Flyers

Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

On April 18, the day he was initiated as Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault introduced a phrase he likes to use when discussing accountability.

“Certain players have a little bit more money in the bank,” he said.

Vigneault is new to Travis Sanheim this season. Fortunately for the Flyers, he’s aware of Sanheim’s savings, which the 23-year-old started stashing last season.

The fluid-skating defenseman has fallen down badly during three consecutive games, all on plays in which the opposition scored a goal. It happened for the third straight time Saturday night in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.

Such a development would make some coaches think twice about the player’s ensuing shift or next game.

Vigneault isn’t there yet and that’s good.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to let things work themselves out, by putting him back there, showing him that we’ve got faith in him,” he said. “Different guys have different money in the bank. He doesn’t have a lot of money in the bank but he’s got a little bit of money in the bank. I’ll give him time to work his way back. He’s a real good kid. Coaches have a tendency to be behind real good kids.”

The Flyers have other concerns greater than a promising defenseman who was one of the team’s biggest highlights in 2018-19, a season that was severely short on them. Through 13 games in 2019-20, collectively the Flyers’ blueliners have been too feast or famine. The group has the potential to be the Flyers’ backbone (see observations).

"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in June.

Sanheim is a key to the corps when he’s confident.

“Obviously I’m a pretty good skater, can’t say I’ve ever had a stretch where three straight games I’ve fallen and it ends in the back of my net,” he said. “Hopefully I can figure that out here pretty shortly. It’s tough to see those.

“When you’re down a little bit, things tend to not go your way and vice versa — when you’ve got a ton of confidence, it seems like everything’s going in for you. I know there’s going to be a stretch like that coming up for me. Right now, I’m just trying to fight through, be better and that’s putting in the work, coming to the rink with the right mindset that I am going to be better and improve my game.”

In a game Saturday that featured six goals and an 11-round shootout, what may turn out to be the Flyers’ most important play was a third-period tally off Sanheim’s stick. The marker gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, which didn’t stand.

But, in the grand scheme, it was money for Sanheim and the Flyers.

“On our bench when he scored that goal, it was funny, we had three or four guys just sitting in front me saying, ‘Watch him skate now,’” Vigneault said. “Obviously he’s feeling a little bit of heat, a little bit of pressure. We need him to be the player that he can be. He’s fighting it right now, he’s going through some growing pains. When he comes out of it, I’m very confident that he’s going to be a very useful player for this team.”

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2020 NHL draft profile: With 'real mature game,' defenseman Ryan O'Rourke shouldn't be overlooked

2020 NHL draft profile: With 'real mature game,' defenseman Ryan O'Rourke shouldn't be overlooked

The entire picture for the 2020 NHL draft remains cloudy with the ongoing suspension of the 2019-20 regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Where will the Flyers be picking? When and how will the draft be held? Those questions are currently unanswered.

The Flyers hold seven total selections and, as of right now, are slotted with the 26th overall pick.

“I think it’s a decent draft — I don’t know if it’s top end," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said April 25 in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The top 10, 12 guys look like pretty high end. There’s a bit of a drop-off, but there’s some depth to the draft for a couple of rounds. We don’t know totally where we’re picking, but we have an idea. We have some guys targeted we feel we would be very happy with in the top couple of rounds and then we still have some work to do to clean up the mid-to-later-round picks.

"Obviously you’d want the big, scoring, playmaking center, anybody does. We’re in a position where we’ll likely be taking the best player available. 

"Realistically the players you draft now are two or three years down the road, best-case scenario. Some cases you get surprised. But by then, your team needs are different. We’ll do the best we can, we have an idea of where our holes are going forward and places where we certainly want to add depth to, whether it’s center or scoring winger or defense, we’ll see what happens. We’ll prepare, we weigh guys against each other, the pros and cons and we’ll do the best we can there.”

This month and into June, we'll continue to break down options for the Flyers at No. 26.

Ryan O'Rourke

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 178
Shoots: Left
Team: Soo Greyhounds

Scouting report

O'Rourke is particularly appealing because his defensive game is already refined. The 18-year-old takes immense pride in playing in his own end, while his offensive game features untapped potential.

As team captain, O'Rourke led the OHL's Greyhounds with a plus-16 mark and scored 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 54 games.

O'Rourke doesn't get enough credit for his adeptness at pushing the puck north. He can get up ice and is an intelligent passer.

“A real steady player," Flahr said May 12. "He’s a 6-footer, but a competitive guy, his outlet passing, moving the puck up ice is probably his bread and butter. He can defend, he can do a little of everything. You’ve got to be a little careful of your viewings because he plays so much up there, you have to pace yourself, so there could be another level to what he can do. Plays a real mature game I think is the best description of him.”

Fit with Flyers

As we noted when looking at William Wallinder, the Flyers are well-stocked at defensemen but won't shy away from drafting the best player available to load up even more on the back end.

O'Rourke fits the bill of blueliners the Flyers like — guys with quality size and mobility. The Soo defenseman might be a fringe first-rounder, so he's expected to be available for the Flyers. The club is likely looking more for a center or winger in the first round, but O'Rourke brings a lot to the table. The Hockey Writers' Mark Scheig believes O'Rourke will be the steal of the draft.

It would be somewhat surprising if he's the Flyers' pick at No. 26. If O'Rourke is in their ballpark during the second round, though, he'll definitely have the club's attention.

(Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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2020 NHL draft profile: Daniel Torgersson has 'unique size,' ability to 'dominate'

2020 NHL draft profile: Daniel Torgersson has 'unique size,' ability to 'dominate'

The entire picture for the 2020 NHL draft remains cloudy with the ongoing suspension of the 2019-20 regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Where will the Flyers be picking? When and how will the draft be held? Those questions are currently unanswered.

The Flyers hold seven total selections and, as of right now, are slotted with the 26th overall pick.

“I think it’s a decent draft — I don’t know if it’s top end," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said April 25 in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The top 10, 12 guys look like pretty high end. There’s a bit of a drop-off, but there’s some depth to the draft for a couple of rounds. We don’t know totally where we’re picking, but we have an idea. We have some guys targeted we feel we would be very happy with in the top couple of rounds and then we still have some work to do to clean up the mid-to-later-round picks.

"Obviously you’d want the big, scoring, playmaking center, anybody does. We’re in a position where we’ll likely be taking the best player available. 

"Realistically the players you draft now are two or three years down the road, best-case scenario. Some cases you get surprised. But by then, your team needs are different. We’ll do the best we can, we have an idea of where our holes are going forward and places where we certainly want to add depth to, whether it’s center or scoring winger or defense, we’ll see what happens. We’ll prepare, we weigh guys against each other, the pros and cons and we’ll do the best we can there.”

This month and into June, we'll continue to break down options for the Flyers at No. 26.

Daniel Torgersson

Position: Winger
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 199
Shoots: Left
Team: Frolunda HC

Scouting report

Playing in Sweden's top junior league SuperElit, Torgersson finished tied for fourth with 26 goals and third with a plus-38 rating. The 18-year-old was over a point-per-game scorer for Frolunda, putting up 44 points in 39 games. He got a taste of the Swedish Elite League, going scoreless in six games, and showed a well-rounded makeup at the Five Nations tournament.

A rangy winger who is proficient around the net, Torgersson can also move well and understands how to augment talented centers. There will be a good amount of projection with Torgersson, who has the tools to develop into an NHL winger.

There's some Isaac Ratcliffe in the Swede. Ratcliffe, the Flyers' 2017 second-round pick, is a 6-foot-6, 203-pound, lefty-shot winger with impressive mobility. Ratcliffe's hands and touch are considerably better than Torgersson's, but both players are big wingers with scoring ability. In 2019-20, Ratcliffe experienced his first season at the pro level, learning how important it is to use his size with the puck just as much as his skill.

Torgersson will need to prove he can utilize his frame and score in harder ways against men.

“Big body, strong down low on the walls, can shoot it," Flahr said last week. "He is a winger, for sure, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg with him. Eventually he’s going to hopefully dominate using his size and ability to get to the net and shoot the puck. On the national teams and certainly on the junior teams, he complements skilled centers pretty well and obviously he has unique size.”


Fit with Flyers

The draft stock for Torgersson has fluctuated as he's the 13th-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting and considered the 27th-best player in the draft by TSN's Craig Button. However, ESPN's Chris Peters rated Torgersson at No. 61 among the class and many view him as a second-round pick.

The Flyers, who have some nice wingers in the system but are not exceptionally deep at the position, could get two cracks at Torgersson with their first- or second-round pick. The Flyers may not see Torgersson as the best player available during the first round if they end up picking at No. 26 overall and they do not have a third-round selection after the Justin Braun trade.

But when a winger can score with that type of size, the Flyers will certainly be interested, especially if Torgersson is available in the second round.

“Everybody has seen him," Flahr said of his staff. "He plays on a fairly prominent team over there with a number of prospects, he’s been on all the national teams.”

(Christian Wahlgren/Pucksnack.com)

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More on the 2020 NHL draft