining up alongside the team in the player tunnel. Sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Blake will lead the team out of the tunnel onto the ice and take an official solo "rookie lap" around Wells Fargo Center ice before watching warmups from the team bench. 

As his final game-night duty, Head Coach Alain Vigneault has requested that Blake present the night's starting lineup before he returns to the ice and stands side-by-side with the starters on the blue line during the singing of the National Anthem.

Both on and off the ice, the Flyers are on a roll.

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