Flyers

Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

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Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

TAMPA, Fla. -- Steven Stamkos had two goals and two assists, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves to beat his mentor Ben Bishop, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 6-1 Thursday night.

Vasilevskiy was Bishop's backup in Tampa Bay for parts of three seasons until Bishop was dealt to Los Angeles last February. Bishop holds the Lightning career wins record with 131, while Vasilevskiy has gone 26-5-3 since taking over the starting role. This was Bishop's first game against Tampa Bay since the trade.

Stamkos has 10 goals and an NHL-best 35 points after missing most of last season with a lateral meniscus tear.

Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point, Jake Dotchin and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, who have the NHL's best record at 15-2-2.

Dallas, which went 0-2-1 on a three-city, four-day trip, got a goal from Radek Faksa. Bishop stopped 22 shots (see full recap).
    
Wild use 4 late goals to rally past Predators
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Zucker scored with 2:55 left and the Minnesota Wild scored four goals in less than six minutes in the third period to beat the Nashville Predators 6-4 on Thursday night.

Jared Spurgeon scored twice and Eric Staal had a goal and two assists for Minnesota, which won its fourth straight.

On the winner, Mikko Koivu fought off a defenseman into the left corner and centered to Zucker in front. With two defenders nearby, Zucker sent a backhand shot past Pekka Rinne for his eighth goal in five games.

Spurgeon added an empty-net goal. Matt Dumba and Nino Niederreiter also scored.

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk with a franchise-record shutout streak of 195 minutes, 5 seconds. That ended 49 seconds in when Ryan Johansen converted a pass from Filip Forsberg, the first goal allowed by Dubnyk on 108 shots. He finished with 26 saves.

Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville, which lost for the first time in six games (see full recap).

Coyotes battle back for 1st regulation win
MONTREAL -- Derek Stepan and Christian Fischer scored power-play goals in the third period and the Arizona Coyotes rallied to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Thursday night for their first regulation victory of the season.

Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak and Tobias Rieder also scored for the Coyotes, and Antti Raanta made 33 saves. Arizona snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 3-15-3.

Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Joe Morrow and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 27 shots.

With the Coyotes down 4-3 in the third period, Stepan got Arizona level for the third time in the game with a wrist shot from the crease at 4:54 following a failed clearance by Jordie Benn. Gallagher was in the box for tripping.

Arizona scored again on the power play at 10:10, this time with Weber penalized for slashing, when Brendan Perlini's shot ricocheted off Fischer's stick and in.

Rieder made it 3-3 with 51 seconds left in the second, but Weber answered back 40 seconds later.

The Coyotes scored five goals for the first time this season. They had a combined five goals in their previous four games (see full recap).

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

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Jordan Hall | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall is determined to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Flyers' general manager has had very good success with his first-round picks throughout his four-year tenure, uncovering that diamond in the rough can be a crapshoot. A hockey organization can languish for many years if they come up with a first-round bust, but it’s the mid-to-late round picks that can elevate a franchise into championship stratosphere. 

Take 2014 in Philadelphia — Hextall’s first draft as Flyers GM. So far, the majority of prospects still haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but the few teams that were able to hit a home run (Tampa Bay, Brayden Point, 79th overall; Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall; Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, 205th overall) have benefitted greatly for their early-career success.

“We always look for one really good NHL quality,” Hextall said. “When you’re talking about third or fourth round, first of all, don’t minimize it. I’m saying like us, for our staff. We need to still try and pick a hockey player, it’s important. Pulling guys out of late rounds is important. When you look at the cycle of a hockey team and depth and everything that we need, it’s important.”

While the attention has centered around the Flyers' two first-round selections, Hextall considers the team’s two fifth-round selections and two more in the seventh round to be equally vital to the Flyers' success.

“We have two seventh-round picks, they’re friggin important,” Hextall said. “We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try and hit on a guy. Whether we will or not, I don’t know what the odds say, I think it’s 2.3 percent, whatever it is. They’re low odds, we know that, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to try and hit on those guys because eventually, you’re going to hit on some of those guys.”

To further Hextall’s point, 29 of the 30 first-round picks in 2014 have NHL experience. Of the next 180 players to go off the board in Rounds 2-7, you’ll find roughly that same number who have played more than just one NHL game. Oskar Lindblom (138th overall) could eventually pan out to be the late-round gem Hextall has tried to uncover.

After sorting out his first four drafts, where might Hextall search to find that next promising prospect?

The Flyers GM has selected at least one player from the USHL in each of his first four drafts with Phantoms defenseman Mark Friedman as the highest drafted USHL prospect, 86th overall in 2014.

Who might Hextall draft

Jack Drury, C, Waterloo, USHL
A slightly undersized center listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Drury is the nephew of former NHLer Chris Drury and has acquired some of the same attributes. Drury has been complemented with a tremendous work ethic and plays the game much like his uncle with a grit and determination of contributing in the clutch. Set a new USHL record with a 23-game point streak and has committed to play at Harvard University next season.    

Under Hextall, the Flyers have also tapped into Sweden’s top junior league over the past four seasons drafting Lindblom, goaltender Felix Sandstrom and defenseman Linus Hogberg to name a few, and 2018 appears to be a good depth draft for the young Swedes especially among defense.

Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea, Sweden Jrs.
While I really admire the size and reliability of Filip Johansson, there may be some value with Lundkvist who’s not quite as highly rated as Johnasson. Lundkvist is more of a defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Both defensemen are right handed and if the Flyers can’t land a righty blueliner in the first round, they may have to wait until Round 2 or trade back into the third round after surrendering that pick to Detroit as part of the Petr Mrazek trade.

There’s a general overall belief Hextall prefers to select a center capable of converting into a winger, and while he’s admitted that many centers have that versatility, it hasn’t defined Hextall who has drafted just as many pure wingers as centers, including five in last year’s entry draft.

Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finnish Jrs.
Nordgren is small (5-9), tremendously skilled and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was one of the most impressionable players at the U-18 world juniors with a tournament-leading eight goals for Team Finland. Preferably you would like a player of Nordgren’s size to be a lightning-quick skater, but it has improved.

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It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

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It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

In typical NHL fashion, the 2018-19 schedule release is a two-day event.

That means we won't know the entire schedule until around 5 p.m. Thursday, but we know enough today to put together some of the pieces.

It looks like the Flyers will open up their season out West for the third straight season.

The Flyers will play the Golden Knights in Vegas' home opener Oct. 4 at T-Mobile Arena. Their own home opener is Oct. 9 against the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.

After looking at other teams’ home openers, it appears the season starts Oct. 3 with Capitals hosting the Bruins, the Maple Leafs entertaining the Canadiens and the Canucks facing the Flames at home. Last season began Oct. 4, 2017.

While the Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Flyers won their first game in Vegas with a 4-1 win Feb. 11.

The 2018-19 season will be the fourth straight year the Flyers begin on the road. Last season, they opened up with a 5-3 win over the Sharks in San Jose.

The last time they opened at home was 2013-14, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve won their last two season openers. They’re 5-4-1 in their last 10 season openers.

They won their home opener last year, crushing the Capitals, 8-2.

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