Flyers

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

These are chaotic times for Alain Vigneault.

Exciting, of course, but chaotic — much different than last April and throughout the 2018-19 season when he was without a job.

"After a year off and figuring out I'll never be the golfer that I thought I would be, it's time for me to get back to work," he said Thursday with a smile.

Back into the workforce in full force.

Not only does Vigneault have a new job, he's got two of them … starting at once.

He was introduced as the Flyers' new head coach Thursday. He is also the bench boss for Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF World Championship from May 10-26.

As busy as it is, coaching in the worlds will give Vigneault a head start on getting to know two of his most important players with the Flyers: Sean Couturier and Carter Hart.

Team Canada will also provide a unique situation with plenty of Flyers ties.

The tournament will serve as a job interview of sorts for Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. The statuses of the team's assistant coaches Dillabaugh, Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Rick Wilson (defensemen) appear nebulous with a new head coach in town.

Because of his time with Hart, Dillabaugh will join Team Canada.

"Right now, we have a solid, young goaltender that all I've heard about were positive things," Vigneault said of Hart and the Flyers' situation in net. "We're going to be able to work with him at the world championships. We decided [Wednesday], with Hockey Canada, to also bring a goalie coach — we're going to bring the Flyers' goalie coach to the world championships. He's worked with Hart and he's had real good progression with him."

On Thursday, near the top of Vigneault's to-do-list was to discuss the Flyers' staff with general manager Chuck Fletcher and meet the current assistant coaches. Fletcher said: "We're going to talk a little bit more today and a little bit over the next week or two. I don't think it's going to be a rush to hire or a rush to judgment here."

Couturier will be playing for his new coach and his old coach Dave Hakstol, who is on Team Canada's staff. Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is also a part of Team Canada's management group.

Don't expect Vigneault to seek out advice from Hakstol regarding the Flyers. That would be a tad bit awkward.

"I'm going to lean on him for the tournament but I'm not going to ask Dave or Ron Hextall anything about players with the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've said to Chuck that I want to come here with everybody fresh, clean, no preconceived notion. Players are going to come and they're going to show me what they can do. 

"Those would be two great sources for me to ask, but I'd rather trust my eyes, talk to the guys, get to know them and get a personal feel for who they are, what they can do and what they can bring."

Players like Couturier, Hart and Claude Giroux shouldn't have a problem showing what they bring to the table. They're three of the Flyers' surest bets right now.

Giroux chatted with Vigneault on Thursday at Flyers Skate Zone.

"Everything I've heard about him is this passion to win," Vigneault said of the Flyers' captain.

As for Giroux on his new coach: "Very excited," he said via text message to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta. "Heard a lot of great things."

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No gutting and wishes fulfilled, Chuck Fletcher has been impressive with Flyers

No gutting and wishes fulfilled, Chuck Fletcher has been impressive with Flyers

With all of Chuck Fletcher's wheeling and dealing over the past six days, two results stand out in particular.

Firstly, the general manager has done what was asked of him. He was brought on board by president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott to make things happen now, not later. Back in late November, early December, both Holmgren and Scott believed the Flyers had all the resources to be further along in their process toward contending for a Stanley Cup.

They wanted action.

In a span of six days before the NHL entry draft has even arrived, Fletcher parted ways with Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald, added experienced veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, and signed Kevin Hayes, a top-six forward entering "the prime of his career," as the GM put it Wednesday.

Secondly, the process suffered no casualties. Fletcher didn't injudiciously disassemble the work done before him. The Flyers didn't lose a prospect from their impressive pool or sacrifice a young foundation piece to get better.

They had 10 picks in the 2019 draft and upwards of $30 million in cap space. It's been more than time to augment what's in place, so Fletcher took his resources and went to work. The Flyers lost three picks (one in 2020) and cap space.

It's how you get better.

"Speaking with the group, that's always been the intention," Fletcher said. "The past few years, the staff has worked hard to acquire as many young assets as possible and rebuild the foundation of the club. At the right time, the idea has always been to more aggressively add veteran pieces. We feel we've done that now."

Down the middle — where the Flyers wanted to be deeper and tougher to play against — the team looks much improved. From first-line center to third-line center, the Flyers boast 26-year-old Sean Couturier fresh off back-to-back 30-goal, 40-assist seasons, 27-year-old Hayes coming off a career-high 55 points split between two teams, and 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, a two-way guy only 20 years old.

On defense, the Flyers now have three righty-shot blueliners to potentially complement a trio of 22-year-old Ivan Provorov, 23-year-old Travis Sanheim and 26-year-old Shayne Gostisbehere. Niskanen is a Stanley Cup champion, Braun has played 84 playoff games and the Flyers are "bullish" on Philippe Myers, a 22-year-old who was rated as a top-50 prospect last season by NHL Network.

"When you combine our signing of [Hayes] with acquiring the two veteran right-shot defensemen that we did in the past week, we just think as a group, we're stronger, we're deeper and we filled a lot of the holes that we identified coming into the summer," Fletcher said.

On paper, it looks good — especially with how it was done.

"As importantly as anything, we've kept all of our prospects," Fletcher said. "Our staff has worked hard the last few years to acquire some top picks, some top kids, and we've been able to keep all of those assets. We're still as deep as any franchise with respect to quality and quantity of prospects, and we certainly anticipate adding to that this weekend.

"We knew we were going to have to give up some assets going forward to acquire some pieces that we felt we needed. We kept our first-round pick, which should be a great asset for our franchise — it's a strong draft and we have the 11th selection, so we anticipate drafting a very good player there. We still have two third-rounders, both of which are early in the round.

"We're a deeper group right now, a more talented group. But we have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a new coaching staff coming in and we'll have an opportunity in training camp to put the pieces together and push forward." 

Fletcher will now focus on this weekend's draft and his restricted free agents. It's only June 19, though. Don't rule out some moves ahead.

"Obviously we'll continue to speak with teams and see what opportunities may be out in the trade market," Fletcher said.

On April 18, the GM was adamant about the Flyers' picture.

"It's not like you have to gut this thing," Fletcher said. "We have cap space, we have picks.

"We're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly."

So far, the Flyers look better. It took less than a week and little was gutted.

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2019 NHL draft profile: Could Cole Caufield drop to Flyers at No. 11?

rena_laverty_usa_hockey_cole_caufield_nhl_draft.jpg
Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

2019 NHL draft profile: Could Cole Caufield drop to Flyers at No. 11?

The 2019 NHL entry draft is Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. General manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr and the Flyers hold the 11th overall pick and eight selections in total.

"This draft's a little unique," Flahr said last week. "Especially in the top 15, there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting — some power wingers, some smaller scoring wingers, some centermen, there's a number of D, a goaltender.

"We've identified probably five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the other teams in front of us will dictate that. But we're really confident we're going to get a good player."

This week, we are breaking down options for the Flyers at No. 11.

Cole Caufield

Position: Right winger
Height: 5-foot-7
Weight: 162
Shoots: Right
Team: USNTDP

Scouting report

The electric, diminutive winger has climbed draft boards after erupting for 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games this season with the U.S. national U-18 team. His 72 markers set a single-season USNTDP record, which was previously held by 2016 No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews (55).

Caufield has a big-time shot and an incredible sense for how to score.

"He's as advertised," Flahr said. "He's undersized, but he's a pure goal-scorer, he's a competitive kid. He's got a lot of the intangibles that should allow him to play as a small player. One thing he does is score and scores consistently against all competition."

The Wisconsin commit is the fourth-ranked player in the draft by TSN's Craig Button, while TSN's Bob McKenzie has Caufield at No. 9.

Fit with Flyers

It's difficult to tell when Caufield will hear his name called. His size might scare clubs and he played on a supremely talented team that could see seven prospects drafted in the first round, featuring consensus No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes.

"Some teams won't draft him because of his size and others aren't worried about it," Flahr said.

"There's a grouping of the guys, his own teammates, that could go in any range there. Would I be surprised if he's there? No. Would I be surprised if he went before us? No."

If Caufield falls to the Flyers at No. 11, he'd be a no-brainer choice. It would be difficult to find a higher-value pick at that point and the Flyers won't mind his small stature; they could use some more pure goal-scoring wingers in the system.

More on the 2019 NHL draft

• Flyers take one of draft's best D-men in this 1st-round mock

• Trading No. 11 pick? Draft dynamic? That and more here

Flyers could have shot to draft 'elite' skating, 6-foot-3 defenseman

• Flyers like 'unique' winger Boldy as option for No. 11 overall pick

• Impressive playmaking center Krebs could be there for Flyers at No. 11