Flyers

A farewell to the Hamilton Bulldogs, a transition to Lehigh Valley Phantoms and work on his skating all on Flyers prospect Matthew Strome's mind

A farewell to the Hamilton Bulldogs, a transition to Lehigh Valley Phantoms and work on his skating all on Flyers prospect Matthew Strome's mind

Matthew Strome has remained one of the most talked-about Flyers prospects since being drafted back in 2017. Being the third and final Strome brother to be drafted by an NHL team, all eyes have been on him with high anticipation for his professional debut.

His brothers Ryan (drafted fifth overall in 2011) and Dylan (drafted third overall in 2015) have been a huge help when it comes to questions, confidence — just about anything.

The youngest Strome was projected to go late in the first round during his draft year but wound up falling to the fourth and being selected 106th overall. This was his time to make a name for himself — and to show just what kind of damage he is capable of doing.

That's a wrap with the Bulldogs

In his fourth and final season in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Strome certainly went out on a great note. His career high of 79 points (28 goals, 51 assists) was second best for the team. Those 51 assists also put him in the top 20 in the OHL (the only other Flyers prospect to make the top 20 was Morgan Frost, who led the entire league with 72 assists).

While it’s always the goal to go all the way in the playoffs, Hamilton's run ended abruptly after being swept in the first round by the top-seeded Ottawa 67’s.   

Strome took on a leadership role with his young and developing team, which meant a great deal to him — being able to have an impact on his teammates.

“I was comfortable there,” Strome said while at Flyers development camp. “I knew I wanted to play there when I started in the league and I wanted to finish there.”

A taste of the Valley

Strome was eligible to join the Phantoms following his time in the OHL. He was with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate team for its final seven games of the season, though he only dressed for six of them.

Getting used to the city and the rink — it was a big thing for me,” Strome said. “I’m just going to use that when I get there. It’s not going to be new for me since I’ve already had an experience there and I think that’ll help me a lot.

Though he tallied only two assists during the short stint, he also had the lone shootout goal that led the team to its final win of the season.


Making strides

Strome had an overall solid showing at development camp.

What he lacks in skating, he makes up for in physicality. Through the three development camps he's attended and his time in the OHL, he has grown in all aspects of his game. 

Strome has the ability to be lethal in front of the net. The combination of a quick release and accuracy of his shot should be a strong addition for the Phantoms.

In addition to his shooting ability, his size (6-foot-4/205 pounds) helps him with the physical side of his game. His ability to distance himself to get a shot off is only going to improve as his skating does as well.


What's next?

Strome is focusing on strengthening the one kryptonite of his game — skating. He will be taking the ice two to three times a week with Canadian Olympic figure skating icon Barbara Underhill. Underhill has worked with both NHL teams and privately with some of the league's top players, including John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Brayden Point and Brian Boyle to help improve their skating.

Knowing that this is the main area of improvement he needs to focus on while also seeking help to do so indicates Strome's strong sense of maturity at 20 years old. He targets what he wants to fix in his game and it's important to commend that at any level of the sport.

“It's been a knock on me my whole career," he said, "and I’m just trying to change that.”

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Flyers roster cuts: Notable hopefuls remain in busy competition

Flyers roster cuts: Notable hopefuls remain in busy competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers made a hefty round of cuts a little earlier than anticipated.

They changed their preseason plan Friday morning as head coach Alain Vigneault and the front office decided this was the best course of action in preparation for the Oct. 4 season opener (see story).

The Flyers trimmed the roster by 18 players.

Tyler Wotherspoon, Nate Prosser, T.J. Brennan, Kyle Criscuolo and Reece Willcox will be placed on waivers Saturday. If they clear, they'll report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Felix Sandstrom, Cal O'Reilly, Greg Carey, Maksim Sushko, Kirill Ustimenko, Gerry Fitzgerald, David Drake, David Kase, Pascal Laberge, Isaac Ratcliffe, Matthew Strome, Rob Michel and Josh Couturier were assigned to Lehigh Valley.

None of the cuts are surprising. Sushko performed well in camp and is entering his first season with the Phantoms. Ratcliffe had an outside shot at winning a roster spot with the Flyers but it became clear throughout camp and the preseason that the 6-foot-6 winger needed development in the AHL. Felix Sandstrom is a promising goalie prospect. David Kase and Pascal Laberge will be forwards to watch, as well.

O'Reilly, 32, was a point-per-game player last season in the AHL and will be one of Lehigh Valley's best players, along with Greg Carey.

The competition for the Flyers' bottom six and defensive pairings heats up Saturday with the team's fourth preseason game out of seven. Nobody has knocked the door down (see story).

The Flyers' roster is at 36 players.

Forwards

Andy Andreoff
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Connor Bunnaman
Sean Couturier
Joel Farabee
Morgan Frost
Kurtis Gabriel (injured)
Claude Giroux
Kevin Hayes
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Oskar Lindblom
Nolan Patrick (injured)
Tyler Pitlick (injured)
Michael Raffl
German Rubtsov
Chris Stewart
Carsen Twarynski
James van Riemsdyk
Jakub Voracek
Mikhail Vorobyev

Defense

Chris Bigras
Justin Braun
Mark Friedman
Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg
Samuel Morin
Philippe Myers
Matt Niskanen
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim
Andy Welinski (injured)

Goalies

Jean-Francois Berube
Brian Elliott
Carter Hart
Alex Lyon

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Change in plan shows Alain Vigneault isn't messing around with Flyers

Change in plan shows Alain Vigneault isn't messing around with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Alain Vigneault knows how to massage a message. He coached in Montreal, Vancouver and New York; this is not his first rodeo.

When he spoke Friday about suddenly changing the Flyers' preseason plan to ramp up the preparation and concepts for the veteran players, he chose his words wisely.

But make no mistake: Vigneault can't be thrilled with the progress.

"It has nothing to do with the outcomes, it has everything to do with the process," the Flyers' head coach said. "For me, the process needs to accelerate at this time — and that's what I intend to do."

The Flyers were ready to play a mixed group of NHLers — about nine players that would likely make the team — and prospects to compete in Saturday's exhibition game against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center. Instead, following a lackluster 3-1 preseason loss to the Bruins' B-squad Thursday, Vigneault met with general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr Friday morning about adjusting the approach. With four exhibition games remaining, the Flyers will expedite cuts to focus on whittling down the roster and increasing the reps for the main players ahead of the season opener.

"Between the 25 and the 30 players that I feel right now have the best chance of maybe making this team," Vigneault said. "Instead of waiting until Monday, Tuesday's practice, we're going to be at that number [Saturday]."

Is it a startling change? If anything, it's proactive. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons and haven't won a series since 2012. They've notoriously started slow in recent history. Last season, the team was in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for the second straight year.

It cost people jobs and, ultimately, it's why Vigneault is in place.

After looking at the last couple of days, I feel that this is a different situation than I've been used to in the past. I've been used to coming to camp in the past and my teams have been in the playoffs. Usually I give the veteran players three of the six or seven games that we play. I feel at this time, our veteran players need more games that I originally planned. I'm going from the three that I planned to four and some might even get five out of the seven. 

I'm going on the amount of teaching that we're doing, there's a lot there, there's a lot to be assimilated by the players. I'm going by what I'm seeing about the players' performance, how they're executing, and I just feel at this time we need to make a change and that's what we're doing.

- Vigneault

In 16 NHL seasons as a head coach, Vigneault has 11 playoff berths. Eight of those teams advanced past the first round, three won the Presidents' Trophy and two went to the Stanley Cup Final. He has impressive results in Year 1 on the job (see story).

"When you're in the playoffs and you go for a round, two rounds, three rounds, four rounds, that's intense hockey, that's a longer season," Vigneault said. "This group has been off for a while and, in my mind, it just needs a little bit more preparation. There's nothing better than game situation, where games are on the line.

"With a new staff coming in and everything that we need to touch on, I need to get these guys into more games. So what we've decided to do is just accelerate the process."

Does Vigneault's track record allow him to make this change and have it stick with the players?

"They don't have a choice," Vigneault said. "That's just the way it is."

Oct. 4 is nearing and a new system from a new staff is expected to spearhead a jump back into contention for the Flyers.

"Once you get down to one group, the internal competition gets a little bit better also," Vigneault said. "That's what we need to do here, we need to get down to one group to have everybody in the same room, at the same time, and make sure that they're grasping the concepts that we're trying to apply. 

"I'm very confident that this will be better for the group."

How the Flyers start the season will provide the true answer.

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