Philippe Myers could determine if Flyers bring in defensive help

Philippe Myers could determine if Flyers bring in defensive help

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ron Hextall is taking inventory, and at the same time, perhaps paying even closer attention to the developments at Flyers rookie camp.

The most recent lower-body injury to Andrew MacDonald and his six-week recovery has forced the general manager to see where he goes from here to ensure the Flyers have the necessary depth at defense to begin the season.

“It tears into your depth a little bit, but it’s not long term,” Hextall said Monday of MacDonald’s injury. “One of those things that if you could add the right guy for the right price and everything else. All of a sudden you get down the road, you get a numbers problem. It’s a bit of a tricky situation. We’ll certainly monitor what’s out there and if something is going to make us better, we’ll look to do it.”

By bringing in an outsider on a PTO, the Flyers might look at a veteran such as 34-year-old Paul Martin with nearly 1,000 games of regular-season and playoff experience, or they could lean toward a younger player such as 28-year-old Luca Sbisa, who the organization is familiar with having drafted him 19th overall in 2008. 

“Two years ago, we’d be looking to add a body right now,” Hextall said. “Now, we’ll see where things go, what’s available, what the kids do and make decisions at the appropriate time.”

Over the summer the Flyers replaced free agent Brandon Manning with Christian Folin on a one-year, $800,000 contract, primarily as a depth defenseman. However, Hextall didn’t feel the need to make any additional moves. 

Cap space isn’t an issue as the Flyers sit approximately $10 million below the ceiling. Hextall’s bigger concern is adding another SPC (standard player contract) in which the limit is 50 and the organization currently has 48 players under contract, a number that includes entry-level deals as well as the players with the Phantoms.  

As for the kids, the Flyers opened rookie camp Monday morning with all eyes on right-handed defenseman Philippe Myers, currently the No. 1-rated blue-line prospect in the organization. The 21-year-old just completed his first season with the Phantoms while logging some heavy minutes alongside Travis Sanheim in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He battled a groin injury in the first half of the season before eventually hitting his stride in January.

“Obviously it’s an opportunity. There’s a spot open but that doesn’t mean anything,” Myers said. “By all means, I still have to work my butt off and try to earn that spot and for now that’s the goal.

“I covered a lot of ground with my game last year. I’m really excited coming into camp. I feel more confident. Last [season], I got a lot of experience in the playoffs, played a five-overtime game and that was huge. I’m going to take all that experience and bring it into camp with me.” 

A six-week timetable would have MacDonald missing the first seven to eight games of the regular season, which would also span the first six games of the AHL season. Part of Hextall’s decision is how much does he want to utilize Myers as the Flyers' seventh defenseman as opposed to logging in upwards of 25 minutes with the Phantoms.

“I don’t like young players to not play or typically be in another lineup,” Hextall said. “As an unwritten rule, you like a young player playing a decent chunk and getting better. We’ll see how it goes.” 

One option would be to reward Myers with a roster spot on opening night for a solid training camp and preseason and have him accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Colorado to begin the season.

From there, the Flyers could lean on a more veteran defenseman in T.J. Brennan or 24-year-old Reece Willcox as backup depth while Myers continues his development in Lehigh Valley.

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Flyers Talk podcast: Nolan Patrick, Shayne Gostisbehere updates

Flyers Talk podcast: Nolan Patrick, Shayne Gostisbehere updates

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall discuss all the buzz around the team's training camp roster and round-robin decisions.

From Nolan Patrick's status to another tough break for Shayne Gostisbehere, let's dive in:

1:15 — The Flyers are energized

2:25 — What to make of Patrick's situation

6:23 — Gostisbehere has another procedure on other knee

9:40 — How does Gostisbehere's status impact lineup decisions?

15:25 — Mark Friedman news the latest on the Flyers' position of strength

17:00 — When/will we see Egor Zamula?

21:25 — The Flyers' round-robin strategy

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What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

These are different times; or the new norm as many like to call it.

Everyone is tasked with adjusting to these times. For me, on Monday, July 13, I was tasked with my own adjustments ... in order to watch and report on hockey. Suffice it to say, for me, life — and my simple adjustments, considering all things — could be much worse. I was happy to return to Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days.

The Flyers were back to work at their practice facility with the opening of training camp in preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Monday, July 13, was different — and that's OK. I'm going to enjoy as we adjust.

Here was a different day at Flyers practice (with plenty of hand sanitizer and wearing my mask):

Checking in

I arrived to the facility at 9:23 a.m. and hung tight in my air-conditioned car. Not too bad, right?

Gritty was probably back inside on the elliptical and hitting the bench press. Respect the grind.

Typically, I would walk in through the front doors of Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at my own leisure, head upstairs, get situated and prepare for the day at hand.

On Monday, though, media members permitted back to the facility had to enter between 10-10:30 a.m. for a temperature and symptom check. Wearing a mask (as all were in the facility), I passed my temperature check, filled out a form answering symptom questions, and was on my way upstairs.

Watching practice

There is a ton of space in the common area upstairs. Instead of all reporters cozying up in the more confined media room on that level, the Flyers and Skate Zone set up separate workstations for each writer in the common area with proper social distance.

Very safe and very nice of them.

At one point, I think I nearly drank my coffee through my mask; we made it work.

But I digress.

When the morning and afternoon practices were held, we could stand and watch from the media room, which has windows that overlook the ice. We were asked to maintain social distance when doing so ... no biggie at all. When practices wrapped up (or whenever we needed to), we could head back to our individual and assigned workstations.

During development or training camps, entering the rink area and watching along the boards is an awesome luxury. It provides a terrific vantage point to shoot video, take notes, snap pictures, analyze drills and gain a greater insight of the competition.

Currently, no media members are allowed to enter either of the two practice rinks and understandably so. Not the end of the world as we can still observe from upstairs with a great view.

Good to see faces, even on video

Normally with practice, whenever the first skater heads off the ice following a practice, we all scurry downstairs and toward the Flyers' dressing room for access to interview players and head coach Alain Vigneault.

Conversing with players in person and 1-on-1 is what I've missed greatly during the coronavirus pandemic. Building relationships and telling stories are what make our jobs special. Access to a locker room is so beneficial because it offers you an emotional sense for the story, allows you to see and feel beyond the score of a game and what happened on the ice.

Right now, having close interactions in media scrums or tight quarters is not feasible or logical. But it's still great to see faces of colleagues or Flyers personnel from a distance or via video.

From our workstations using Webex, we were able to interview Vigneault, general manager Chuck Fletcher and players Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny.

Raising your hand virtually ain't so bad. It's like a supremely organized way to work in your question. And everyone could hear us through our masks.

Stick taps to all those involved

So many deserve a ton of credit for creating a safe environment in uncharted waters.

Three folks who are always helping and have made these waters as smooth as possible for us media: Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill, director of public relations Joe Siville and manager of broadcasting and media services Brian Smith.

Following the final interview around 3:30 p.m., it was time to pack up and hit the road. We usually can stay as long as we'd like to write and work but the Flyers have asked media members to exit the premises approximately 15 minutes after the last virtual press conference. Again, completely understandable.

I've always liked staying at the facility to work. It's pretty quiet and there's a rink. Then I can drive home at a calmer hour.

But these are different times and we all need to adjust. Like a hockey team, everyone plays a part.

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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