Flyers

Alain Vigneault's take on Shayne Gostisbehere, Chuck Fletcher's line decisions, more on Flyers camp

Alain Vigneault's take on Shayne Gostisbehere, Chuck Fletcher's line decisions, more on Flyers camp

VOORHEES, N.J. — Alain Vigneault called it a "new era."

It all began Friday as 2019 Flyers training camp kicked off under the direction of the new head coach.

Vigneault's practice sessions were fast, physical and demanding.

We'll touch on that and more in five observations:

1. Focused on this Ghost

Much has been made about Shayne Gostisbehere's 2018-19 season. The production fell well short of expectations after the playmaking defenseman put up career numbers the season prior.

So what went wrong and which Gostisbehere will the Flyers get in 2019-20?

Vigneault had an excellent answer:

The beauty about being me right now is I wasn't here last year. I remember Shayne from my time in New York, him being a real tough defenseman to play against — good on the breakouts, jumping up on the play at the right time, being real effective on the play. That's my recollection. I don’t know what happened last year, don’t care. I thought today, he was intense, he had a real good pace to his practice. I am confident he's going to follow it up [Saturday].

Gostisbehere really got after it in practice. He was active and physical along the boards in defensive drills. Vigneault is a coach that wants to push and dictate tempo.

His defensemen, like Gostisbehere, can play a large role in that.

2. Now that's a first day

Chuck Fletcher was thrilled with Day 1 of camp.

The Flyers' general manager has worked in the game since 1993 and came away incredibly impressed with the meticulousness of Vigneault's staff and the pace of practice.

"This is the best first day of camp I have ever seen," Fletcher said. "The players are executing great, but the coaches are incredibly prepared. That was a great practice. There is literally 10 seconds in between drills. The players are moving, there's competition, they're moving the pucks around.

"You have three weeks of this going into the season, I think it will bode well for our ability to play at tempo and for our conditioning. Everything has a purpose."

3. New deal, same Provorov

Ivan Provorov took the ice with a new six-year, $40.5 million contract. He moved swiftly up and down the ice, while having no problem mixing it up.

Don't expect a new contract to change him.

The 22-year-old defenseman said he wasn't involved much in the contract negotiations. He trains hard in the offseason and let his agent Mark Gandler handle the business side with the Flyers, which resulted in Friday's deal.

"My job is to play hockey and be the best that I can," Provorov said.

Ultimately, he knew both sides would agree to terms before camp.

"I'm just really excited to get going," Provorov said. "Be here for six more years, try to win, get to the playoffs, go as far as possible and hopefully win the Cup."

4. 'Show what they can do'

Prized 19-year-old prospect Joel Farabee saw himself playing alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, making for an exciting thought during camp.

Not bad for the first day, right?

Interestingly, Friday's combinations were not constructed by Vigneault. The head coach asked Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr to put them together because Vigneault wants to first gain a better grasp of the youth.

Fletcher and Flahr believed talent with talent worked best early on — and who would say no to that? Not only did Farabee complement the team's two-best players, but other top prospects Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe lined up with Jakub Voracek.

"These are good young players, we may as well play them with good players and give them a chance to show what they can do," Fletcher said. "I don't know what it means for the season or the short term, but these guys are very important parts of our future and we want to give them a chance to show what they can do, gain some confidence, get that experience.

"Any chance you get to practice with Giroux or Couturier or Voracek when you're a young, skilled player, that's a great opportunity to watch and learn, be a part of it and hopefully feel good about yourself. There is no sense putting them with checkers, let's be honest — let's give them a chance to show what they can do."

5. No longer in rookie camp

This was just one play in one drill but it caught my eye.

Kurtis Gabriel is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound winger. He's a role forward not known for his offense, but here he simply outmuscles the 6-foot, 180-pound Frost en route to the net for a goal.

You can see how much of a different level the NHL is when it comes to size and speed.

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Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Andy Welinski, who had been out with a lower-body injury, was deemed healthy Monday and placed on waivers.

If the 26-year-old defenseman expectedly clears, he will report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

The move is notable for a few reasons.

The Flyers' cap space will increase from $283,811 to $1,033,811, according to CapFriendly.com.

Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) remains on injured reserve and counts against the cap like Welinski did. When the 20-year-old center is healthy, the Flyers will have room for him because the roster is at 21 players. Patrick appears to be getting closer to a return as he is with the Flyers on their current three-game road trip.

The Flyers might still make a move when Patrick inserts the lineup. An odd man out could be Connor Bunnaman or Carsen Twarynski, both 21-year-old rookies. It would make sense if the Flyers want them playing games at Lehigh Valley rather than sitting in the press box as an extra forward.

If the Flyers decide to send one of those players down, it would also create more cap flexibility. Chris Stewart, a veteran winger who turns 32 years old this month, remains with the team on a pro tryout.

As for Welinski, he will help a young Phantoms team if he clears waivers. Welinski has played 146 career AHL games and appeared in a career-high 26 games for the Ducks last season.

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Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Jakub Voracek’s 14:30 ice time Saturday night was certainly noteworthy.

It marked the 30-year-old winger’s fewest minutes in a game since the 2015-16 season. When the Flyers were trailing, 2-1, during the third period, one of their best and most experienced playmakers saw no more than three minutes of the ice. In the final stanza, Voracek was bumped off the first line and had shifts with the team’s fourth unit.

The development, which comes in the third game of the season under a new head coach, is nothing to sweep under the rug as if it never happened.

Is it troubling, though? No, at least not yet.

The fact is the Flyers have great depth in their top six. So much so that James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer and the Flyers’ fourth-highest-paid player, opened the season on the third line.

On Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks (see observations), the Flyers were looking to spark their offense during the third period. They had one goal and 17 shots on net at the time. Head coach Alain Vigneault has said how he’s still searching for the best chemistry within his forward combinations and defensive pairs.

JVR, who finished with 15:11 and 15:37 minutes in the Flyers’ first two games, respectively, played 20:19 Saturday night. His jump to the first line was effective as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 14-6, during the third period with van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux creating plenty of offense.

When asked Tuesday if he was inclined to experiment with lines early in the season, Vigneault said:

Yes, until I find the chemistry. I’m a firm believer in I think players like to stay on the same line — chemistry gets formed and accountability gets formed also between linemates and D partners. Last game against Chicago was the first time that I felt throughout the four lines we had some chemistry that enabled us to play well defensively and generate some chances offensively. How long that’s going to stay? It’s going to depend obviously on the players’ performance. Until I find the right mix — it could be a duo with a guy going in and out, it could be a line. I’d prefer it be lines, but that obviously depends on the players’ performances.

Vigneault will switch things up and try different combinations. He will also spread out ice time to maximize his push-the-pace, hard-on-the-attack style.

If anything, this is an indication that competition is aplenty among the Flyers’ forwards. There is talent available and minutes are up for grabs.

If you want those minutes, you have to earn them and then keep them.

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