Flyers

Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

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Hockey was back in South Philadelphia as the Flyers unveiled head coach Alain Vigneault and center Kevin Hayes at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

The Flyers lost their preseason opener, 3-1, to the Islanders, starting a stretch of four games in six days. They have seven exhibition games overall.

Let's get into some observations from the first one:

• On the Flyers' only goal of the game, the team saw exactly why it was drawn to Hayes. Thanks to his long reach and big frame, Hayes corralled a pass behind him and then shielded his man to eventually ignite the goal.

He found Jakub Voracek, who quickly fed James van Riemsdyk right in front to draw the Flyers even at 1-1 in the second period.

Those qualities are what make Hayes a difference-maker (see story). Maybe it's not flashy, but size and smarts can lead to possession and quality playmaking. The Flyers' front office must have loved that opening goal.

• Speaking of Hayes, he's disruptive out front on the penalty kill because of the aforementioned reach. He can be a workhorse type of player for the Flyers, similar to Sean Couturier and his responsibilities of playing both special teams units.

Both Couturier and Hayes impact the game in all areas. Ideally, the Hayes addition should lighten the load for Couturier, which could make the 26-year-old even better.

• Joel Farabee has another gear and when he changes to it, the 2018 first-round pick really stands out. During the second period, he made an explosive burst to the net with the puck on his stick and nearly scored. Moments later, he impressively took a sharp pass and wrapped it around to a streaking Cal O'Reilly for another scoring chance.

Good stuff from Farabee in his first Wells Fargo Center game action.

• Chris Stewart, with the Flyers on a pro tryout, dropped the gloves in the second period and landed some heavy punches. He's a big dude at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, and general manager Chuck Fletcher knows him well from time together in Minnesota.

The 31-year-old will have to show more than just that to make the club but toughness doesn't hurt when you're aiming for a bottom-six job.

• Fletcher spoke highly about Egor Zamula during rookie camp. There's a lot to like with the 6-foot-3, 172-pound defenseman. He looked cool and comfortable playing alongside Philippe Myers and there's offensive upside, as well.

• German Rubtsov did some good things. The 21-year-old forward can kill penalties and has deceiving offensive abilities. Fresh off a two-goal rookie game, he didn't hurt his chances Monday.

"I saw him at the rookie game and I thought he played well," Vigneault said last week. "He had good pace to his game and good hockey sense."

• Isaac Ratcliffe, who came into camp with an outside shot at a roster spot, seems likely to spend the entire 2019-20 season in Lehigh Valley. His game stood out in junior hockey, but now everyone is bigger and faster at this level.

He's had a tough time showing off his skill because there's less time and space. Still plenty of promise with the 6-foot-6 winger. Scott Gordon and the AHL will be good for him.

• Brian Elliott allowed an early goal but settled in, making eight saves in 30 minutes. He gave way to Alex Lyon, who allowed a Luca Sbisa blast past him for the game's decisive goal. New York's third goal was an empty-netter.

• Travis Konecny has a new contract. When might we see him?

• The new scoreboard is really cool and really big.

• The Flyers and Islanders will square off again Tuesday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (7 p.m., NBCSP+).

The team's game group will skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, at 10:30 a.m., while the non-game groups hit the ice at 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

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Flyers Talk podcast: What if Flyers jumped right into NHL playoffs?

Flyers Talk podcast: What if Flyers jumped right into NHL playoffs?

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer, Brooke Destra and Jordan Hall discuss the potential of the NHL playoffs and the team's position.

From the possible matchup and how the Flyers are adjusting, let's dive in:

1:20 — Get to know Destra's background!

3:15 — Will the NHL jump right into the playoffs?

9:50 — Let's look at the Flyers' potential matchup

15:25 — Should the Flyers worry about any scenario?

18:30 — Get to know Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison

25:20 — Fletcher on the Flyers' adjustments during this time

32:20 — Give Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault credit; excitement ahead

37:25 — OK, let's talk some shows!

40:30 — Meet the president of the Gritty committee

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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Amid coronavirus outbreak, Chuck Fletcher, Flyers push forward in 'different times'

Amid coronavirus outbreak, Chuck Fletcher, Flyers push forward in 'different times'

It was Monday morning, a day after the Flyers were originally scheduled for a huge showdown against the Penguins in Game 79 of their 2019-20 season.

The matchup at the Wells Fargo Center likely would have held considerable playoff implications and a rowdy atmosphere.

Chuck Fletcher was talking about neither as he began a conference call.

"I want to acknowledge the obvious that we’re in different times right now," the Flyers' general manager said.

Indeed.

The Wells Fargo Center was quiet Sunday afternoon. Over 20 days and counting, the Flyers have not played a game. With the NHL out of commission since March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Flyers' 2019-20 fate is completely up in the air.

When Fletcher said "different times," he meant much more than the simplicity of games being played, won and lost.

I just want to certainly mention that our entire organization, and certainly my family and I, we thank all the people working on the front lines of this pandemic — the doctors, nurses, hospital workers, our first responders and everyone working hard to keep all of our essential services operating for the benefit of all of us. I just wanted to mention that before we started talking about the small piece of the world that I work in which is ice hockey.

As the coronavirus outbreak has had a global impact, the Flyers are like many organizations — they must prepare to move forward as best they can in ways that are allowable.

In regards to the current roster and preparing for the NHL's potential resumption, the players are tasked with staying ready on their own time. These are professional athletes and the Flyers trust them.

“With respect to our players, we haven’t given them any sort of specific direction," Fletcher said. "Most of them have returned to their offseason homes. A lot of them have the ability to work out there. I don’t think anybody is skating obviously at this point, but I think guys are doing the best they can to say in shape and they’re all hopeful at some point in time, we’ll get to a better place in this world and we’ll be able to come back and play hockey."

When the Flyers returned to Philadelphia on March 13 following the postponement of their game the day prior against the Lightning in Tampa Bay, Florida, the focus was on the health and safety of everyone. During the stoppage, Fletcher has communicated with many players, including the Flyers' NHLPA representative James van Riemsdyk and team captain Claude Giroux.

“I think all of us are concerned about everyone’s health and wellbeing and trying to take all the precautions we can," Fletcher said. "I’m not aware of anybody that we had to take any particular precautions with other than once we got back from Tampa Bay, everybody has tried to heed the advice of the NHL, self isolate and do what we can to keep ourselves and our families safe and be smart members of the community and try to stay out of everyone’s way. Everyone is doing the best they can to self isolate and be home with their families.

"At this point, to me the biggest thing is just making sure everybody is safe and their families are safe. If there is anything they need from us to get through this time and stage of where we’re all at, we want to help out any way we can."

On the hockey operations and upper management side, communication remains vital. 

Fletcher is in daily contact with assistant general managers Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan. With 2019-20 at a standstill, the Flyers continue to strategize for this summer's NHL draft and offseason in preparation for 2020-21.

The Flyers have seven picks in the draft and 10 players slated to hit free agency — Brian Elliott (unrestricted), Justin Braun (unrestricted), Tyler Pitlick (unrestricted), Derek Grant (unrestricted), Nate Thompson (unrestricted), Robert Hagg (restricted), Philippe Myers (restricted), Nicolas Aube-Kubel (restricted), Nolan Patrick (restricted) and Oskar Lindblom (restricted).

Fletcher said the Flyers have not started negotiations with the team's UFAs or RFAs, as it's still early and much can change prior to the offseason.

"Certainly, whether we start the negotiations or just prepare for them," Fletcher said, "typically this time of the year is when you’re building your files for the summer negotiations and this year isn’t any different.

“I speak to Brent and Barry every day, we have a group text that we keep pretty active in terms of different things that each of us may be doing.

"Brent is working, first and foremost, with our scouting staff, our amateur scouts and they’re working hard on getting their lists ready for the draft, watching video, reviewing reports, having discussions on players — doing things they would typically do at this time of the year with the obvious exception that we’re not able to watch games live right now.

“Barry is working on contracts and cap-related issues going forward. We’ve been able to sign a couple of our unsigned draft choices Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison recently. Barry has been on the forefront of those conversations.”

As for head coach Alain Vigneault, you can bet he's staying busy.

“He had been working on his golf swing for a while," Fletcher said. "But right now, I think he’s like the rest of us, going through notes and trying to stay safe.

"I speak to A.V. every week, just once a week. I’ve reached out to quite a few of the coaching staff and scouting staff and support staff, try to stay in regular contact with them whether it’s by a phone call or a text or an email.

"We’re all trying to stay in touch and do what we can, but for obvious reasons, a lot of our business has been shut down right now. Most of the things we can focus on are matters going forward, whether that’s the draft or signing some of our players and planning some things in the future.”

Fletcher and the Flyers, of course, would love to finish off their 2019-20 work. If they get a chance to, it would be doubly special.

“When you have time, use it," Fletcher said of the NHL's current spot. "To me, there’s no sense in making any decisions until you have to make them. If we’re able to come back and play, that means that the world is in a much better spot than what it is right now, and I think that would be a tremendous sign."

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