Flyers

Flyers prospect Philippe Myers heating up

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Zack Hill/Flyers

Flyers prospect Philippe Myers heating up

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — It’s been 13 months since Philippe Myers felt this good about his game. 

It’s been that long since he took a nasty hit from Luke Kunin behind the net in Canada’s quarterfinal matchup against the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championships. It was also at that tournament where TSN analyst Bob McKenzie tweeted Myers looked “NHL ready, or close to it.” Not long afterward, former NHL executive and current analyst Craig Button listed Myers as a top 10 prospect currently not playing in the NHL.

Incredibly high praise for the 6-foot-5 defenseman who wasn’t drafted as an 18-year-old while playing with Rouyn-Noranda in the QJMHL and eventually signed as a free agent with the Flyers in September 2015.

His first professional season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, though. Like Samuel Morin, Myers has been dealing with a nagging groin injury that has forced him to miss 17 AHL games so far.    

“The first half of the season wasn’t the half that I wanted,” Myers said. “I was hurt for the first couple of games. I missed about half of them. Lately, my groin’s been strengthening up and I feel a lot stronger and more stable on the ice.

“I feel like I can move a lot better, and that’s huge. Skating is a big part of hockey. I’ve just been feeling myself, getting to the stuff that I was doing last year and regaining those good habits. I felt like myself on the ice a couple weeks ago for the first time this year. I felt comfortable moving. I wasn’t feeling any pain at all.”

Myers' feeling of immobility prevented him from being a complete all-around player, so his attention was squarely focused on positional play in the defensive zone and winning one-on-one battles that are essential to developing into an NHL-caliber defenseman. 

In 28 games with the Phantoms this season, Myers has contributed three goals and nine assists. This after a three-year junior career that saw him score 29 goals and record 63 assists for 92 points.

“I’ve been trying to chip in offensively when I can, but obviously we have a defensive-first mindset here,” Myers said. “Good offense starts with good defense. You got to take care of your own end before you can join in on the rush.

“You just got to seize the opportunity, and when the opportunity is there you just gotta go. And if it’s not there, you don’t go. Not trying to force things — that’s something I’ve had to work on throughout the year and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it, and now I just got to keep at it and keep the little details going.”

Organizationally, the Flyers' philosophy with their defensemen is comparable to rings around a tree. The outside arc is solidifying the basics, and as their respective games adapt to the speed of the AHL, that circle shrinks and they can start working on the finer details. Impressively, despite his injuries, Myers is considered to be on the same track as Travis Sanheim was a year ago when his game started to take off with the Phantoms.   

“There’s a process where you take care of the big things first and with all of our D, it’s about the ice surface first,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said. “It's about not complicating your life on the breakout and making that first early pass when it's there. Now it's about the positional play, it’s about the defending part of it, the abrasiveness at the net front. Good stick, the positioning of the stick. The little details come over time. You can’t have everything all at once. It’s just information overload.

“When you consider the last three to four weeks, Philippe has played some of his best hockey. But he’s done it in half the time because he’s missed half the amount of games and half the amount of practices. You wonder where he’d be right now if he didn’t have the nagging injuries.”

With Morin out for an extended amount of time, Myers now comprises the Phantoms' top pairing along with Sanheim, who was assigned to the Phantoms this week after playing 35 games and scoring one goal, with the Flyers. When you evaluate Morin, Myers and Sanheim, they’re three players with unique skill sets, but Myers appears to be more of a hybrid of the other two. Sanheim has the offensive flair while Morin's specialty is physicality.

“[Myers'] ability is to get up and down the ice and make plays, and use his shot and defend. He’s a sneaky, hard player.” Gordon said. “He’s got a little bit of Sam in him at times when players have to pay a price when they go near him. It’s maybe not as dramatic as Sam, but he does play with an edge and he has that offensive upside.”

In between playing three games over four days paired with Sanheim together and logging 22 to 25 minutes, Myers also enjoyed his 21st birthday this past week. Nothing too celebratory despite the significance. He simply looks back at this past year and realizes how much he’s endured and matured.

“I just think I grew as a person, and as a player, I feel like my confidence is coming back,” Myers said. “I’m happy with the way things are going now, and I’m going to keep building on that.”

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here