Is Corban Knight another Chris VandeVelde?

Is Corban Knight another Chris VandeVelde?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Corban Knight will make his Flyers debut Thursday in Columbus, replacing an ineffective Mikhail Vorobyev, who has struggled mightily over his last four games.

Knight will line up on the right side of the Flyers' fourth line with Jori Lehtera at center and Dale Weise at left wing.

It may be convenient to believe Knight is purely an extension of Chris VandeVelde since the two players have the connection of playing for Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota, but the Flyers' coach feels the comparison is a lazy one.

“Completely different player, so I don’t know where that comparison would come from other than the fact that the two of them played for me. That’s where you should probably end it,” Hakstol said from Nationwide Arena Thursday. “Naturally, Knight is a right-handed centerman. He’s a good two-way player. He’s versatile enough to play the right wing, and he’s a very good PKer.”

Knight playing on the right side as a right-handed shot as opposed to VandeVelde, who’s left-handed, is the obvious difference. Outside of that, Hakstol’s description of Knight could have been easily interchanged with what VandeVelde once brought to the team.

When Knight was asked if there were any similarities, he approached the question as more of a compliment to a player that had a strong, three-year run in the organization. 

“I think so,” Knight said. “Vande, when I played with him at [North Dakota], he was a senior so he played a lot of big minutes for us. I think he was always good at both ends of the rink. I think his pro game translated to that PK shutdown role and obviously that’s why I’m here. I definitely think there are some parallels in our game for sure.” 

But to more accurately differentiate Knight from VandeVelde is to separate their style of play from their respective roles on the team. At North Dakota, Knight proved he possessed a little more of a playmaking ability than VandeVelde as he topped the 40-point mark in three straight seasons, something VandeVelde was able to accomplish only as a senior. 

Knight also outplayed other notable fourth-liners like Lehtera and Weise during the preseason before an apparent shoulder (upper-body) injury knocked him out of action for the first two weeks of the regular season. 

Playing center, Knight displayed a playmaking ability that VandeVelde rarely, if ever, exhibited with the Flyers. Knight’s line with Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom lit up Madison Square Garden, scoring three first-period goals in a 6-4 preseason victory. The 28-year-old Knight reads plays and sees the ice differently than VandeVelde did. 

However, Knight, much like Laughton a few years back, wasn’t considered a solid all-around defensive player who could kill penalties until he spent a full season with the Phantoms. Hakstol has seen that evolution in Knight’s game after signing a two-year, two-way deal with the organization in the summer of 2017.

“During his time with us in Lehigh Valley, [Corban’s] become one of our top PKers within the organization and that’s what he built his training camp on that,” Hakstol said. “He’s earned the opportunity here.”  

Playing limited minutes on a fourth line, not much should be expected of Knight, but you also shouldn’t expect the second coming of Chris VandeVelde either. 

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Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has found a new job in the NHL. 

Hextall has been hired as a part-time advisor to hockey operations for the Los Angeles Kings, the team announced Wednesday.

Fired by the Flyers in November after a poor start to the 2018-19 season, Hextall, a former goalie who played 489 games with the Flyers, served as general manager for four-plus seasons.

At the time, then-president Paul Holmgren said, "it has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team."

The Flyers did not win a playoff series under Hextall, going 165-128-58 and losing twice in the first round.

The team relieved head coach Dave Hakstol of his duties in December. Chuck Fletcher took over Hextall's position, and he hired Alain Vigneault in April as head coach.

Hextall said in November he was "proud" of the groundwork he built as general manager, and that he believes the team is "poised to do something great." 

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Joel Farabee climbing, Samuel Morin's complex case, more in Flyers stock watch

Joel Farabee climbing, Samuel Morin's complex case, more in Flyers stock watch

The Flyers are two games into their seven-game exhibition slate.

The competition for jobs will only heat up with three games in the next five days.

"We've got some decisions to make," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said last weekend. "That's what you want in camp. You need surprises, we need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That's how your team gets better and we're going to give them an opportunity to do that."

Who's trending up? Who's trending down? Let's take a look at the stock of those players who could impact the staff's decisions:

Stock up

Joel Farabee

From rookie camp to now, the heralded prospect has done everything to fuel his roster case. He's exhibited skill, smarts and, most importantly, his effort. Farabee has put the whole package on display and the 19-year-old winger has been impossible to not notice.

In the preseason opener Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Farabee showed impressive burst to create some quality scoring chances during a game that featured a lot of rust from both sides.

"Farabee, I think everyone can see the skill set," Vigneault said afterward. "I didn't think he was as good tonight as what I've seen, but some of that had to do with the opposition. I like that kid. I like his skill level. I like that he can play in tight. I think we've got a good young player there."

Farabee's stock is rising, too, because it appears he'll get a game with the big guns Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, two players he excelled with during the opening days of camp.

German Rubtsov

Rubtsov's steady and cerebral game has impressed the coaching staff and front office. The 21-year-old center's defensive strengths were well-documented entering camp, but he's beginning to grow into his offensive upside.

The 2016 first-round pick scored two goals in the rookie game and was recognizable in both of the preseason games.

If he's not winning a bottom-six job now, he's showing he can be relied upon as one of the first call-up options throughout the season.

Stock down

Samuel Morin

Morin's camp is an interesting case study. It's tough to make out how he's done. He hasn't necessarily hurt himself, but he's a 2013 draft pick and the Flyers' current regime really likes mobile defensemen that skillfully push the puck up ice and jump into the play.

Morin is a 6-foot-6, stay-at-home kind of blueliner. My gut just tells me the Flyers are much higher on guys like Philippe Myers, Egor Zamula and maybe even Mark Friedman.

We'll have to see if the Flyers carry eight defensemen. Right now, Morin is probably their eighth and he would have to clear waivers to go to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Isaac Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe is an exciting prospect with a 6-foot-6 frame that can belie his superb skill.

His strengths were accentuated in junior hockey but they'll take some time to translate at the pro level. He's had difficulty standing out because there's much less time and space with the puck in the NHL.

The 20-year-old goal-scoring winger works hard and will learn how to better utilize his size to produce offensively at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in 2019-20.

"My main focus is trying to get rid of those junior habits," Ratcliffe said Monday. "Some of those pull and drag moves at the blue line while coming into the zone — a big part of the game, trying to push the pace coming up, you're playing against the best defenders in the world here. Even in some of the practices here, I can still feel it trying to creep back into my game. I'm trying to focus on using my size a little bit more and try to dominate using my reach and strength getting around defensemen rather than try to maneuver the puck around them."

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