Future Flyers Report: World Junior Championships roundup

Future Flyers Report: World Junior Championships roundup

The World Junior Championships wrapped up Thursday night with the United States beating Canada, 5-4, in a shootout in the gold medal game for its fourth-ever gold. 

Now that the tournament is over, we’re providing another edition of the Future Flyers Report, from the quarterfinals and the medal rounds.

Tanner Laczynski, C, 6-1/191, Team USA
Laczynski walks away from the world juniors with a gold medal, and his story is quite impressive. He was not a lock to make Team USA, but impressed at camp in the summer and then worked his way onto the team at the evaluation camp.

His role with the U.S. was small — fourth-line center — but he played well in that position. He had to miss the semifinal game against Russia because of an illness but was able to get back into the lineup Thursday night for the gold medal game.

The Ohio State freshman played just 8:17 and a team-low 12 shifts in the shootout win over Canada, but nonetheless, he’s a gold medal winner.

WJCs stats: 7 games played, 1 goal, 1 assist, 8 shots on goal, 2 PIMs, plus-2

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Team Canada
Goalie controversy and Philadelphia hockey tend to go hand in hand, so it was only fitting for Hart to be involved in one with Canada. Dominique Ducharme opted to start Connor Ingram in the quarterfinals vs. the Czech Republic and semifinals vs. Sweden.

The roll of the dice, if you will, worked out against the Czechs, though Ingram was nothing special in the quarterfinal matchup. It nearly cost Canada in the semis. Ingram yielded two goals on three shots in the first nine minutes to Sweden, and that was all Ducharme needed to see from the Kamloops netminder and replaced him with Hart.

Hart settled the Canadians down in the opening period and helped Canada go into the first intermission tied with a loaded Sweden club, 2-2, with 13 first-period saves. He added 12 more — many of the difficult variety — in the second, as Canada went up 3-2. He made just four saves in the third period, but Hart saved Canada from elimination. He stopped all 29 shots Sweden threw his way and earned the Player of the Game honors.

One night later, Hart got the starting nod against the U.S. in the gold medal game, a contest that needed a skills competition to decide the winner. Hart gave up four goals on 35 shots and the lone goal in the shootout to Troy Terry, who went 4 for 4 in shootout attempts in the semifinals and gold medal game. It was another matchup in which Hart was terrific in net for Canada, and one of those in which he did not deserve to lose.

WJCs stats: 7 games played, 3-0-1, 2.38 goals-against average, .906 save percentage

Philippe Myers, D, 6-5/209, Team Canada
As expected, Myers did not play in either the quarterfinals or semifinals for Canada because of a concussion he suffered in the preliminary round against the United States.

Myers will return to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, where his playing status remains in question because of his head injury. With it being his second concussion of the year, Myers’ health the remainder of the 2016-17 season will be worth watching.

Flyers GM Ron Hextall recently said, via Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, that instead of being proud of signing Myers, the team is asking why it didn’t draft him in the first place.

WJCs stats: 4 games played, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 shots on goal, 4 PIMs, plus-1

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Team Russia
Rubtsov’s world juniors ended after the quarterfinals. The Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick missed Russia’s semifinals 4-3 shootout loss to the U.S. because of a concussion.

In Russia’s 4-0 win over Denmark on Monday, Rubtsov received a high hit and suffered the head injury. He reportedly has a broken nose in addition to the concussion.

Rubtsov has gotten out of his KHL contract and is coming to North America to play for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL, according to Stephane Leroux of Montreal TV station Réseau des sports.

WJCs stats: 5 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 shots on goal, 0 PIMs, minus-1

Mikhail Vorobyov, C, 6-2/207, Team Russia
There might not have been a Flyers prospect at the world juniors more impressive than the Flyers’ 2015 fourth-round draft pick who led the tournament with 10 assists.

Vorobyov picked up two assists in Russia’s quarters shutout win over Denmark Monday and added another in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the United States. He also scored in the shootout against the U.S., a goal that did put Russia up, 2-1, in the SO.

Against Denmark, Vorobyov set up Russia’s first and second goals in the first period to set the tone to a smooth 4-0 win. In the quarterfinals tilt, he showed some power, protecting the puck behind the net before dishing it to Kirill Kaprizov, who finished the first-period tally.

Russia earned the bronze medal with a 2-1 overtime win over Sweden Thursday afternoon, and Vorobyov figured into Russia’s only regulation goal with a primary assist 16 seconds into the second period on another Kaprizov marker.

WJCs stats: 7 games played, 0 goals, 10 assists, 8 shots on goal, 4 PIMs, plus-6

Felix Sandstrom, G, 6-2/187, Team Sweden
An incredible semifinals showdown between Sweden and Canada that featured tremendous goaltending from Sandstrom and Hart, both Flyers prospects.

Sandstrom faced an onslaught from Canada once Hart entered the game and provided a calming presence for the Canadians, and turned in several eye-popping saves.

The Swedish netminder finished with 38 saves in the 5-2 semifinals defeat, allowing four goals — Canada’s fifth goal came with an empty net. None of the four goals Sandstrom yielded were fluke goals, either, as Canada created all quality scoring chances.

It was a strong tournament for Sandstrom, who lost just one game and was named the Goalie of the Tournament. On Monday, he stopped 15 of 18 shots in Sweden’s 8-3 win over Slovakia. Sweden fell short in the bronze medal game, but Sandstrom again was fantastic, making 24 of 26 stops.

WJCs stats: 7 games played, 4-1-1, 2.17 goals-against average, .915 save percentage

David Bernhardt, D, 6-3/203, Team Sweden
After a decent showing in the prelims, Bernhardt was a minus-2 in the quarterfinals and semifinals while logging no more than 14:40 of ice time — against Canada.

Bernhardt saw just 3:51 minutes in the third period against Slovakia on Monday, a game that Sweden pulled away early, and 4:30 in the final stanza against Canada. He was pointless in both games.

Still, not a terrible tournament for a seventh-round draft pick. Bernhardt flashed some signs of being a North American player as he ages, but he’ll take a while to develop.

WJCs stats: 7 games played, 0 goals, 3 assists, 15 shots on goal, 4 PIMs, plus-6

Matej Tomek, G, 6-3/183, Team Slovakia
Despite playing well in the preliminary round, Tomek did not start nor see action in Slovakia’s 8-3 loss to Team Sweden on Monday, a game that saw 50 shots thrown at the Slovakian net. Rangers prospect Adam Huska made 42 stops in the loss.

Tomek returns to the University of North Dakota, where the sophomore has yet to play in a regular-season game in two years at UND. His play in this tournament is a bright spot for his perspective as a goalie prospect. An encouraging world junior for him.

WJCs stats: 2 games played, 0-2-0, 3.50 goals-against average, .913 save percentage

David Kase, RW, 5-11/170, Team Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic’s 5-3 loss to Canada on Monday, Kase opened the scoring in the first by taking advantage of a strange bounce off an official’s hip and onto his stick.

Kase’s goal — his second of the tournament — allowed the Czechs to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, though the Canadians eventually took control in the second.

Now, Kase returns to Piráti Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga, where he has not played in a game since Dec. 2 and then Oct. 31 before that because of an injury. 

WJCs stats: 5 games played, 2 goals, 1 assist, 12 shots on goal, 4 PIMs, minus-1

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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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