Flyers

Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Brian Elliott?

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Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Brian Elliott?

It was April 11, Game 1 of the Flyers-Penguins first-round playoff series.

Brian Elliott's life had changed drastically — and quickly.

Here was Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel flying at him from all angles.

About a month ago …

"I couldn't put on my socks or tie my shoes," Elliott said.

"It was gloomy there for a little bit when you're reaching down and you can't even put your sock on to walk out the door."

Elliott had gone 53 days without playing an NHL game because of core muscle surgery he underwent Feb. 13. Then, after just two regular-season outings in which he struggled and was hardly challenged, Elliott was tasked with slowing down the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

It didn't go well.

The 33-year-old went 1-3-0 with a 4.74 goals-against average and .856 save percentage. He was yanked twice and did not finish the series as Michal Neuvirth took over for Games 5 and 6 — a victory and a season-ending loss.

All of which begged the question: was Elliott 100 percent or was his return premature?

"It's hard to put a percentage on it, but I definitely came back a little early … crawling on the table after the games," Elliott said last Wednesday from the team's dressing room at Flyers Skate Zone. "You're just trying to push through it. I had a couple practices before getting back into games and you're kind of in between trying to push yourself to get back into form and also taking care of your body so you're not too sore to skate the next day. It was just hard to manage it a little bit, and I'm still dealing with issues as far as the injury is concerned."

The Flyers needed all 82 regular-season games to clinch a playoff berth. They were in desperate need of their No. 1 goalie — or at least just one of the two that opened the regular season on the roster. While Elliott was healthy enough to play, he opened up about some of the issues that may have hampered his performance.

"It's tough, but at the end of the day you have to go out there and play to tear up some of the scar tissue stuff because you can only massage that stuff out of there before you've got to just tear it up the way you play," he said. "The last couple games, I'm glad they kept it under 20 shots because I don't think I could do any more than what I had. It got better every day just because of that and you have to tear that stuff up to get full range of motion again. I'm confident that it will get back to normal, but it definitely wasn't normal."

Elliott was unsure if he would need a follow-up procedure to help clean out some of the remaining issues and expedite his recovery. Speaking a day after the goaltender, general manager Ron Hextall did not know yet either.

Regardless, Elliott expects to be 100 percent come training camp. Prior to his injury, he went 15-5-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage since Dec. 4, a span of 22 games.

"I'm comfortable where we are as an organization with our goaltending," Hextall said. "Brian Elliott played extremely well for us until he got hurt there.

"We've got our kids coming. We've got the kids up in Lehigh. We feel very comfortable with where we are at; in saying that, we need some growth, too." 

And that leads to the biggest question of can Elliott — and Neuvirth (see story) — be reliable enough in net during 2018-19, a year with much more on the line (see story)?

In the final season of his two-year contract, Elliott may not be the future, but he's here while the team is starting to reach its own.

That makes him as important as anybody.

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe fans wanted more than just a one-game tryout.

See what the kids can do.

That is certainly an understandable response after Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe were returned to their junior clubs Tuesday. Excluding the prospects game, Frost and Ratcliffe played in a single preseason game apiece with eight on the schedule.

Both headed back to the OHL, their teams open the 2018-19 season this week with Frost's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds playing Wednesday and Ratcliffe's Guelph Storm Thursday.

For the most part, the 19-year-olds were long shots for the Flyers' roster. Frost had an outside look at the team's third-line center job (see story), while Ratcliffe, albeit rising among the prospect pool, was all but destined for his fourth junior campaign.

No problem.

But if fans are upset with the Flyers' semi-quick trigger, there's something important to remember. The Flyers could easily have neither of these two kids in their system. If it weren't for a pair of tough decisions — one particularly bold — made by general manager Ron Hextall, such a scenario would be the case.

If you recall, Hextall had to trade Brayden Schenn in order to grab the No. 27 overall pick of the 2017 draft, where the Flyers selected Frost. Parting ways with Schenn was no effortless call. The forward was 25 years old at the time, finished second on the 2016-17 team in goals with 25, 17 of which came on the power play, tying him for most in the NHL alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov.

Here we are, though, about a year and three months later, and Frost has created a debate over his chances at making the Flyers as a 19-year-old. He's considered a top-50 prospect in the NHL and is looking to build off a 112-point season in which he was a staggering plus-70. 

While Schenn had a career year with the Blues (28 goals, 42 assists), he cooled off considerably, scoring 12 markers in the final 51 games following 16 in his first 31 as St. Louis missed the playoffs. Not only does Frost's future look bright, but the Flyers also acquired a conditional first-round pick in the deal, drafting winger Joel Farabee at No. 14 overall this summer.

The Flyers snagged Ratcliffe in the same draft as Frost, just a day later in the second round. Landing the 6-foot-6 winger didn't come easy, either. To slide up to No. 35 overall, the Flyers had to send their second-round pick (44), a third (75) and a fourth (108) to the Coyotes. Similar to Frost, that's how badly they wanted Ratcliffe.

He has the Flyers feeling good about it. 

Ratcliffe scored 41 goals and 68 points over 67 regular-season games in 2017-18. He has developed a ton in one year, now possessing intriguing ability for a player his size (see story).

In this draft, the Flyers could have been conservative and satisfied after hitting the jackpot on No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick.

They weren't.

These were calculated risks the Flyers took in adding Frost and Ratcliffe. Hextall and his staff trusted the diligence behind their scouting efforts.

So far, so good on hitting with them.

It should make up for a disappointing day, for those that deem it one.

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1 (preseason): 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in win

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1 (preseason): 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in win

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anyone sick of the New York Islanders yet?

The Flyers, playing their third game in three days in three different buildings against the same team, came up with a big second period to defeat the Islanders, 5-1, Tuesday.

Which 2016 draft pick continues to raise eyebrows, another injury to the Flyers' goaltending crop and more from Brooklyn:

1. Two days after a lethargic and uninspiring effort at Nassau Coliseum, the Flyers came out with a more inspiring start Tuesday with the same top line of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, who had two scoring chances off the rush in the opening 20 minutes — one from the right side and another coming down the left wing. 

2. Alex Lyon was originally scheduled to start tonight and even took the ice for pregame warmups. He proceeded to tweak something as he motioned to the trainer. Late in the first period, the Flyers announced Lyon was out with a lower-body injury, leaving Anthony Stolarz to play the full 60 minutes.

3. As for Stolarz, he's had a solid camp and preseason so far, especially when you consider how little he's actually played last season. The knee surgery doesn't appear to bother him at all. After a flawless first period, which included a slapper that knocked him completely back on his numbers, Stolie allowed one soft goal on a delayed penalty.

With the Islanders working the puck around the perimeter, Stolarz was slow in moving from the middle of the crease to hugging the right post, allowing David Quenneville to sneak a slap shot through the near post.

4. There's still no fix for slow and playing in his first preseason game, Jori Lehtera still plods around the ice in second gear. Ron Hextall said before the game that Morgan Frost needed to work on creating time and space with the puck. He won't gain any pointers watching Lehtera, who had a difficult time manufacturing anything offensively until he scored a garbage-time goal late in the third period. Still, if I was Hextall, I'd place Lehtera on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Lehigh Valley before the season starts.

5. Carsen Twarynski was one of the more impressive prospects during the rookie game last week, playing alongside Oskar Lindblom and Mikhail Vorobyev. He scored a goal off a quick turnover and he gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead in this game when he snapped a shot from the top of the right circle that had perfect placement and appeared to catch Robin Lehner by surprise. If you’ve noticed anything about Twarynski, it's that he possesses a better than average NHL snap shot and it’s easy to see how he scored 45 goals last season with Kelowna.

6. Twarynski had a shot for a second goal on an early third-period breakaway and he once again looking to go high blocker on Lehner, but this time he was denied. The 2016 third-round selection won’t make the squad, but he has shown much improvement from a year ago.

7. Danick Martel will never forget his first NHL game, which came right here at the Barclays Center on Nov. 22, 2017. However, this game may stand out for Martel a little more as he launched a shot from the left circle that beat Lehner for his first unofficial NHL goal, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead at the time. I don’t see Martel making this team, but if he can have another fantastic start with the Phantoms, a mid-season call-up isn’t out of the question.

8. Nothing is guaranteed for Taylor Leier, who needs to earn a roster spot on this year’s team coming out of camp much as he did a year ago. He had a so-so start in his first game Sunday, but he brought that fourth-line intensity tonight as he steamrolled Quenneville and supplied an aggressive forecheck. Leier also managed some offensive opportunities as the battle for the last three forward positions are too close to call right now.

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