Flyers

The case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer

The case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer

Come July 1, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have the option of checking two boxes off his agenda for next summer. With Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny entering the final year of their entry-level contracts, the CBA allows the Flyers to sign them to extensions once the new league year begins.

While Hextall noted at his end-of-season news conference that there is no hurry on extending Provorov and Konecny, signing them this summer has its benefits. Provorov and Konecny are two big building blocks to the foundation that Hextall is building with the Flyers. They both were drafted in the same year, both broke into the NHL together and both took enormous leaps in their second years in 2017-18. We’re going to break down whether the Flyers should exercise that option beginning with the Flyers’ No. 1 defenseman.

What he's done
From the second Provorov first stepped foot on Flyers territory, there was something special about him. He quickly established himself as the Flyers’ top defender as a 19-year-old rookie and took a sophomore jump to stardom in 2017-18. He finished tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals. He led the Flyers in ice time, averaging 24:09, and finished as a plus-17. While he had his bumps in his first taste of the playoffs, he also was his normal self. He averaged nearly 25 minutes in six games against the Penguins, including 27:30 in Game 2 and 30:07 in Game 5.

The Doughty situation
Because we’ve used the Drew Doughty comparison in the past and Wayne Simmonds previously used Doughty as a comparable, we’re going to use Doughty as a parameter for what a Provorov extension could look like and what the Flyers can learn from it.

Back in 2011, when Hextall was the assistant GM in Los Angeles, Doughty missed most of the Kings’ training camp because of a contract holdout before striking gold on Sept. 30, 2011, with an eight-year, $56 million extension. Contract disputes are always a messy situation. It’s too early to suggest we could get to that point with Provorov. He’s under contract for another season and it’s fair to say the Flyers know what the 21-year-old is worth. If anything, the Doughty holdout could be a reason why Hextall would want to extend Provorov now.

The Kings and Doughty settled at an AAV of $7 million seven years ago as Doughty enters the final year of his contract in 2018-19.

The 'Ghost' deal
Most of Hextall’s long-term contracts with the Flyers have been with forwards — Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn — but last summer, he inked Shayne Gostisbehere to a six-year, $27 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal on June 9, 2017. He avoided a potentially tricky situation with “Ghost” and ended up coming away with a favorable deal.

Gostisbehere developed nicely this season as his defensive game benefitted from “a little more snot.” He returned to elite-level production after a slightly bumpy second season and finished with 33 power-play points and 65 points overall. It’s safe to say the Flyers will be extremely pleased with Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million cap hit if he produces consistently at that level.

It’s hard to compare the Provorov situation to Gostisbehere’s because the Flyers waited until a few weeks before restricted free agency opened to sign “Ghost.” Provorov is a different animal. The Russian is a far more polished player all around and the Flyers ride him hard. His next deal will see a larger AAV, and rightfully so.

Why now?
The main reason why the Flyers should extend Provorov this summer is that by waiting, the price tag increases. Provorov has already established himself as one of the best young defensemen in the league and we can expect him to only grow even more in 2018-19.

Gone are the days where bridge deals with young stars are prominent. Teams are more likely to hand out long-term extensions to their young players, and it’s part of the reason why unrestricted free agency has lost some of its luster. It’s a safe bet Provorov's next contract will be long term. Doing it this summer rather than next opens up the possibility of turning his deal into a team-friendly one.

By kicking the can down the road to next summer, Provorov’s market value will only increase. There are two sides to this. Provorov may want to bet on himself, play this season and see where he stands next summer so he could earn more money, but there’s risk in that. Extending Provorov this summer benefits both the player and the team. Provorov would get his first major NHL contract and the Flyers would lock up their most important piece.

How Flyers prospect Cam York can help and torture goalies

How Flyers prospect Cam York can help and torture goalies

NHL talent evaluators couldn't miss Cam York's offensive exploits.

The catch-me-if-you-can defenseman lit up score sheets and caught all eyes during his draft year. When a teenage blueliner skates as smoothly and handles the puck as dynamically as York does, pro clubs watch in bunches and envision big things for the future.

Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said the team's entire scouting staff had seen York 10 to 15 times during the 2018-19 season. The Flyers then drafted York at No. 14 overall last summer after he set a U.S. national team development program single-season record with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games.

For John Wroblewski, the head coach of the loaded USNTDP under-18 squad that year, he didn't want NHL suitors hypnotized by just the offensive gifts.

He emphasized York's defensive strengths.

"One of the things I kept telling scouts that I was so impressed with Cam was how the game was always in front of him," Wroblewski said last month in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The puck hardly ever advanced behind him, you couldn’t beat him 1-on-1 — I could probably count on one hand how many times he got actually beat 1-on-1 over two years — and his strength around the net; he just understands.

"He has innate defensive ability, it’s natural. It seems effortless. Some guys you know they’re competing in their defensive zone and they have to, they scratch and claw — he just always has the right spots. His gap control, his stick detail, it’s all organic.

"I think he’s going to be rock-solid offensively in the NHL, but his prowess will be how reliable he is defensively. Working around him and watching his video on a daily basis, he never got beat." 

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

York is now with Michigan and his upcoming sophomore year could be his last at the collegiate level. Because of two impressive years in the USNTDP, he went to the draft and Ann Arbor with hype.

"I think if you asked him, he would want to turn pro tomorrow," Flahr said after the Flyers drafted York. "He's going to a good program at Michigan, we'll take it year by year. I don't see him as a four-year guy, let's put it that way."

In 2018-19, York was the go-to defenseman on a U.S. team that produced eight first-round draft picks last June — Jack Hughes (No. 1), Alex Turcotte (No. 5), Trevor Zegras (No. 9), Matthew Boldy (No. 12), Spencer Knight (No. 13), York (No. 14), Cole Caufield (No. 15) and John Beecher (No. 30).

York, a 5-foot-11, 174-pound lefty shot, was third on the U.S. in assists (behind only Hughes and Zegras), fifth in points and sported a team-best plus-56 rating.

"He just hit the ground running at the program, he was such a student of the game, he’s smart in practice, his instincts were outstanding," Wroblewski, who led the U-17 team this season, said. "He never really hit any type of a speed bump throughout his two years with the program. He seamlessly went from being our top defenseman to running the power play for the U-18 team in February and beyond, and then of course he set defensive scoring records at the program.

"Really kind of a seamless two years, but a kid that never really took it for granted, either. He always showed up, he had a workmanlike attitude in regard to practice. He was like a pro from a young age — he showed up, did his job, low maintenance, but a fiery competitor at the same time."

Just how skilled and electric is he with the puck on his stick?

"It’s interesting, for as much talent as we had on that team, I think Cam might have been our best shootout guy," Wroblewski said. "We didn’t utilize him because of the star power that you had with those top-five scorers — Boldy, Zegras, Cole, Jack and Alex Turcotte. We never utilized him because this just doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’ve got that firepower up front, but he was probably our best shootout guy."

As a defenseman on that team.

"The things that he would do to our goalies and Spencer Knight, he would make them look silly with the edgework," Wroblewski said. "He looked like a video game the way that he could come in, carve his edges and then just like sling it underneath the crossbar. It was really cool to watch. I’d never seen anybody be able to create on the shootout like he did."

(Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)

In his freshman season at Michigan, York dealt with a pair of injuries but still put up 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) and a plus-9 mark through 30 games. The 19-year-old led the Wolverines in secondary assists (eight) and was third in blocked shots (54).

A healthy and stronger York as a sophomore will bring him closer to the Flyers. He'll play a ton of minutes — which is what he's shooting for at the pro ranks, as well — and an even bigger role on what should be a formidable 2020-21 Michigan team.

York's strength and developmental curve at the Division I level, especially next season, will determine how quickly he signs his entry-level contract.

“Defensemen are always going to take a little bit longer," Wroblewski said. "Goalies take the longest, defensemen are the next, you look at the middle of the ice, centermen, that’s next and then wingers transition the quickest to the NHL obviously.

“I think any opportunity, as long as he’s being challenged at the college level, he should stay. But I also appreciate the challenge of the American Hockey League. I know a lot of guys don’t want to go there, ride the bus, but after having worked in that league, that buffer zone between there and the NHL is very important and can be pivotal for defensemen and young players.

"You look at [Casey] Mittelstadt in Buffalo as an example of how college wasn’t challenging enough for him, the NHL might have been too much — that American League is a really, really, really pivotal spot for a lot of young players. ... It can be a huge tool and not one that prospects should be scared of or feel slighted if they end up there.”

But Wroblewski doesn't see York far down the ladder.

"Just from his past, the way that he came into the program, U-17 and was able to fit right in, and then really thrive at the U-18 level as an underager and then set the scoring records that he did," Wroblewski said. "He looks at home in the college game and displays the same offensive characteristics. A kid that truly appreciates keeping the puck out of his net first and then letting the offense come to him — those are characteristics that should prove worthy of him making a quick climb to the NHL.”

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Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with most 'heart'

Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with most 'heart'

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with the most “heart.”

Destra

Looking back at the season, no one is more deserving of this award than Oskar Lindblom. 

When the news was given back in December that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, the whole NHL community was in shock. Through the news and the process since, the 23-year-old has continued to be a positive light for the organization and fans. 

Though his season on the ice was cut short, his impact remained just as important as the year progressed. The team went out and played for him every single night. Those moments when he was in Wells Fargo Center — whether the team knew, it was a surprise or even when he popped up on team picture day, he always made it better. 

Head coach Alain Vigneault says it best whenever Lindblom is mentioned, always commenting on his “beautiful smile.”

Emmer

The player to win the Gene Hart by the end of the season should be Sean Couturier.  

Couturier is so clutch for many reasons. We always talk about his strong 200-foot abilities and simply put— his marvelous abilities with the puck. On top of that all, he’s consistent.  

Couturier is always stepping up for this team and bringing heart to the game in times the team needs it most. Specifically, games following defeat. 

Couturier in games following a loss: 

26 games, 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points, plus-13

Couturier is a game-changer and I think there’s something to say about how he’s been such a consistent key component for the Flyers. 

I completely believe Couturier deserves to be awarded the Gene Hart for the third consecutive season because of that passion he brings to the Flyers, and the sport of hockey in general. 

Hatcher

The Gene Hart Memorial Trophy has to go to Lindblom.

Lindblom is a phenomenal teammate according to every single person who plays alongside him, a guy who is tremendous to work with in every interaction I’ve had with him (and every other reporter who covers the team will say the same), and a player who was seemingly taking a massive step in his career this season before it was so unfairly cut short.

Despite Lindblom being forced to take a step back from the ice to battle Ewing’s sarcoma, he has become a key piece in the force that drives this team. This team has made it clear that it fights for him while he’s forced to fight for his health. 

I’d pull up stats for how the team has played on days when Lindblom has been at morning skate, or quotes on all the wonderful things the Flyers have said about what Lindblom means to them, but honestly this video of him surprising the team (and specifically Jakub Voracek’s reaction) says more than I could adequately say. 

Hall

It would be really cool to see Robert Hagg win this award.

The 25-year-old Swede is a low-key guy who does the unglamorous things and never aims for recognition. Instead, he plays with a huge heart and always puts his teammates first.

Hagg has found his niche on this 2019-20 team, all while dealing with the shocking news of his good friend Lindblom being diagnosed with cancer. He has pushed forward for Lindblom and the Flyers.

Hagg is a player that doesn't make the headlines. He deserves this one.

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