Flyers

Flyers prospect Wyatt Kalynuk has developed into 'elite offensive defenseman' at Wisconsin

Flyers prospect Wyatt Kalynuk has developed into 'elite offensive defenseman' at Wisconsin

Kjell Samuelsson had just finished watching a bunch of slick-skating defensemen compete in a 5-on-5 scrimmage at Flyers development camp.

The towering Swede, a 6-foot-6 blueliner during his playing days from 1985 to 1999, was fully aware of the game's trends.

"Mobile defensemen," the Flyers' player development coach said last summer, "that's today's hockey."

And it's right up Wyatt Kalynuk's alley, a reason why there's excitement brewing about the prospect's ceiling at the pro level.

“I think that’s the right way to think because he’s got special offensive ability that other defensemen don’t have," Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said March 13 in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He’s confident, his skating ability allows him to be able to have opportunities offensively that other players won’t have and he can beat the first forechecker."

Over 36 games this season as a junior captain for the Badgers, Kalynuk led the team in assists (21) and unassisted goals (three), was second in points (28) and shots (112), and fifth in blocked shots (46). At development camp last summer, the 6-foot-1, 189-pound Kalynuk said skating was his biggest strength. He is advanced in that area and possesses the puck-moving skills the Flyers covet for their hard-on-the-attack, pin-you-in-deep system.

"Great skating ability and he's a young player that looks like he's got a real good pro career," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Jan. 14.

On a young but talented Wisconsin team, Kalynuk was given hefty responsibilities by Granato.

“He was our go-to offensive defenseman, he got the most minutes on the power play, he was the guy we wanted the puck to go through," Granato said. "He’s an elite offensive defenseman that has the ability to run a power play. We asked a lot of him.

"The good thing about him is he knows his responsibilities defensively to take care of that end. So you don’t like saying offensive defenseman because a lot of times you say that and you think players that don’t take pride in the defensive part of the game. That’s certainly not the case with him.

"Defensively, his game was very solid, very responsible. He’s not an overpowering defenseman that’s going to run people over, but positionally, he’s going to be in great position, he’s smart, he makes a great first pass and I think he’s got great potential for a real high-exciting NHL career.”

Kalynuk, who was selected during the seventh round of the 2017 draft as a USHL product, is now considered a top-20 prospect within the Flyers' system.

"I think the dropping so far in the draft had a lot to do with physically he just hadn’t grown into his body yet, so he looked weaker against players his age in his first year," Granato said. "The commitment and work he puts into it is of a professional status, he trains like a professional and puts the work in. It was just a matter of time before he caught up physically with the skill that he has.”

Kalynuk turns 23 years old in April. He has a decision to make of whether he wants to return to Madison for his senior season or sign his entry-level contract with the Flyers and turn pro in 2020-21 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. As of right now, Kalynuk is still in school and undecided, according to Granato. For the Flyers, Kalynuk's rights don't expire until the summer of 2021. They'll be open to either choice.

“Kjell Samuelsson has been around a lot, Chuck Fletcher I talk to quite a bit," Granato said of his communication with the Flyers during the season. "Philly has had lots of people here and been very instrumental in his growth as a player. I think when they drafted him, they recognized out of the gate that this guy could be a big part of their organization moving forward. They’ve been hands on, they’ve been here a lot, they’ve done it respectfully in a way that they’ve helped him a ton in preparing to get ready for the next step.”

Granato, who has played and coached in the NHL, knows both sides of the coin with his gig and Kalynuk's decision.

"It’s your job to hopefully present them or give them opportunities to be ready for a chance to play in the NHL," Granato said. "And when they are ready, you certainly don’t want to hold them back.

"He has positioned himself to be very, very close to being ready for that opportunity. I’m one to understand that situation and respect it and not try to interfere with it. If he made the decision to come back to go to school, it would obviously be great for our program and it’s not going to hurt his development. Also, on the other side of things, if the situation is right for him to leave, I think he’s in a really good spot to have a chance for a long career. I respect that and whichever way it turns out, I will be a big fan of Wyatt Kalynuk."

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Tyler Pitlick. 

Destra

After earning his first point with the Flyers in the opening game of the season, it took a little bit of time before Pitlick found a rhythm with his new team. Little did anyone know in those opening weeks, that he would soon become a huge asset to the bottom six on the roster. 

Much like the Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen trade in the offseason, trading Ryan Hartman for Pitlick didn’t seem too significant at the time and created more questions than answers. It turns out, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher knew exactly what he was doing. While there were a handful of rookies like Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel adjusting to the pros, Pitlick added a level of solidification to the bottom lines. He, alongside players like Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl — who are well-known for their steady performance — made each of the Flyers’ four lines weapons. 

Through 63 contests, Pitlick tallied 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and would be a valuable asset moving forward with the Flyers. 

Let’s give Pitlick a B for an overall solid season. 

Fordyce 

Early in the season, you didn’t notice Pitlick much and while sometimes for a player like Pitlick not hearing his name is a good thing (as it means he’s doing his job), that was not the case for Pitlick in the early going as he struggled. As the season wore on though, Pitlick carved out a nice role for himself with the team and began to flourish.

A simple look at his game log in 2019 shows that Pitlick was a minus player 10 times, but after the calendar changed to 2020, Pitlick had a minus rating only three times. In addition, later in the season Pitlick developed more of an offensive game, chipping in with goals and assists from time to time. After struggling at the start, Pitlick overall turned into a reliable veteran down the stretch. 

He gets a B from me.

Hall

When the Flyers acquired Pitlick last summer, he explained his game:

"I'm a physical, north-skating player. I can score and make plays when I get the chance. I'm going to be physical and I'm going to create energy and compete as hard as I can."

Pitlick was a man of his word. He provided exactly that to the Flyers in the 2019-20 regular season. It's fair to say among the Flyers' other offseason acquisitions — Kevin Hayes, Niskanen and Justin Braun — Pitlick came with the least hype, but he became a pleasant surprise as a consistently effective bottom-six forward.

With each game, you never questioned Pitlick's effort because he was always noticeable by playing his active, north-south style. When you're constantly noticeable in limited minutes, you're doing something right.

Pitlick joined the club with an attractive $1 million cap hit and a contract set to expire this offseason. He then played his way into consideration to be re-signed by the Flyers. Good for him.

A well-earned B+ for Pitlick.

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NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

Come Aug. 2, it will have been 145 days since the Flyers last played a game that counted.

If all goes as planned for the NHL, Aug. 2 will be when Flyers hockey officially returns — and when the team will start (or restart) its push for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

On Friday night, the NHL and NHLPA completed the ratification process of the league’s return-to-play plan and four-year CBA extension, setting up for a resumption and conclusion of the 2019-20 season in the anticipated 24-team tournament (see full details and new NHL calendar here). In the announcement, the schedule for the qualifying round/round robin was released.

As we know, the Flyers have a solid outlook in the round-robin tourney as the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed and with a chance to climb to improve their first-round matchup (see story).

Let's analyze the Flyers' round-robin slate and outline the full Eastern Conference schedule from Aug. 1-9 in Toronto:

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 1 Bruins, Aug. 2

The Flyers will start things off against the NHL-best Bruins, who were the last team the orange and black played before the suspension of the regular season on March 12 (see story).

Alain Vigneault's club went 2-1-0 in three regular-season matchups with Boston. The Bruins finished the regular season with an NHL-high 100 points and a league-low 2.39 goals allowed per game.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is 15-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 22 career games against the Flyers.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Carter Hart has four career wins over the Bruins, tied for his most against any NHL club. The 21-year-old is 4-1-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in five lifetime matchups vs. Boston.


No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 3 Capitals, Aug. 6

When looking at the regular-season results, this is likely the most favorable matchup for the Flyers in the round robin.

The Flyers went 3-0-1 over four regular-season matchups with the Capitals, outscoring Washington 16-8 and earning a point in all four meetings.

The Capitals are the Capitals, though, a team that scored the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.42 and has a guy named Alex Ovechkin (he went scoreless against the Flyers during the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career).

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Washington has the NHL's top power play percentage since 2000 but the Flyers held it to 1 for 17 on the man advantage during the four regular-season matchups.

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 2 Lightning, Aug. 9

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds (see story).

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: The Flyers are 2-6-3 over the last four seasons against the Lightning.

Here's the rest of the East's qualifying round/round robin schedule (team on left signifies "road" team). Per the league Friday night, a complete broadcast schedule will be released in the coming days.


Aug. 1

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 2

• Flyers vs. Bruins

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

Aug. 3

• Capitals vs. Lightning

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 4

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

Aug. 5

• Lightning vs. Bruins

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

Aug. 6

• Capitals vs. Flyers

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (if necessary)

Aug. 7

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (if necessary)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (if necessary)

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (if necessary)

Aug. 8

• Bruins vs. Capitals

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes (if necessary)

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins (if necessary)

Aug. 9

• Flyers vs. Lightning 

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs (if necessary)

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders (if necessary)

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