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How Flyers found prospect Yegor Zamula and his 'huge upside'

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How Flyers found prospect Yegor Zamula and his 'huge upside'

The moniker is one for the all-name team.

Yegor Zamula.

While it grabbed the eyes scrolling down the Flyers' rookie and training camp rosters, that was all it did — other than that name taking you to the end of the alphabet, nobody knew a thing about the player.

Except for the Flyers.

They at least knew something thanks to Mark Greig.

"Mark Greig has been a big Western scout for the Flyers for a number of years," Jeff Chynoweth, the general manager of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I know Mark very well, I talk to him throughout the season, he'll ask you questions about certain players. They see things differently, that's their job. Mark has a great eye and has for a number of years."

The club's amateur scout stayed on the Zamula trail, which has now found its way to the Flyers. When the 18-year-old went undrafted this summer and didn't stick with the Flames after the team's development camp, Greig kept in touch with Zamula's agent Vlad Shushkovsky. It resulted in the Flyers inviting the 6-foot-3, 160-pound defenseman to camp on an amateur tryout. Eleven days later, he had an entry-level contract from the Flyers and had fans thinking about another Philippe Myers.

The 6-foot-5 blueliner went undrafted himself and latched on with the Flyers in 2015 via an entry-level deal. Less than a month ago, Myers, now 21, was ranked a top-50 prospect by NHL Network.

In 2018-19, Zamula will play his first full season with Chynoweth's young but up-and-coming Calgary team in the WHL. 

"I think the biggest thing is everyone develops at a different rate," the Hitmen GM said. "There are a lot of late bloomers. You scour the globe looking for the best players and prospects you can and not everyone develops at the same time."

Greig, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager and director of player personnel Chris Pryor have had success with defensemen out of the WHL, specifically Ivan Provorov (2015 first-round pick) and Travis Sanheim (2014 first-round pick), a Calgary product himself.

"Western guys that Mark has seen a lot of," Chynoweth said. "And it's not just because of him, it's the whole staff under Chris Pryor."

The Hitmen claimed the Russian Zamula off WHL import waivers in January. The Regina Pats, his former team, were forced to place Zamula on waivers after making a trade that put them over the two-player limit of non-North American import players.

"We had a little bit of knowledge about him because his agent represents the other Euro on our team and actually our Euro on our team lives with the agent," Chynoweth said. "So we kind of had a bit of an inkling of what might happen in Regina and from our end, we just felt it was an opportunity to add a young guy with lots of potential."

So who is Yegor Zamula and what is the potential?

"I think he's only going to get better," Chynoweth said. "He's a very slight player, that's the one thing he's got to do like any young player, he has to get bigger and stronger.

"He reads the ice very well, he can slow the game down. … He reads and reacts, he's got a great, active stick.

"I think there's a huge upside with Yegor. I'll be quite honest, I was surprised he wasn't drafted. … He definitely has a lot of things going for him and obviously, Ron Hextall, Chris Pryor and his staff thought the same thing."

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'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

Every so often, ever since training camp in mid-September, Alain Vigneault will remind everyone he wasn't here last year or the years prior.

He'll do so amicably when questions arise about a past season or trend with the club he now coaches. Vigneault likes to focus on the present and what's ahead.

After all, he doesn't want to act as if he's openly criticizing what happened before him. 

"It's the start of a new era, a new group," he said Sept. 13, Day 1 of training camp.

If he didn't know, the type of loss the Flyers suffered Thursday night has become a recurring theme in recent years, the kind that drives the fan base up a wall. One night, the Flyers will look like world-beaters against the NHL's elite. Another night, they'll lose a game that had victory written all over it, leaving fans scratching their heads.

Except, Flyers fans are no longer dumbfounded by those types of losses because, quite frankly, their team has tended to suffer them predictably.

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, who are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and had lost nine of their previous 11 games. What made the defeat particularly maddening was that the Flyers had just made a significant statement by beating the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — in the past four games.

The win over defending champion St. Louis came Wednesday night on the road. So on Thursday night, the Flyers were facing the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off the high of beating the champs in their building, and playing without either of their regular two goalies (see observations).

When "emotional letdown" was brought up at his postgame press conference, Vigneault wouldn't even tiptoe the line.

“You know that word that starts with B?" Vigneault asked.

Begins with bull and ends in ... ?

"I mean, these are big games," Vigneault said. "There’s almost nothing separating teams. And tonight, it’s a couple plays. I understand emotionally, but points are the same. This game was worth two. Last game was worth two. You’ve got to get up for it, you’ve got to get yourself ready, it’s going to be a battle.

"You do know the word I’m talking about, right?”

Sure do.

And his Flyers know those losses can't become a theme.

Vigneault will call out that bulls--t if he sees it.

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Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

BOX SCORE

These ones irritate Flyers fans the most.

After playing up to the competition for four straight games and generating bona-fide excitement, the Flyers played down to the competition in a 4-1 loss Thursday night to the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sure, Montreal boasts a big-named goalie, but it had lost nine of its last 11 games before upending the Flyers, who had just won three games over the top three teams in the NHL.

This was a letdown any way you slice it for the Flyers (25-17-6) following victories over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues.

The Canadiens (21-21-7) salvaged the final game of the three-game regular-season series with the Flyers after dropping the first two matchups in overtime.

• The Flyers were coming off an emotional high of beating the defending champs on the road and playing the second game of a back-to-back set, but everyone should expect more than losing by three goals on home ice to a team outside of the playoff picture (see story).

On Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers should come out like gangbusters against the Kings, who are near the basement of the West.

• With Carter Hart (right lower abdominal strain) out two to three weeks and Brian Elliott playing an overtime game on the road Wednesday night, Alex Lyon made his first start of the season for the Flyers.

The 27-year-old has played well in his fourth season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“Alex has put in a lot of time,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. “He spent the summer here in Philly to work out. I thought he had a good camp and he's been playing well. This is his best start in Lehigh Valley. He is just coming off a shutout and he deserved a chance to play.”

Lyon became the third goalie to suit up for the Flyers. At this date last season, the Flyers had already played seven goalies.

He was strong until he allowed a goal with 55 seconds left in the first period. From the end of the opening stanza to the beginning of the second frame, Lyon allowed three goals in a span of three minutes, 14 seconds.

The tallies weren’t all on Lyon. The Flyers were a step behind on all three. The second was a power play goal in which the Flyers allowed Shea Weber all kinds of room to wind up a slap shot and create a rebound in front (see highlights).

Lyon made 35 saves.

Montreal goalie Carey Price, who won his previous two games with 72 saves on 73 shots, enjoyed the lead and finished with 40 stops to beat the Flyers for the 16th time in his career.

• In the wins over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues, the Flyers were forced to kill 14 of 15 power plays. That’s a lot of work for the PK and it felt like the rising number of trips to the box would eventually burn the Flyers.

They allowed Ilya Kovalchuk’s go-ahead power play goal early in the second period and then the Canadiens scored another marker 11 seconds later to seize a 3-1 lead.

It was a momentum-changing sequence all started by a penalty, albeit a cheap hooking call on Kevin Hayes.

The Flyers also hurt themselves by going 0 for 4 on the power play.

• Kovalchuk, who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Canadiens two weeks ago, gave Montreal a 2-1 lead on the second-period power play goal. He tacked on the fourth and final goal.

The 36-year-old winger has seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games with the Canadiens.

Should the Flyers have been interested?

• Recalled a day after being loaned to the Phantoms for the purpose of creating space for Lyon, Joel Farabee scored a big goal to open the game’s scoring.

The marker was Farabee’s first in 16 games. The 19-year-old has offense to add to the Flyers — and if he can show it on the fourth line, his role will grow as the games grow bigger.

“I'd like him to get a little bit more than nine or 10 minutes but we've seen that go up and down, and my expectation is that that’ll come back,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.

With the addition of Connor Bunnaman, the Flyers’ fourth line has been a positive over the past three games.

• Before the game, Vigneault said he was very optimistic about defenseman Justin Braun’s return Saturday from a groin injury.

• The Flyers play two more games, both at home, before their NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week — Saturday vs. the Kings (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Tuesday vs. the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

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