Flyers

Have Flyers found late-round gem they covet in Wyatt Kalynuk?

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Christina Daly/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Have Flyers found late-round gem they covet in Wyatt Kalynuk?

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall talks about it all the time leading up to the NHL draft.

While everyone focuses on the first round, Hextall places equal emphasis on the mid-to-late rounds. Draft picks are lottery tickets and the later they are, the odds of hitting are longer.

Just before last month’s draft, Hextall again stressed how “friggin’ important” seventh-round draft picks are in constructing hockey teams, and then one turned heads at development camp.

“Wyatt Kalynuk, you guys probably don’t know much about him,” Hextall said. “He’s a smooth-skating defenseman at Wisconsin. He’s a late-round pick and he’s taken a step. You watch the way he skates, the way he reads the game, the way he passes, [it’s impressive].”

Kalynuk was the 196th overall pick in the 2017 draft or the 10th selection of the seventh round. He went to the University of Wisconsin but took an unorthodox path to the NCAA.

Born in Virden, Manitoba, Kalynuk didn’t take the road more often traveled by Canadian hockey players. Instead of playing in the CHL, Kalynuk opted for the USHL and eventually, college.

“When I was 16, I had the option to go to the Western Hockey League,” Kalynuk said recently. “But at that time, I was too small. I knew I needed more time to develop, so I played a year of junior hockey at 16 in Manitoba and then I moved down to the UHSL when I was 17.

“The whole idea was to give myself more time to develop. For me, I developed a little later than some guys. I didn’t really need to prove myself, I just had an opportunity to play a big role.”

During his freshman season at Wisconsin, Kalynuk went from a seventh-round pick to an intriguing prospect worth paying attention to as he progresses through Division I hockey.

Kalynuk played all 37 games for the Badgers and led the team with 22 assists. He became the first Wisconsin blueliner to score 25 or more points in their first season since Ulvis Katlaps posted 35 points in 1992-93. His 25 points were fourth on the Badgers and second among freshmen defensemen in the Big Ten. He was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and shared the Mark Johnson Rookie of the Year award with Wisconsin forward Linus Weissbach.

The Badgers finished sixth in the Big Ten during the 2017-18 season and lost to the University of Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. But Kalynuk was certainly a bright spot.

“I thought I had a decent year,” Kalynuk said. “I think coming in, I had pretty high expectations for myself. I knew bad things were going to happen, but when they did, I just tried to brush them off and keep moving forward. … I just tried to take it all in stride.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I wouldn’t say I was expecting to do that well either. I just tried to do my best. I got a good opportunity when I got there and did my best to take advantage.”

What drew Kalynuk to Wisconsin over other programs was equal part coaching staff and opportunity to play, but the lefty defenseman did suggest the Badgers’ history was a factor too.

With Tony Granato as the head coach — Granato coached Team USA during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics — and Mark Osiecki as the defensive coach, Kalynuk wasn’t as drawn to the Badgers’ style of play than he was the program’s ability to churn out NHL players.

“Mark Osiecki is the defensive coach there, he’s sent a lot of guys to the NHL,” Kalynuk said. “He’s really good at what he does. Him along with Tony Granato … if you look around college hockey, you can’t get much better than that. They’re pretty good coaches, to say the least.”

Osiecki served as an assistant coach at Wisconsin from 2004 through 2010 before he got his first college head coaching gig at Ohio State. He returned the Badgers’ staff in 2016.

Throughout his first stint coaching at his alma mater, Osiecki built his reputation of developing defensemen. On the 2010 national title team alone, the Badgers had Ryan McDonagh, Justin Schultz, Jake Gardiner, Brendan Smith, Cody Goloubef and John Ramage. Other NHLers to play for Osiecki at Wisconsin include Tom Gilbert, Davis Drewiske and Jamie McBain.

“He takes the time,” Kalynuk said of Osiecki. “We go out early almost every practice 20 minutes before everyone else. He just loves doing it. He focuses on a lot of little details that maybe other coaches wouldn’t, so I think he just loves it. That’s probably why he’s so good at it. I’ve never played for a coach who loves coaching as much as he does.”

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After shutout to Devils, Flyers own worst enemy offensively

After shutout to Devils, Flyers own worst enemy offensively

BOX SCORE

It’s hard to gauge what exactly has dipped faster over the past few days.

The outside thermometer or the Flyers' offense, and good luck predicting when either will turn frigid at a moment’s notice.

For the orange and black, the goal-scoring cold spell blanketed the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday and increased in intensity during Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Devils (see observations).  

Hard to make sense coming from a Devils team that had the NHL’s worst road record at 1-7-0, and a defense ranked 29th in goals allowed.

“No, I didn’t see frustration,” Dave Hakstol said. “We competed our tails off tonight. It was a tight hockey game, but we created enough and then some to score goals in this hockey game.”

The return of James van Riemsdyk was expected to inject even more offense into a team that had scored 25 goals over a six-game stretch until Tuesday rolled around. Ironically, it was JVR who actually took away a goal when he brushed into Keith Kinkaid’s glove as he glided in front of the crease just as Shayne Gostisbehere’s power-play shot had found its way into the back of the net.

“The explanation they gave me was pretty funny actually,” van Riemsdyk said. “They said I moved my upper body to get in the way of the goalie. So, I don’t even know what that means. I thought it was outside the crease and I think it’s that grey area where some games that’s a call that maybe goes our way, but tonight, obviously it didn’t.”

Interestingly, Hakstol challenged what appeared to be a rather obvious call to only say it was a miscommunication between himself and the referee.

“It’s goalie interference, by nature I guess,” Hakstol said. “There’s grey area. With the fact that James’ glove hits his glove whether it’s outside the blue paint or where the goaltender is set up before the puck goes into the net.”

Missing the call wasn’t the issue, missing mark was more like it and the Flyers were just inches away from easily scoring three or even four goals. At final count, the Flyers had hit five different posts and perhaps the biggest absence of puck luck came when Wayne Simmonds was staring at a wide-open net to only see Kinkaid’s stick dive into the picture at just the last second.

“I’ve never seen that,” Sean Couturier said. “We had a lot of chances and open nets. The puck just didn’t want to go in tonight.”

Same can’t be said for the Flyers' anemic power play that has converted just three times over its last 43 chances. A couple of posts came during the man advantage but the sample size is now large enough to deeply question everything involved from the setup to puck movement and even shot selection. The top unit has even seen three different personnel units over the past three games.

“Power play needs to get one. It’s very frustrating right now,” Claude Giroux said. “We had some good chances, some good shots. I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to score some goals on the power play.”

One can only hope that’s the case, because if not, the Flyers may not have a snowball’s chance over the winter months.

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Flyers goalie Brian Elliott leaves Devils game with apparent injury

Flyers goalie Brian Elliott leaves Devils game with apparent injury

Updated: 11:15 p.m.

It's never easy with goalies in Philly, huh? 

Starting netminder Brian Elliott exited Thursday night's game against the Devils during the third period after allowing a wraparound goal to Kyle Palmieri with 6:08 left in regulation at the Wells Fargo Center.

Elliott appeared to make a split attempt trying to cover the opposite post but was too late as the Devils took a 2-0 lead. Elliott was slow to get up and then departed as Calvin Pickard took over in net. The Flyers lost, 3-0, and will have an update Friday on Elliott's status.

"Let's wait until [Friday] and see what the results are," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Whoever is available, absolutely, we're going to be back at it."

The 33-year-old Elliott had been playing well over his previous eight games, going 5-3-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

"He's a big part of our team, veteran goalie, he’s looking sharp lately, too," Sean Couturier said. "Hopefully it's not too bad."

However, Flyers goalies entered Thursday with an NHL-worst save percentage of .885.

Elliott, who is in the final year of a two-year contract, missed significant time last season as he had to undergo core muscle surgery on Feb. 13.

"We don't know the extent of anything yet," Andrew MacDonald said, "but it's the next-man-up mentality everyone has."

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