Flyers

Flyers turning their backs on Broad Street Bully mentality

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USA Today Images

Flyers turning their backs on Broad Street Bully mentality

VOORHEES, N.J. — If you're a believer in conspiracy theory, then you can finally feel somewhat reassured that the NHL and its crew of officials are no longer out to get the Flyers

At least not this season.

Since the start of December, the guys in orange and black have been on the nice list of those wearing black and white. The Flyers have gone eight straight games without allowing their opponent more than two power-play opportunities.

That accomplishment alone is unprecedented. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, at no point over the previous 30 years (how far their research goes back) have the Flyers had a stretch of hockey where they've exercised such cautious discipline. By comparison, over the past three seasons, the Flyers had only a five-game stretch in which they allowed their opponent two or fewer power play chances. 

"I think we're hitting better," said Jake Voracek, who leads the Flyers with 13 minor penalties taken. "When you hesitate to go into the spots you're supposed to be in and you get there too late, you reach in and you're hooking. When you're confident and you're playing with urgency, you have that extra step. I think that's the biggest thing."

Over the team's current eight-game stretch, the Flyers' power play opportunities have also outnumbered their opponents by a whopping plus-21 margin (34-13) while outscoring teams by six more goals with the man advantage.   

By contrast, the Flyers were a minus-15 in the special teams department, allowing 41 power play opportunities to their 26 from early November through the 10-game winless streak. The basis behind the turnaround in their results can be primarily attributed to this area.

"I think we got lazy," Dale Weise said. "We got down in games and that's when you get frustrated and you start to take slashing penalties or penalties 200 feet away from your net. We had some timely penalties that killed us late in games during that stretch."

Perhaps there's a belief that the scales of justice will eventually tip in the direction of the Flyers' opponents, but the Flyers have made significant improvements 5-on-5, where they have allowed just 50 goals this season — tied for first in the NHL. Head coach Dave Hakstol feels if the Flyers continue their style of play, officials won't have that opportunity.

"We went through a stretch where we had some issues, where we were in the box too much," Hakstol said. "A lot of those, I felt, were stick penalties, were penalties created from chasing a play, chasing a game.

"I feel like we've had the puck a little bit more over this last stretch. When you have to defend less and you have the puck more, the penalty differential is going to go your way. So it's not just about discipline, it's about how much you have the puck versus how much you're trying to get it back and you're defending." 

Under Hakstol, the Flyers have gradually improved their standing in the Department of Discipline — from 23rd in minor penalties taken during his first season in 2015-16, to 16th a year ago, to now tied for 10th through their first 33 games of the season.

In hockey, it's much better to think — and play — outside the box.  

Neuvirth to return
Michal Neuvirth is expected to back up fellow goaltender Brian Elliott when the Flyers host the Red Wings Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Neuvirth practiced for the first time with teammates Tuesday but was on the ice for the fourth straight day as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury that he sustained in Calgary a few weeks ago.

"Conditioning's good, I've been moving well," Neuvirth said. "It's about the timing and tracking the puck. The eyes have to get quicker a little bit."

With the Flyers on the back end of a stretch of seven games in a 12-day span, it's likely Neuvirth will earn one of two starts on the team's upcoming back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus.

End to End: Will the Flyers make both of their 1st-round picks?

End to End: Will the Flyers make both of their 1st-round picks?

The topic: Will the Flyers make both of their first-round picks?

John Boruk
This may be the most intriguing draft for the Flyers since 2003, when they selected Jeff Carter (11th overall) and Mike Richards (24th overall) in the first round. I’ve packed my binoculars to keep a close eye on the Flyers' table as general manager Ron Hextall should be busy answering phone calls and discussing potential deals. The other 30 teams will be inquiring about one of their two first-round picks and I think Hextall will put some feelers out as well.  

I also tend to ignore mock drafts as nothing more than pure speculation and the one thing you can disregard as it pertains to the Flyers is the prototypical Flyers pick. That simply doesn’t exist with Hextall calling the shots. In the Bob Clarke era of doing business, you may have easily predicted the big, rugged forward or the hard-hitting defenseman, but those days have passed.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the Flyers move up a few spots with their first pick (14th overall) if it helps them land one of the more coveted right-handed defensemen. However, I’m not convinced the Flyers should move into the top five as the price to do so would be steep and there’s simply not a wide enough separation within the top 20 prospects outside of Rasmus Dahlin, the projected No. 1 overall pick.

Recently, the Flyers' scouting department has been rock solid in its first-round assessments. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are already major contributors. Travis Sanheim is trending in the right direction and the decision to move up and select Morgan Frost last year makes the organization look like visionaries.

My prediction is the Flyers will go forward and defense (in no particular order) with their first-round selections and continue to fortify an already rock-solid farm system.

Tom Dougherty
Hextall dug deep into his bag of general manager speak last week during his pre-draft news conference in Voorhees, New Jersey, when asked if he was leaning toward keeping both of his first-round picks and pulled out a doozy. Get this, the Flyers “would move up if the right deal were there, and we would look at moving back if the right move was there.” 

Hextall then went on to say he anticipates making both of the Flyers’ first-round picks at the NHL draft Friday night in Dallas, where he owns the 14th and 19th overall selections.

“It’s really hard to project or predict,” Hextall said. “I don’t even know in my own mind what might come our way, but I know something will at some point.”

Translation: Even Hextall has no idea what the Flyers will do Friday. Not because he and his staff are unprepared but because the draft is a wicked animal that often goes against projection.

With the Canucks (No. 7) and Blackhawks (No. 8) reportedly dangling their first-round picks on the trade market, the allure to move into the top 10 may intrigue Hextall. He mentioned a desire to add more right-handed defensemen and that the Flyers need to “restock” their defensive prospect pipeline. Would a trade up for Evan Bouchard or Noah Dobson make sense?

Unlike last June, I don’t see the Flyers making any draft-night blockbusters. No Brayden Schenn-level trades. Sure, they have the ammo to move up or to bring in a big name, but I just don’t see Hextall changing his M.O. when his car isn’t ready to leave the shop.

Draft picks are like lottery tickets. Give me as many as you can and if I have two first-rounders — two in the teens too — I’m not giving them up unless I am absolutely certain I’m hitting.

Jordan Hall
Yes.

I'd be surprised if Hextall traded one of his two first-round slots. Draft picks are like gold to the GM.

Just look at what he had to say last week about the final round, where percentages aren't great of landing future NHLers: "We've got two seventh-round picks this year, they're friggin' important. We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try to hit on a guy."

Many see this draft as Dahlin and everybody else. After the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick, it's pretty wide open, so the Flyers are likely comfortable at picks Nos. 14 and 19.

This doesn't mean the Flyers won't make a trade all draft. That can very well happen, as we've seen in the past with Hextall. But with his two first-round picks in nice spots, signs point to the club staying put.

More on the Flyers

2018 NHL draft: Prospects the Flyers could select with the 19th overall pick

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Rena Laverty | USA Hockey/Terry Wilson | OHL Images

2018 NHL draft: Prospects the Flyers could select with the 19th overall pick

Happy NHL draft eve. As we’re now one day away from Ron Hextall’s fifth draft as Flyers general manager, we know what to expect this weekend at the 2018 NHL draft at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine total selections and two first-rounders.

During his pre-draft news conference last week, Hextall said he anticipates making both of his first-round picks (Nos. 14 and 19) but left the door open for a trade. In prior drafts, Hextall operated by a best player available mentality. While he said he’ll stick to the Flyers’ list, he let it slip they would like to restock their defense and desire more right-handed D-men.

On Wednesday, we provided options for the Flyers with the 14th overall pick, acquired from the St. Louis Blues. Today, we’re looking at prospects the Flyers may target with the 19th pick.

Rasmus Sandin, D, 5-11/185, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

A slick-skating defenseman, Sandin enjoyed a strong first season in North America. Coming over from Sweden, Sandin posted 45 points in 51 regular-season games with Sault Ste. Marie.

Sandin joins Barrett Hayton as two first-round prospects whom the Flyers likely know a lot about, as both are teammates of Morgan Frost with the Greyhounds. His strengths are with the puck as he makes his decisions calmly and he’s also very aware in his own end.

Considering the Flyers’ familiarity with him and their desire to restock their defensive pipeline, Sandin figures to be a name on their radar. He’s a riser, too, which is something Hextall likes.

Mattias Samuelsson, D, 6-4/218, USA U-18 (NTDP)

The Flyers certainly know a lot about Samuelsson — more than any other team. His father, Kjell Samuelsson, is the team’s director of player development and played eight seasons in Philly.

“Mattias is a good player. He’s big, he’s smart, he’s well-rounded,” Hextall said. “You can call him a two-way defenseman. Lots of upside. He’s going to be a good player. Where he’s going to go, I certainly wouldn’t share where we have him but I don’t expect him to be waiting too long.”

Hextall stressed that the Flyers will not draft Samuelsson based on family ties to the organization. But they do have more background on Samuelsson and that can be good and bad.

Isac Lundestrom, C, 6-0/183, Luleå HF (SHL)

If the Flyers want a shot at Lundestrom, they may have to trade up from 19 to select him or consider him with the 14th pick. Depending on where you look, he’s projected to go either early teens or late teens. There is a chance the Flyers will have two chances to select Lundestrom.

Lundestrom, a late 1999 birthday, has been part of Team Sweden for all of the major international tournaments and joined Rasmus Dahlin as the only draft-eligible players to crack Sweden’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship team. He had 15 points in 42 games this season playing for Luleå, his second year in the SHL. One of the top center prospects in the class.

Akil Thomas, C, 5-11/176, Niagara (OHL)

Thomas took a big jump in his second season in the OHL after being one of Niagara's top players as a rookie in 2016-17. In 68 games, the Brandon, Florida-born centerman registered 22 goals and 81 points — 1.19 points per game. His 81 points led all OHL draft-eligible players.

He’s a well-rounded player who took a bigger jump as a playmaker than a goal scorer, which caught some by surprise. He’s known for a strong work ethic and a high compete level. He’s projected to be drafted around this range so he should be there for the Flyers at No. 19.

Martin Kaut, RW, 6-1/175, HC Dynamo Pardubice (Liiga)

Kaut should be on the board when the Flyers come up for a second time Friday and because of his jump in the second half of his draft season, falls in line with what Hextall likes: high risers.

The right winger finished 2017-18 strong and had a solid postseason for HC Dynamo Pardubice as an 18-year-old in the highest level of hockey in the Czech Republic. Kaut scored nine goals and 16 points in 38 regular-season games and three goals and five points in seven playoff games. His numbers on the international stage, against players in his age group, are better.

Other names to watch

K’Andre Miller, D, 6-4/205, USA U-18 (NTDP)
A big 18-year-old D-man who models his game after Seth Jones and Roman Josi. Headed to the University of Wisconsin in the fall. Very good skater, left-handed shot and has a lot of upside.

Ryan McLeod, C, 6-2/205, Mississauga (OHL)
McLeod’s older brother, Michael McLeod, was the 12th overall pick by the Devils in 2016. Had 70 points in 68 games in 2017-18. Some question his upside but should be there at No. 19.

Nils Lundkvist, D, 5-11/172, Luleå HF (SHL)
A mobile, puck-moving, right-handed D-man who’s been rising. He’s been compared to Anton Stralman. We know Hextall likes risers, the question is has Lundkvist moved into the top 20?

Ryan Merkley, D, 5-11/170, Guelph (OHL)
One of the most polarizing prospects in this draft class, questions about Merkley’s character likely will keep the Flyers away regardless of how talented the righty D-man is.

Dominik Bokk, RW, 6-1/176, Växjö (SHL)
A highly skilled winger who can play both sides, Bokk loves to create space. The German-born Bokk is a pure scorer and with the Flyers looking for that, he’ll be an intriguing option at 19.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick

• Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers

• Flyers anticipate making both first-round draft picks

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