Flyers

Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

This wasn't one of those times Dave Hakstol benches a young player for no particular reason and Flyers fans throw fits on social media.

In actuality, fans were somewhat receptive to Hakstol's decision to healthy scratch Mikhail Vorobyev Thursday night for Corban Knight … as long as it's for the short term.

Vorobyev knocked the Flyers' door down in training camp and won the competition as the third-line center. He was impressive in his NHL debut, scored his first goal in his second game but hasn't made much noise since. He's been ineffective in his past three games.

"I wouldn't say concerned. I think what he's going through right now is fairly normal but you've got to be better," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "He played six really good preseason games. He played two, what I thought, really good games and three out of four he hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with stuff like that because you know what he can do.”

Sitting Vorobyev down for a couple of games isn't such a bad idea, but it will get interesting what the Flyers do with Vorobyev once Nolan Patrick returns from his "upper-body" injury, which could be as early as Saturday afternoon against the Devils.

With Patrick's return looming, the Flyers' forward depth doesn't look like a mirage anymore. They're still without James van Riemsdyk.

When Patrick returns and with Knight healthy, the Flyers' depth down the middle will be strong again, at least in numbers, but it also means lineup changes are coming.

Currently, the Flyers are carrying 14 forwards with JVR on injured reserve but 13 healthy forwards. At some point in time, Michal Neuvirth will be healthy again. It's unlikely the Flyers carry three goalies, so Calvin Pickard likely will be on the move once Neuvirth returns. If Knight remains, then a forward will have to be on the move. The Flyers did waive Dale Weise before the season, so he could be an option.

While there remains a chance Vorobyev could be sent back to Lehigh Valley, it doesn't seem likely. Vorobyev made the team and a six-game sample size will not be enough for Hextall to send him back down to the AHL.

By all indications, Hextall will allow Vorobyev the opportunity to prove himself worthy of sticking around, but the GM did leave the door open, however slightly, for a scenario in which Vorobyev ends up back with the Phantoms.

Misha has to show us that he can do it. He's got to be better, and sometimes when guys sit out — first of all, he can let his breath out. It's a lot for a young player. He comes from Russia, playing 50-60 games and all of a sudden you go to the American League and you play 76 and a couple rounds in the playoffs, it's a lot of hockey.

Now, all of a sudden, you step up a level, everything's faster and stronger, more competitive. Points mean a lot, and it's a lot. He hit a little bit of a wall and he needs to get through it.

At the very least, Thursday's healthy scratch was a message well sent by Hakstol to Vorobyev. He may be out again Saturday; we won't know until warmups. It doesn't hurt to remind Vorobyev that his spot isn't guaranteed, that he has to work on the little details to get back to the player he was in the preseason and out West.

Whether we agreed with the benchings at the time or not, it's hard to argue against this coaching tactic. Hakstol has previously sat Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, and in the long game, it worked.

Ultimately, Vorobyev should be playing … somewhere. If he doesn't work hard enough to get back in the lineup up here, then the Flyers will have no choice to send him back to Lehigh Valley.

The Flyers have a lot of problems right now, mainly team defense and goaltending. A bottom-six rookie center sitting is nowhere near the top of the mountain.

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Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

You can never have enough competition.

There will be plenty of it when training camp rolls around in September as the Flyers have a third-line job opening on the wing.

General manager Chuck Fletcher added a candidate Wednesday by signing forward Chris Stewart to an NHL pro tryout for camp.

Stewart, 31, was a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Avalanche and has played 652 career NHL games between six teams. His best season came as a 22-year-old with the Avalanche in 2009-10, when he scored 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists) over 77 games. Last season, he played in the EIHL for the Nottingham Panthers, scoring 13 points (six goals, seven assists) through 23 games.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound winger has ties to the Flyers' GM. He played parts of three seasons for Fletcher's Wild from 2014 to 2018, putting up 25 goals, 20 assists and a plus-6 rating in 146 games.

The Flyers like their options for the third-line winger vacancy. The names include Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Andy Andreoff and Kurtis Gabriel.

Farabee and Frost have drawn a lot of attention as young first-round draft picks coming off big seasons with Boston University (see story) and the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (see story), respectively. Rubtsov is an underrated option given his size, advanced game and positional versatility. Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 winger who scored 50 goals last season with the OHL's Guelph Storm, while Vorobyev saw time with the Flyers in 2018-19.

"It's more than Farabee and Frost," Fletcher said July 1. "I think Rubtsov had a tremendous prospect camp here. Ratcliffe is a quality young player. Vorobyev is a young man that we feel is going to come back next year a little bit stronger.

"There are several players down there that can play games, never mind Andreoff, who's a player that I think will make a very strong push to make our team this season. Kurtis Gabriel is a player that's played games in the NHL the past few seasons. We have a lot of options. That's what training camp is for — it's an opportunity for players to come in and show that they belong. It should be an exciting camp."

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Flyers mascot Gritty works on his dad bod at Planet Fitness

Flyers mascot Gritty works on his dad bod at Planet Fitness

Did you think Gritty was going to be satisfied with winning the NHL Fan Choice Awards honor for best mascot?

Think again.

The guy is not resting on his laurels this summer. He's training hard for 2019-20. He was seen working up a sweat Tuesday at the Planet Fitness on Christopher Columbus Boulevard.


(Picture courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia's Todd Berman)

Rumor has it Gritty is working on his summer abs.

Or maybe not.

Regardless, the orange fella knows how to stay in shape. He's a preparation junkie, a true gym (and rink) rat. Complacency is not in Gritty's vocabulary.

He's also not breaking glass and scaring kids, so that's a positive.

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