Planes, Trains and Frozen Toilets — Goulbourne's wild journey to Flyers

Planes, Trains and Frozen Toilets — Goulbourne's wild journey to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — New Flyers forward Tyrell Goulbourne had to overcome an unusual obstacle on his way to the NHL — a frozen toilet.

Promoted from Lehigh Valley earlier this week, Goulborune was supposed to join the Flyers in time for their tilt with the Islanders on Thursday, but the weather had other plans. The 23-year-old’s flight was cancelled because of the malfunctioning bathroom in coach, setting off a chain reaction that ultimately resulted in his missing the contest.

“I think I missed four flights,” Goulbourne said. “Four of them were pushed back. I had to clear customs, go back in, clear it again. It was miserable.”

Goulbourne was on a bus to Toronto for a game with the Phantoms when the call-up came, and tried to quick catch a plane back to Philadelphia for his NHL debut. After spending about 24 hours on the road, he eventually joined the Flyers for practice on Friday.

“It’s kind of the old 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' it sounds like for him,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said, referring to the 1987 movie, “but he made it in last night. It’s good to have him here at practice.”

It was worth it, said Goulbourne, who needed 24 hours to travel all of 350 miles — a roughly one-and-a-half hour flight that he compared to taking a trip to Europe.

“I can relax now a little bit,” Goulbourne said. “It’s tough that I couldn’t play (Thursday), but I’m here now.”

Goulbourne will likely make his debut on Saturday when the Flyers host the Blues, skating on the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Jori Lehtera.

A third-round draft pick by the Flyers in 2013, Goulbourne became a fixture on Lehigh Valley’s penalty kill this season. However, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound left-hander is perhaps better known for his willingness to drop the gloves during his time in the minor leagues.

“I played on the first line in junior,” Goulbourne said. “I’ve never been just a guy to go out and fight. I’ve always played the game both ways, both ends of the ice.

“Having so many fights, that’s what people say. You get that label right away. I’ve always been a guy who plays well in our defensive zone and can contribute offensively, too. But the enforcer, I’ve never really been one.”

The Flyers are hoping Goulbourne plays with the same energy at this level.

“If he’s in the lineup, he’s going to go out and do the exact same things that he’s been doing down in Lehigh Valley,” Hakstol said. “He’s been a real consistent player there. He’s been a hard-nosed, two-way forward.

“He skates really well, and from their staff there, he’s been one of their most consistent players playing that straight-line, tenacious brand of hockey.”

Goulbourne was considered an unlikely call-up. There are several more highly-touted prospects at Lehigh, including Oskar Lindblom, Danick Martel and Mike Vecchione. In fact, Goulbourne was demoted only a year ago, spending 36 games with the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate in Reading.

That’s about the time when Goulbourne realized he needed to reinvent himself if he was ever going to make it to the NHL.

“It’s all been consistency,” Goulbourne said. “My first year, I’d have a really good game, then disappear for a week. It happened last year, and starting this year, I knew I had to change. It’s the last year of my contract, and I wasn’t going in the right direction.

“I changed my whole mindset up, I’ve been consistent, and that’s exactly what they told me to do.”

His promotion is partly a matter of circumstance, too.

“There’s a lot of high-end players on our team down there,” Goulbourne said. “[Flyers general manager Ron Hextall] says we want some energy and some physical play, and I think that’s what I bring to the table.

“I just want to use my speed and get to the areas that are hard to get to.”

Still, even Goulbourne was surprised by the news.

“I was thinking, ‘Is it April or not,’” Goulbourne said. “I was excited. I’ve worked really hard this year, and it’s really nice to be up here.”

There’s another way of looking at Goulbourne getting the nod over the likes of Lindblom, Martel or Vecchione. The Flyers have had some trouble giving 60 minutes of high-end effort game in, game out this season. Adding a rookie to the mix, and particularly somebody with a lot to prove, could give the team the spark it needs.

The Flyers played with a lot of energy in a 6-4 victory over the Islanders on Thursday (see story), despite the fact that Goulbourne never made it to the arena. Yet, Hakstol insists that was a coincidence, and there is no hidden agenda behind Goulbourne’s promotion.

“I’m not looking for any messages or anything like that,” Hakstol said. “We talked to the team about being better in our own building, about getting off to a better start and sustaining that through 60 minutes.

“That’s not about one guy. It’s certainly not about one call-up. That’s about our group, and the urgency our group played with from the drop of the puck last night is what we want to look at on a nightly basis, especially in our own building.”

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development."

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

More on the Flyers

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie