Flyers

Why Jordan Weal is a likely scratch for Flyers' season opener

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Why Jordan Weal is a likely scratch for Flyers' season opener

LAS VEGAS — No matter how the names may have been arranged when Flyers camp started, the third line center position was never Jordan Weal’s to lose. 

“I don’t think he was penciled in,” general manager Ron Hextall said, “He had a chance to earn that spot. Has he had a great camp? No. I wouldn’t say that, but he showed enough of his cleverness and his moxie with the puck, but hasn’t quite executed to the level he’s capable of.”

“Vorobyev has been the best player in that position. It’s as simple as that.”

Apparently, Weal’s level is now several notches from earning a spot among the top 12 forwards on the team. After Wednesday’s practice, Weal appears to be the odd man out, along with Dale Weise, when the Flyers drop the puck Thursday in their season opener.

Regardless of Hextall’s assessment, Weal stood by his preseason work.

“Nothing more,” Weal said when asked what he could have done differently. “I think I’m doing really good and playing well. I just got to bide my time and not worry about the lineup they got out here.”

It certainly doesn’t help Weal’s cause that he’s not part of the team’s penalty kill pairings either, which may be the primary reason why Jori Lehtera will handle the fourth-line center position over Weal, at least to start the season. 

“He’s a responsible player,” Hextall said of Lehtera, “There’s a fit there. I see Jordan as more of a top-nine guy. Doesn’t mean he can’t play an 8-minute role, but Jori in a small role, he proved last year he can do a good job.”

Picking up Pickard

Goaltender Calvin Pickard has not joined the organization yet.

Claimed off waivers Tuesday from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pickard is dealing with immigration and customs issues, which can be a hangup of claiming a player off a Canadian team. 

Hextall believes the problem should be resolved soon, but injuries to Alex Lyon and Michal Neuvirth forced the general manager to look elsewhere. 

“I don’t know how this is going to shake out. I truly don’t know,” Hextal said. “We felt good about grabbing Calvin.” 

Hextall’s history with Pickard goes back to selecting the goaltender for Team Canada at the 2017 World Championships when Hextall served as GM of that team as well. 

The Flyers don’t anticipate Pickard joining the team prior to the game in Vegas, but he should be available against his former team, the Avalanche, when the Flyers play in Denver Saturday night. 

A less-than-ideal situation, there’s a solid chance the Flyers will carry three goaltenders as Pickard has to be on the team’s roster for the first 10 games or 30 days of the season, and with that, a chance that Anthony Stolarz could be placed on waivers.

“We’ll cross that bridge,” said Hextall. “You can’t sit and not make a move because you’re worried about guys getting picked up. If you believe it’s the right move, you do it.”  

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Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

You can never have enough competition.

There will be plenty of it when training camp rolls around in September as the Flyers have a third-line job opening on the wing.

General manager Chuck Fletcher added a candidate Wednesday by signing forward Chris Stewart to an NHL pro tryout for camp.

Stewart, 31, was a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Avalanche and has played 652 career NHL games between six teams. His best season came as a 22-year-old with the Avalanche in 2009-10, when he scored 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists) over 77 games. Last season, he played in the EIHL for the Nottingham Panthers, scoring 13 points (six goals, seven assists) through 23 games.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound winger has ties to the Flyers' GM. He played parts of three seasons for Fletcher's Wild from 2014 to 2018, putting up 25 goals, 20 assists and a plus-6 rating in 146 games.

The Flyers like their options for the third-line winger vacancy. The names include Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Andy Andreoff and Kurtis Gabriel.

Farabee and Frost have drawn a lot of attention as young first-round draft picks coming off big seasons with Boston University (see story) and the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (see story), respectively. Rubtsov is an underrated option given his size, advanced game and positional versatility. Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 winger who scored 50 goals last season with the OHL's Guelph Storm, while Vorobyev saw time with the Flyers in 2018-19.

"It's more than Farabee and Frost," Fletcher said July 1. "I think Rubtsov had a tremendous prospect camp here. Ratcliffe is a quality young player. Vorobyev is a young man that we feel is going to come back next year a little bit stronger.

"There are several players down there that can play games, never mind Andreoff, who's a player that I think will make a very strong push to make our team this season. Kurtis Gabriel is a player that's played games in the NHL the past few seasons. We have a lot of options. That's what training camp is for — it's an opportunity for players to come in and show that they belong. It should be an exciting camp."

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Flyers mascot Gritty works on his dad bod at Planet Fitness

Flyers mascot Gritty works on his dad bod at Planet Fitness

Did you think Gritty was going to be satisfied with winning the NHL Fan Choice Awards honor for best mascot?

Think again.

The guy is not resting on his laurels this summer. He's training hard for 2019-20. He was seen working up a sweat Tuesday at the Planet Fitness on Christopher Columbus Boulevard.


(Picture courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia's Todd Berman)

Rumor has it Gritty is working on his summer abs.

Or maybe not.

Regardless, the orange fella knows how to stay in shape. He's a preparation junkie, a true gym (and rink) rat. Complacency is not in Gritty's vocabulary.

He's also not breaking glass and scaring kids, so that's a positive.

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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