Flyers

Nolan Patrick practices, nears return to Flyers

Nolan Patrick practices, nears return to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Rookie Nolan Patrick practiced with Flyers teammates Monday for the first time since late October and will accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg.

“It was good,” Patrick said Monday after practice. “It was fun to get back out there and be a part of the team again. It was a pretty short skate but it was good."

Patrick, who was injured when his head slammed against the glass Oct. 24 vs. Anaheim, last skated with the team during the Flyers’ trip to Toronto in late October, and after he was scratched prior to the game against the Maple Leafs, the organization backed off Patrick's practice regimen. It remains to be seen how much practice time the prized rookie will require to get ready for the pace of a regular-season game.

“It’s early in the process,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s on the front end of conditioning, timing and there’s a lot of things that have to come back to game level. That’s no different for any player, but certainly for a young player, he’s at the front end of that and he’ll continue to work hard at that.”   

By every indication, Patrick, along with Matt Read, will be the extra skaters when the Flyers head to Minnesota to face the Wild on Tuesday in the second leg of their home-and-home series. However, if given the opportunity, Patrick would love to play in front of friends and family in his hometown of Winnipeg, where the Flyers will square off with the Jets on Thursday.

“It would be pretty cool to play in my hometown,” said Patrick, who grew up about 15 minutes from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and still remembers the exact day the NHL announced the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg on May 31, 2011.

“Yeah, I was in grade eight (8th grade) when they got the team. It was obviously pretty exciting. I was in home-ec class sewing when I found out that the team was coming back. I was making some brutal sweater I think. Obviously it was pretty cool for Winnipeg and everyone around the city was pretty fired up for that.”  

Without Patrick in the lineup, the Flyers were shut out a league-leading fourth time Saturday when the Wild escaped Philadelphia with a 1-0 win. Hakstol elected to rearrange the furniture, so to speak, during Monday’s practice. While the top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek has consistently excelled this season and the “Honey Bees” line of Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl has generated some buzz in the offensive end of the ice, the middle lines have been stagnant during even-strength play.

Jordan Weal moved to center from left wing Monday on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Dale Weise, suggesting Hakstol is looking for more speed down the middle of the ice. Weal scored in the season opener in San Jose, but has just one goal in his last 14 games since.

“I don’t think the numbers not being there are indicative of how the play has been,” Weal said. “I’ve played a lot of games at center ice. I’ve probably played 200 games professionally as a centerman and 400 junior games as a centerman. I’ve played a lot of center. It’s not something that’s foreign to me.”

“It’s a different mix,” Hakstol said. “Sometimes just a little bit of a change has a way of breaking things loose. It’s a little different look for Weal, as well as his linemates, and something that could add a little bit of a spark.”

“We've got to do a better job getting to the net, mucking it up and getting greasy," Simmonds said. "I haven’t been very good myself for probably the last 10 games. It’s up to me and the rest of the guys to get our nose dirty. We’ve been shut out four times in 17 games, so it’s unacceptable.”

After a strong defensive performance in St. Louis against his former team, Jori Lehtera and his offensive play have lagged recently and the offense has been nonexistent as Lehtera has generated just four shots on goal over his last seven games with no points to show. Hakstol chose to move Lehtera back to left wing on a line with center Valtteri Filppula and right winger Travis Konecny, the latter of whom certainly seems out of place on that line.

“It’s a new look,” Konecny said. “We’ll see how it pans out. Lehts (Lehtera) and Fil (Filppula) have a little bit of a connection there. They feed off each other so it could definitely work, so we’ll see how it plays out.” 

General manager Ron Hextall said Saturday he was hopeful that Andrew MacDonald could rejoin the team for the first time in over three weeks after taking a puck to the side of his leg in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 21. However, MacDonald did not skate and the team chose to recall Mark Alt from Lehigh Valley. Alt will serve as the Flyers' seventh defenseman on their two-game road trip.

Projected lines vs. Wild

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Dale Weise-Jordan Weal-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Lauhgton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

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Specer Smye/OJHL Images

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Jack McBain

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Scouting report
If you watch tape of McBain you immediately have to keep in mind that he’s played his teenage hockey in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was physically an overpowering player against lesser competition. 

McBain was drafted by the Barrie Colts of the OHL, but elected to keep his amateur status intact, which will allow him to attend Boston College next fall. That’s when we should receive a real gauge of where his skills stack up playing in the NCAA Hockey East Conference.

A big body center, McBain isn’t the most elusive skater, nor is he the most creative playmaker. He plays more of a north-south game but doesn’t back down from the high-traffic areas. He prefers to use his big frame to overpower opponents and works well down in the trenches.

Surprisingly, he’s a solid puck handler, but again, a lot of those plays looked easy for him against smaller, inferior competition. 

He plays with a long stick which enables him to be disruptive while getting that stick into a lot of passing lanes and using his reach effectively on the backcheck. 

As the best player on the ice, he probably tries to do too much, but he doesn’t back down and he’s very assertive. There doesn’t appear to be much hesitation in his game. It’s obvious McBain has the frame and the tools to be a future NHL player. 

Fit with Flyers
Interestingly, McBain knows what it’s like to play with the Flyers crest on his sweater. Before joining the Toronto Junior Canadiens, McBain was a member of the Don Mills Flyers minor-midget AAA team in Canada. 

McBain is a player the Flyers can snag with their second-round selection (50th overall). I just don’t project him going higher considering he has never played major junior hockey.

If you look within the farm system, the Flyers don’t have very many big body centers within the organization and McBain could certainly help fill that void. However, he’s also the type of big body player that could effectively transition to left wing if he can’t handle the responsibilities of playing down the middle.

If McBain can successfully make the jump to college hockey, the Flyers could have a second-round pick with first-round talent.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Ryan Merkley 

• Profile: Dominik Bokk

• Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtsov

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

This is a peculiar time for Ron Hextall.

In one facet, it's his time, precious for a build-from-within disciple who must feel like a kid on Christmas when the NHL draft arrives.

Then again, it's a weird time. Shortly after the Flyers' general manager unwraps his gifts and adds them to the toy bin, NHL free agency hits. Not a time when Hextall likes to play. Quickly, Christmas turns into the first day of school.

It's that time of year again for Hextall. The question is, have the times changed for the GM?

With the Flyers entering Year 4 under Dave Hakstol and looking to take the next step forward, some wonder if Hextall is ready to make free agency his new time. After all, much of the organization's youth is here and contributing, the core isn't getting any younger and the Flyers have more financial wiggle room — thanks to Hextall — with $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

But if Hextall's vision was ever in danger of shifting, an expansion team's marvelous story lent credence to his plan, reinforcing the belief in the way he operates and constructs his own hockey team.

When asked Thursday about the constant chatter regarding his core's clock and the team's youthfulness catching up to it, Hextall spoke with conviction and at length.

"They might have different roles; you almost might not depend on them quite as much because your younger guys are coming up and taking a bigger piece of the pie," Hextall said. "So all of a sudden you don't need one guy scoring 85 points, he can score 75 points or 70 points because we've got these kids coming up that are scoring more and more. 

"That's how you build a team. You don't build a team by having three top players and they go out every power play and they win you games. It's just not the way it works. You saw — Vegas is a good example. They were the best team in the league. Not the best talent, they were the best team. Teams still win. Teams still win. And that's what we've got to continue to build."

So if you were hoping Hextall was tinkering with the thought of making a free-agent splash, think again. He will stick to his guns and always has, constantly stressing the importance of never deviating from the course set at the journey's start.

None of which is to think Hextall won't utilize free agency to improve. He will make additions strategically and judiciously, but doling out money and years to a stud won't happen.

And the moment Hextall reaffirmed his M.O., the pressure picked up.

On all levels.

On Hextall's faith in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and the mainstays delivering star-like production.

On the young foundation pieces taking heftier strides to lighten the loads for the veterans.

On the scouting and development personnel finding and molding game-changing talent.

And on the confluence of Hextall's motives and ultimate goal.

"We are still the ultimate team sport and I think Vegas proved that to all of us this year. The more we move along here, the more society, pro sports seem to put a spotlight on a star, and that's fine, but that star has got to have his teammates in our sport or you're not going to win," Hextall said. "You look at Washington, they had a lot of really good players in the playoffs. Devante Smith-Pelly. Do they win without Devante Smith-Pelly? A couple guys get all the credit but look what this guy did. We are still the ultimate team sport, we really are."

The ultimate test will be the Flyers proving it themselves.

More on the Flyers