Flyers

Best of NHL: Alex Ovechkin gets historic hat trick as Capitals beat Canadiens

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USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Alex Ovechkin gets historic hat trick as Capitals beat Canadiens

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin had a historic night, and now he could use a travel agent.

Anything to keep this roll going.

Ovechkin scored four goals to become the first player in 100 years with back-to-back hat tricks to open a season, and the Washington Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-1 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin had three goals in the third period in Thursday's opening night win at Ottawa, then matched the feat while helping chase Montreal goalie Carey Price in the first period Saturday. He added his fourth goal at 16:46 of the second period against Al Montoya.

Ovechkin jokingly credited the outburst to his Russian sister-in-law, who has been visiting the U.S. this week.

"Every time she's in town like I score a hat trick," Ovechkin said. "Back-to-back and she's leaving Monday. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to talk to someone to keep her here."

It was the fourth four-goal game of his career and second against the Canadiens (see full recap).

Leafs edge Rangers in wild home opener
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri scored third-period goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the New York Rangers 8-5 on Saturday night in their wild home opener.

It was an adventure in defending for both teams at times, with Toronto pulling ahead 5-1 in the first period and chasing Henrik Lundqvist before the Rangers scored four straight to quieten the Air Canada Centre crowd.

Bozak ended the Maple Leafs' slide to make it 6-5 at 7:17 of third, redirecting a pass from the corner from Jake Gardiner over Ondrej Pavelec's glove. The Rangers lost a challenge that the play was offside, earning a minor penalty in the process.

Kevin Hayes took a slashing penalty for New York, and Komarov made it 7-5 at 9:52, tapping in the rebound after William Nylander roofed a backhand off the crossbar.

The Rangers pulled their goalie with some 3 minutes remaining only to see Ryan McDonagh take a hooking penalty. Kadri took advantage with a low shot with 1:30 to go.

Zach Hyman scored twice, and Dominic Moore, Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev added goals for Toronto (see full recap).

Butcher steals spotlight from Hischier in Devils' win
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils' youth movement has a lot more going for it than No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier.

The Devils are three deep in the rookie department. Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher and Swedish import Jesper Bratt stole a lot of the spotlight from Hischier in a 4-1 season-opening victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Butcher set up three power-play goals and Bratt had a goal and an assist as the Devils created some excitement after posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season.

"The vibe the arena gave off is what I'll remember most," Butcher said after becoming the first Devil to collect three assists in his initial game with the franchise. "It was an unbelievable crowd. And to play my first game with Nico and Jesper, it's like we were all in this together. It was a great feeling"

Adam Henrique, Jimmy Hayes and John Moore also scored as the Devils fielded a lineup with eight new players. Kyle Palmieri added two assists before leaving in the second period with a leg injury. Cory Schneider made 40 saves.

Hischier was the player the crowd at the Prudential Center wanted to see. He was hailed as a conquering hero in pre-game introductions, and the first time he stepped on the ice there were chants of "Nico" for the 18-year-old Swiss center (see full recap).

Neal scores OT winner as Vegas wins yet again
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- James Neal's goal at 3:46 of overtime Saturday night gave the expansion Vegas Golden Knights their second win in two games, 2-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.

Neal, who scored twice in the Golden Knights' first regular-season game Friday at Dallas, completed a comeback that saw Vegas tie the score at 1 with 1:12 to play in regulation. Anti Raanta, in his first game as the new No. 1 goaltender in Arizona, stopped 42 shots.

Vegas, unable to put a shot past Raanta for nearly the entire game, drew even at 1 on Nate Schmidt's goal. The Golden Knights had pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:18 to play for an extra attacker, and the move paid off.

Fleury made 27 saves.

Raanta was sharpest in the second period, making 19 saves. The Coyotes earned their first point for new coach Rick Tocchet after losing their season opener at Anaheim on Thursday (see full recap).

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

This is a peculiar time for Ron Hextall.

In one facet, it's his time, precious for a build-from-within disciple who must feel like a kid on Christmas when the NHL draft arrives.

Then again, it's a weird time. Shortly after the Flyers' general manager unwraps his gifts and adds them to the toy bin, NHL free agency hits. Not a time when Hextall likes to play. Quickly, Christmas turns into the first day of school.

It's that time of year again for Hextall. The question is, have the times changed for the GM?

With the Flyers entering Year 4 under Dave Hakstol and looking to take the next step forward, some wonder if Hextall is ready to make free agency his new time. After all, much of the organization's youth is here and contributing, the core isn't getting any younger and the Flyers have more financial wiggle room — thanks to Hextall — with $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

But if Hextall's vision was ever in danger of shifting, an expansion team's marvelous story lent credence to his plan, reinforcing the belief in the way he operates and constructs his own hockey team.

When asked Thursday about the constant chatter regarding his core's clock and the team's youthfulness catching up to it, Hextall spoke with conviction and at length.

"They might have different roles; you almost might not depend on them quite as much because your younger guys are coming up and taking a bigger piece of the pie," Hextall said. "So all of a sudden you don't need one guy scoring 85 points, he can score 75 points or 70 points because we've got these kids coming up that are scoring more and more. 

"That's how you build a team. You don't build a team by having three top players and they go out every power play and they win you games. It's just not the way it works. You saw — Vegas is a good example. They were the best team in the league. Not the best talent, they were the best team. Teams still win. Teams still win. And that's what we've got to continue to build."

So if you were hoping Hextall was tinkering with the thought of making a free-agent splash, think again. He will stick to his guns and always has, constantly stressing the importance of never deviating from the course set at the journey's start.

None of which is to think Hextall won't utilize free agency to improve. He will make additions strategically and judiciously, but doling out money and years to a stud won't happen.

And the moment Hextall reaffirmed his M.O., the pressure picked up.

On all levels.

On Hextall's faith in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and the mainstays delivering star-like production.

On the young foundation pieces taking heftier strides to lighten the loads for the veterans.

On the scouting and development personnel finding and molding game-changing talent.

And on the confluence of Hextall's motives and ultimate goal.

"We are still the ultimate team sport and I think Vegas proved that to all of us this year. The more we move along here, the more society, pro sports seem to put a spotlight on a star, and that's fine, but that star has got to have his teammates in our sport or you're not going to win," Hextall said. "You look at Washington, they had a lot of really good players in the playoffs. Devante Smith-Pelly. Do they win without Devante Smith-Pelly? A couple guys get all the credit but look what this guy did. We are still the ultimate team sport, we really are."

The ultimate test will be the Flyers proving it themselves.

More on the Flyers

2018 NHL draft profile: Rasmus Sandin, a defenseman Flyers should know and like

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Terry Wilson/OHL Images

2018 NHL draft profile: Rasmus Sandin, a defenseman Flyers should know and like

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how those players would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Rasmus Sandin

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Scouting report
The Swedish blueliner is a slick skater who looks like a pro with the puck on his stick. The 18-year-old sees the ice extremely well and can shoot and pass with precision.

As good as he is handling the puck, Sandin is also adept without it. He exploits gaps in the opposition's defense and attacks the net when the opportunity is ripe to create more offensive chances instead of simply floating around the perimeter.

His decision to come to North America and play for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds did wonders in his vital draft year. Sandin's plus-35 rating was best among all OHL rookies, while his 12 goals, 33 assists and 45 points over 51 regular-season games led all first-year defensemen. He also had a strong postseason with 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in 24 contests.

Sandin isn't the biggest or quickest skater, but he makes up for it in many other ways.

Fit with Flyers
General manager Ron Hextall said the Flyers need to "restock a little bit" on defense given their previous prospects are either with the big club or flirting with making the NHL jump.

"I would be shocked if we don't draft a couple of defensemen," Hextall said Thursday.

Sandin could be an option at both Nos. 14 and 19. He projects to go in that range or possibly a tad later. Hextall's staff likely saw a good bit of Sandin while checking in on Flyers prospect Frost's 112-point season with the Greyhounds.

So Sandin has had the eyes of the Flyers and will have them watching on draft night as defensemen start going off the board.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Ryan Merkley

• Profile: Dominik Bokk

• Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtso