Flyers

Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it

Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — All the Flyers needed was a change of opponent to change their goal-scoring luck. However, it didn’t change the outcome. 

The Jets connected on 3 of 4 shootout attempts to earn the extra point Thursday and defeat the Flyers, 3-2, at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.

Jakub Voracek snapped the goalless drought just 2:27 into the opening period and Sean Couturier added to the lead a few minutes later as the Flyers were up 2-0 after the opening period. 

Jets center Mark Scheifele tied the game with 49 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

Despite the loss, Brian Elliott was still superb in net as he turned aside 31 of 33 shots.

• Jacob Trouba deserved a high-sticking penalty with roughly two minutes remaining in overtime when he shoved the butt of his stick under Couturier’s chin. Nothing was called by the officials. 

• The Flyers were given another power play and a chance to extend their lead in the third after Dustin Byfuglien’s sloppy tripping penalty on Travis Konecny. Couturier appeared to have a wide-open net from the left circle with Connor Hellebuyck out of position, but he hesitated long enough as it appeared he couldn’t get off a clean shot through traffic.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill came up with an excellent kill early in the third period as the Jets’ PP wasn't able to generate even one shot on Elliott. The Jets never really threatened to score during the entire two minutes.

• There was good early pressure from the Flyers’ second line when Jordan Weal and Konecny harassed the Jets’ defensive tandem of Toby Enstrom and Byfuglien into a turnover as Enstrom threw a blind pass behind the net. Eventually, that line drew a penalty when Scheifele crosschecked Valtteri Filppula away from the puck.

• Excellent rebound control for Elliott throughout, especially on the Jets’ first power play attempt of the second period. You can’t fault him at all on the Jets’ goal once Brandon Manning was deked on the play off a beautiful move from Joel Arnia. Arnia then fed a cutting Mathieu Perreault, who slid a backhand under Elliott’s pads. The play started when the Jets won the faceoff cleanly and the Flyers couldn’t settle into their coverage.

• Where was the forward coverage on Scheifele’s wide-open backhand shot on Elliott late in the second period? With the defense tied up in coverage along the boards, it appeared as if Konecny was late to react to a wide-open Scheifele in the slot.   

• With the Flyers in the middle of a line change, Couturier forced Trouba into a turnover along the boards and then centered a pass to Konecny, who had a wide-open look from the high slot. Those are the opportunities the other lines need to create and the type of shots Konecny needs to convert. Konecny had another prime opportunity with about five minutes remaining. It appeared he had a wide-open look but then elected to pass.

• Byfuglien delivered an elbow and an open-ice hit that came very close to Weal’s head. No penalty was called, but it very easily could have been elbowing as Byfuglien extended his forearm against a smaller Weal.

• It looked like the second power-play unit had an open seam to Michael Raffl right in front of the crease as the Jets lost containment for a second. Raffl has played well on the fourth line, but hasn’t had too many scoring opportunities. He has just 12 shots on goal in his first 18 games.

• Late in the second period, players on both teams started taking runs at their opponent as they tried to line up the big open-ice hit. These game against Byfuglien and the Jets usually seem to trend in that direction.

• It took all of 2:27 into the first period for the Flyers to finally break the drought. The play started when the Jets’ shot attempt missed the net completely, which produced a clean breakout for the Flyers. Voracek brought the puck across the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Couturier, who unleashed a shot that created a big rebound. Credit Couturier for shooting low on Hellebuyck and Voracek skating into the middle where he was in perfect position for the rebound goal.

• Mired in a 4-for-35 slump, the power play gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead as it was able to find the open lanes in the Jets’ box. Voracek spotted Wayne Simmonds just to the left of Hellebuyck. Simmonds nearly scored along the post, but his shot created another rebound in the slot where Couturier was lurking. 

• With Scott Laughton off for hooking, the Jets’ always dangerous first-unit power play looked to unleash Patrick Laine’s wicked one-timer. Elliott was obviously trending to his right and was in position to make a couple of saves on Laine.

• Perreault completely baited Radko Gudas into the five-minute slashing major when Perreault was taking several whacks into Gudas’ back. After having his helmet dislodged and slipping to the ice, Gudas caught Perreault’s neck with his stick (see video). It had the appearance of a very dangerous play, but those are the types of plays that Gudas needs to show some restraint. The play looked a lot worse than it was. 

• Can’t figure out what the officials were thinking when they assessed matching minors and then went to look at video before making the determination that Gudas deserved a major/game misconduct. You make those calls on the ice, not after video review.      

• Big glove save from Elliott on Bryan Little. However, the play was set up by Nikolaj Ehlers, the Danish-born winger who’s one of the more underrated players in the NHL. Ehlers has loads of talent with tremendous puck-handling skills and terrific speed. Ehlers had another drag move that completely faked out Simmonds to free up his shot on the Jets’ power play.

• The best shift of the first period came from Laughton as he displayed tremendous pursuit and aggression to fight off three Winnipeg defenders and cycle the puck behind the net. After the Jets finally gained possession, Laughton never stopped skating and jumped on a turnover and was able to get a shot off from the high slot. Textbook shift! 

• Travis Sanheim seemed inspired to play in front of about 20 family and friends who made the drive to Winnipeg from Elkhorn, Manitoba, which is about a three-hour drive west. Sanheim made a good defensive play on Perreault and then made a nice pass to Couturier, who didn’t appear to be expecting the feed. He seems primed to score his first NHL goal.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

For the third time in the past five years, the Flyers will have two first-round draft picks thanks to Ron Hextall’s commitment to drafting and developing being implemented when he took over in 2014.

Hextall has spent the past five offseasons largely acquiring assets as he builds. As part of the Brayden Schenn trade last June, the Flyers received the St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick (14th overall) in addition to their own (19th). The 2018 NHL draft begins tonight at American Airlines Center in Dallas and concludes Saturday afternoon with Rounds 2-7.

With the buildup to one of the most important dates of the NHL calendar year for Flyers fans over, we’ll soon find out what the Hextall will do. As we’re hours away from the finish line, let’s round up the mock drafts to see what people believe the Flyers might do at Nos. 14 and 19.

14th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

Pronman’s take: “The Ron Hextall regime showed it’s willing to invest this high in Russians playing in Russia when they picked German Rubtsov. Kravtsov will play in the KHL next season and then likely come over. He had one of the best endings to a season I’ve ever seen from a prospect, and I’ve heard from several teams that consider him a top 10 talent.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Isaac’s take: “The Flyers need a sniper and while Farabee won’t jump to the NHL right away, he’s got a knack for the net. Considering he’s 6-feet tall he needs to put more muscle on, currently listed at 163 pounds, but otherwise he has excellent tools. His hockey IQ is something that the Flyers will find attractive and he competes at both ends of the ice.”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

O’Connor’s take: “Joel Farabee would be tempting at this spot, but Hextall’s tendency is to gravitate towards prospects who came on strong at the end of their draft years (Sanheim, Allison). Kravtsov exploded for 11 points in 16 games during the KHL playoffs, and the Flyers showed with their selection of German Rubtsov in 2016 that they’re willing to do their homework on high-end Russian prospects and invest high picks in them if they like the skill set.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers have drafted a number of talented forwards the past two years, including five in the first four rounds in 2017. But what separates Farabee (5-11, 164) is his speed, combined with a high hockey IQ and a quick-release shot that produced 33 goals in 62 games this season.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Rasmus Kupari, C, Kärpät

Marek’s take: “High-end skating and a dangerous shot. His offensive game is on point, but it’s the other side of the puck that he needs to work on.”

Craig Button, TSN: Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa

Button’s take: “Big, strong, smart, and can play the game with skill, smarts and power. Just keeps getting better.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “He's a two-way puck mover with outstanding vision who plays a hard game in all areas of the rink. Committed to Boston University in 2018-19, Farabee was second in scoring with the NTDP U-18 team with 76 points and had eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.”

19th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Pronman’s take: “After the combine, I heard some teams were scared off from drafting Kaut in the first round due to a heart condition, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported those issues have subsided following his procedure. I have no idea whether the Flyers are scared off or not, but he checks a lot of the hockey sense, two-way play and strong finish boxes they’ve valued in recent years.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Isaac’s take: “The Czech winger couldn’t take part in the physical aspects of the combine because the medical test revealed a heart condition that required surgery, but it isn’t expected to affect his hockey career. He has good hands in tight, plays along the boards rather well and takes the puck to the net. He’s already been tied to the Flyers. Of his 14 interviews at the combine, he told one Czech news organization, he had the best feelings from the Flyers and New York Rangers. ”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Isac Lundestrom, C, Luleå HF

O’Connor’s take: “The Flyers have always loved versatile, well-rounded forwards with high-end hockey IQ, and that’s Lundestrom in a nutshell. There are questions about his ultimate offensive upside, but it’s not easy to score 15 points in 42 games as a teenager in a league against men, especially when it’s the SHL, one of the best leagues in the world. I could see Lundestrom’s combination of a high floor and top-sixer ceiling being very attractive to Hextall.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers' crop of defensemen has graduated to the NHL (Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg) or is close to NHL-ready (Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers), so now would be a good time to start restocking. The Sweden-born Sandin had an easy transition to North America this season, and the Flyers saw a lot of him playing with top forward prospect Morgan Frost, the No. 27 pick of the 2017 draft.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Dominik Bokk, RW, Växjö

Marek’s take: “Germany continues to send high-end players to the NHL. Bokk plays a strong offensive game. Silky mitts, as the kids say.”

Craig Button, TSN: Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP

Button’s take: “All the elements to be a very good defenceman. Skates, handles puck, good shot and can be a physical force.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “Samuelsson (6-3, 217) plays a steady, physical game, reminiscent of his father, Kjell Samuelsson, who played 813 NHL games and works in player development for the Flyers. Mattias had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), 113 penalty minutes and 93 shots on goal in 58 games this season.”

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

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

zackhill_ron_hextall.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

After another year of financial growth, NHL teams will have more spending money this summer.

The NHL on Thursday said that the 2018-19 salary cap will increase to $79.5 million. It's the seventh straight season the cap has grown since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

With the $4.5 million jump, it’s the largest climb since 2013-14 to 2014-15, when it rose $4.7 million from $64.3 million to $69 million. Last season, the cap was $75 million.

So what does the cap increase mean for the Flyers and where do they stand now?

Projected cap space

Before the increase, the Flyers had about $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. With the boost, that figure jumps up to $21.7 million.

The Flyers currently have roughly $57.8 million in projected cap hits, which includes 17 players.

Heading into the summer, the Flyers have 16 free agents — nine restricted — after re-signing Colin McDonald to an AHL contract. Their RFAs are Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Taylor Leier, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, Reece Willcox, Danick Martel and Petr Mrazek.

The UFAs are Matt Read, Brandon Manning, Valtteri Filppula, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Tokarski, John Muse and Will O’Neill. The Flyers haven’t shut the door on Filppula returning but it would come at a significant pay decrease. The rest likely aren’t returning.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s compliance buyout remains on the books through 2026-27 but doesn’t count toward the cap. R.J. Umberger’s buyout finally comes off the books this summer.

Since taking over as general manager in 2014-15, Ron Hextall has prioritized operating responsibility. It was a complete shift in philosophy from the previous front office.

The Flyers began the 2017-18 season with $2.4 million in cap space and finished with $1.3 million. They didn’t use long-term injured reserve, meaning they had no LTIR relief.

Hextall has dug the Flyers out of salary cap purgatory and 2017-18 was the first in a while the team did not have to worry about being cap compliant at any point of the season.

It’s safe to say that whatever unfolds over the next few months, Hextall will want to carry at least a $2 million cushion into the Flyers’ opener vs. the Golden Knights in Vegas on Oct. 4.

How it affects free agency

This is an important note to remember as we progress through the offseason: just because the salary cap officially increased, it doesn’t mean it’s going to change Hextall’s philosophy.

It’s an odd time for the Flyers as they look to take the next step without abandoning the plan Hextall laid out five summers ago. They are going to change, but just how much?

After his pre-draft news conference last week, Hextall said that he’s had no conversation with Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s returning to the NHL after five seasons in the KHL. Not a shocker.

What did give us insight into Hextall’s plan approaching free agency was him closing the door on the Flyers making long-term commitments. He left the door open for the Flyers to dip into the market but ultimately shut down the possibility of them chasing a John Tavares type.

“We’d like to get better,” Hextall told reporters, “but we’re not going to do something stupid long term to try to get better [for] one or two years. We have money to spend short term. We can do something short term in the sense that it doesn’t bottle us up in three or four years.”

Reading between the lines, Hextall knows what’s coming down the road. Entry-level contracts expiring and kids coming up through the ranks. That means contract extensions and raises.

It’s not just a salary cap problem anymore; it’s more about roster spots. Hextall doesn’t want to block prospects by bringing in Band-Aids that will only create issues down the line.

The cap does come into play, of course. But it’s not the only factor. At least not anymore.

How they could spend

Hextall said last week he desires righty defensemen and would like to add another veteran. With Filppula’s contract expiring, the Flyers have a hole to fill on the third line. Some may argue, with valid evidence, the Flyers could benefit from bringing in another top-sixer.

The problem is, this summer’s free-agent market doesn’t have many big fish. Outside of Tavares, the forwards don’t scream “come to get me.” There are a few veteran options that could make sense — Paul Stastny or Riley Nash, for example. If we look at right-handed D-men, John Carlson and Mike Green head the list of UFAs but cross Carlson off the wish list.

With $21.7 million in cap space, the Flyers have enough wiggle room to check off their internal checklist and bring in one or two pieces via free agency.

But don’t let the cap increase fool you, it won’t change how Hextall attacks this summer.

More on the Flyers