Flyers

TJ Brennan one step closer to realizing childhood dream with Flyers

TJ Brennan one step closer to realizing childhood dream with Flyers

EDMONTON, Alberta — South Jersey’s TJ Brennan is as close as he’s ever been to realizing his childhood dream.

The Moorestown, New Jersey, native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, and refined his game as a teenager with the Little Flyers, joined the 23-man roster Wednesday for the first time since signing a two-year contract in the summer of 2016 (see story).

Brennan was awoken out of bed by Phantoms coach Scott Gordon early Wednesday morning. Gordon informed Brennan that he was called up to join the Flyers. Brennan gathered his gear and rushed to the airport, finally arriving in Edmonton around 2:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. EST).

With little time for sleep, Brennan was still jacked when he hit the ice for the morning skate that he snapped his stick on the first slap shot he took.

"If I'm being honest," Brennan said, "personally, I just try and keep faith. There’s a young kid inside me that has a dream and I still follow that and stay true to that. Maybe as you get older, that window shuts a little more, and sometimes that sounds negative or harsh, but it is a reality.

"With something like this happening, you just try and enjoy it as much as you can and take advantage of any opportunity and see what happens.”

Getting on a roll
It's imperative for the Flyers to string together some victories as they attempt to work their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, currently eight points back of the Penguins for the second wild-card spot.

After finally erasing a 10-game losing streak Monday in Calgary, the Flyers now must attempt to carry that momentum over and turn in a similar performance Wednesday in Edmonton.

So far, they’ve been unable to get on an extended roll.

"I think we've felt that way over a good stretch here," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "and obviously we've got some ground to make up to scratch and claw our way back into it. I don't think things really change.

"We had a good result [Monday] night. The group in the locker room has had a real good mindset. They're on the same page and they're together, so none of that has to change. Our reality is we’ve given up a lot of ground so we’ve got to scratch and claw in the present here to do as well as we can to gain points.”

The Flyers, in games following a win, are currently 1-5-2 and have strung together back-to-back victories just once this season — beating the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season in mid-October.

Clean-shaven Jake
Jakub Voracek rolled into Rogers Place Wednesday afternoon and was nearly unrecognizable, having completely removed his trademark red beard he’s been sporting for the past few years.

"No, didn't know who the hell it was," Hakstol said jokingly. "You don't see it too often. It's a different look for him and he's coming off a heck of a game in Calgary."

It had nothing to do with the 10-game losing streak, Voracek said.

"I just woke up around 8 o'clock and had some time because of the time change a little bit," Voracek said, "and just said, 'F--- it' and shaved."

The biggest adjustment for Voracek isn't the five years younger he looks with the beard gone, but when he straps on his helmet.

“Usually my beard is touching my chin strap, and now there’s this much room,” Voracek said, holding out two fingers roughly several inches apart. “It’s crazy.”

A different shade of Maroon
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall once said the organization needs to hit a home run with one of its late-round draft picks. Perhaps 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom will round into that type of player, but watching Edmonton power forward Patrick Maroon is a reminder of what could have been.

The Flyers, then with Paul Holmgren as GM, drafted Maroon in the sixth round (161st overall) in the 2007 draft. While Maroon brought a unique package of skill for his size (6-foot-3, 227 pounds), his lack of conditioning was a concern for teams who passed up on him during the early rounds and his lack of maturity forced the Flyers to move him to another organization.

Less than a month after Maroon had an incident that was considered "conduct detrimental to the team," Holmgren traded the winger as part of a four-player swap to the Anaheim Ducks in November 2010.

“I know me and Paul had a little falling out,” Maroon said. “We see each other and I thank him all the time. Paul’s a really good guy and he treated me well. I wish I could turn back the time in my third year when they sent me home.

“As a player that’s growing and maturing as a person, you learn how to do the right things, you learn how to take care of yourself. Without the Flyers' organization, I don’t think I’d be here in this locker room right now. They drafted me and gave me a chance to live my dream and play in the National Hockey League and the AHL.”

Maroon scored the Oilers' only goal Oct. 21 in Edmonton's 2-1 loss to the Flyers, and he's coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 27 goals in 2016-17. However, it was two years ago, at the age of 27, Maroon finally had that light-switch moment.

“The summer I got traded to Edmonton, they gave me an ultimatum: ‘Do you want to stay in the league or do you want to commit yourself to this team and this organization?'" Maroon said. "'You can be a really good player. We’ll give you an opportunity to play with Connor McDavid. We believe you can be a really good guy, a really good depth guy for this organization.’

“A light switch hit where my time’s come to an end basically, so I’ve had to dedicate myself to nutrition and cardio. It was more getting in shape and my anaerobics. I’m 30 in April, so I’m not young anymore. The light switch hit that I want to play a couple more years in this league.”

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Scott Laughton.

Destra

Laughton is an under-the-radar player that the Flyers are lucky to have. While he did miss a handful of games in the early weeks of the 2019-20 season due to a broken finger, he remained a vital asset upon returning. 

Through 49 games, Laughton tallied 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The 13 goals were a career best and considering he missed 20 games and there were still 13 left to play, chances are, he would’ve continued adding on to that. 

There has been continuous growth in Laughton’s play over the past three seasons — with his puck handling, work in the neutral zone, and work on the penalty kill — his speciality. The Flyers have truly struck gold in the amount of depth they have on the roster and if Laughton continues to progress in the coming years, he’ll be the core of it all. 

I’ll give Laughton an A — overall, a great season. 

Emmer

Laughton had one of his best seasons in the Flyers uniform.

A guy that can play center and wing, he was a major key to the improved depth. In 49 games, he set personal milestones, scoring a career-high 13 goals and recording a career-high plus-13.

What needs to be recognized is the way he bounced back from adversity this season. Despite suffering 2 separate injuries, the 26-year-old continued to remain a solid role player for the Flyers, moving up and down the lineup when needed and stepping up in a major way on the Flyers improved penalty kill — where he recorded over 83 minutes of ice time. Some more point production could have been expected out of the Flyers 2012 first-round pick, but he certainly improved in his role this season.

Laughton gets a B+.

Fordyce 

There are a number of reasons why Laughton deserves this grade, but I’ll start with the most obvious. Despite multiple injuries this season, Laughton was still able to post a career high 13 goals in 49 games. Even more impressive is that Laughton did this all while playing different places up and down the Flyers lineup.

Laughton has become a Swiss army knife for the Flyers, playing wherever he is needed and doing so admirably. On any given night, Laughton can be a top 6 forward but doesn’t get down on nights when he plays lower in the lineup. Not only that but Laughton has an uncanny ability to elevate the play of others when playing alongside them. Laughton has been one of the most consistent players in the Flyers lineup and has proven that again this season posting a +13 rating. When No. 21 is in the lineup, you always know what you’re going to get. 

Laughton gets an A.

Hall

Laughton has been one of the Flyers' most consistent forwards over the past two seasons.

He's always skating hard, always forechecking, always killing penalties and he's got some offensive strengths, to boot.

After putting up career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51) in 2018-19, Laughton topped his personal best in markers by scoring 13 despite playing 33 fewer games this season. The 26-year-old, who has played center and winger for the Flyers, was also a career-best plus-13.

Laughton dealt with two unfortunate injuries (broken right index finger, groin), missing 20 of the Flyers' 69 games, so let's go with a real solid B+ for the underrated forward who made up for lost time.

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Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

At the beginning of Flyers training camp in September, Kevin Hayes said with a slight smile:

“I think the fans should be excited — I think they're excited, some of them might not be too excited — but I feel great, this is the best I've ever felt and probably the most in shape, most excited I've ever been in my hockey career."

With time, fans have gotten to know Hayes — the player and person.

And they've taken a liking to him.

Further proof of that came Monday as Hayes was named the recipient of the Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award, which is given to the Flyer who demonstrates the most "heart,” an honor voted on by members of the Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club. The club will make a $1,000 donation to a charity of Hayes’ choosing.

“I’m humbled that the fan club chose me to receive this award, especially considering all of our success has come from an entire team effort and the willingness to give everything we have to win,” Hayes said in a statement released by the Flyers. "This being my first year, I felt right at home from Day 1. I love this team, organization, fan base and city. It’s hard not to love playing at the Wells Fargo Center every night in front of the best fans in the league.”

With a mixture of lightheartedness and leadership, Hayes has won over his new teammates and fans during the first season of his seven-year, $50 million contract. At first, Hayes' style of play and past offensive production didn't scream excitement for fans when the 6-foot-5 center was acquired and signed in June 2019. However, Hayes provides winning qualities that don't always pop out at you — puck protection, disruptive size, defensive abilities and prowess on the penalty kill.

He has made those strengths clear in Year 1 with the Flyers. He was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) before the coronavirus outbreak cut the 2019-20 regular season short.

“I think at the beginning, with the media and the fans, when you sign that deal, you want to come in and be on everybody’s good graces right away,” Hayes said in November. “When you’re not putting up points, it’s easy to think you’re not playing great hockey.”

Flyers fans are now on board with Hayes' hockey and heart.

The Flyers are handing out their annual team awards throughout this week. Below is the schedule:


Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

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