Flyers

Why Michal Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

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Why Michal Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

Michal Neuvirth, cloaked in all black with his hat backward, paused for a moment. He wasn’t sure if he was permitted to talk about what was wrong with his own body.

“I don’t know if I am allowed to tell you,” Neuvirth said last week.

The season is over and whatever in-season mandate the Flyers have about never disclosing to the public precisely what’s wrong with their players no longer applies. No more “upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries that lead to speculation and misinformation.

“My hips,” Neuvirth said.

With that, Neuvirth outlined his offseason game plan. He will have arthroscopic surgery on both hips. He’s staying in Philadelphia and then heading to Kelowna, British Columbia, for 10 weeks for training.

Then comes the most significant change, which, considering the player, might not be that big after all. Neuvirth will be switching trainers for the third straight year.

“It’s just not working out for me,” he said. “I know I can play in this league. I know I can be the difference maker. I just got to find a way to stay healthy.”

Neuvirth now turns to sports performance trainer Adam Francilia, who has worked with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, as perhaps his last resort.

Injuries have plagued Neuvirth throughout his career, especially with the Flyers. Neuvirth, in each of his three seasons in Philly, has been a constant on the upper/lower body report, and his games played have decreased each season, from 32 in 2015-16 to 28 in 2016-17 and 22 this year.

At some point, though, Neuvirth will have to stay healthy. He’s making the necessary adjustments this offseason, but on his third trainer in three years, the question will soon no longer be asked. If injuries continue to haunt him, he’ll no longer be trusted, in Philly or elsewhere. A reputation is hard to shake, and this one’s stapled to his name.

“It’s tough for me to say,” Jake Voracek said, adding he’s been lucky to avoid major injuries. “Everybody knows their body. If you are 30-years-old, you should know what to do to get better.”

Statistically speaking, Neuvirth was far better in 2017-18. After finishing 2016-17 with the worst save percentage among qualified goalies in the NHL, Neuvirth bounced back for a .915 clip.

Neuvirth started 18 games — back-to-back twice, and four straight games in February after Brian Elliott required core-muscle surgery. In that fourth start in February, Neuvirth suffered another “lower-body” injury. Then, the Flyers were forced to trade for Petr Mrazek, which brings us to the elephant in the room. Are they still comfortable with their tandem?

“I’m comfortable where we are as an organization with our goaltending,” Ron Hextall said. “I think Neuvy knows where he is at in terms of his career. He needs to have a big year next year. He needs to find a way to stay healthy. We fully support what he’s doing.”

Reading between the lines, Neuvirth’s spot next season isn’t a lock despite being under contract. Hextall views goaltending as tandems and gave a ringing endorsement for Elliott. To be fair, he said Neuvirth is a good part of a tandem too. But Hextall also sounded like he wanted to see a progress report on Neuvirth’s training program before making a decision.

Both Elliott and Neuvirth enter 2018-19 in the final year of their contracts as the Flyers wait for their kids to graduate. One can only hear Carter Hart is coming before it gets old, but the 19-year-old turns pro next season.

As for Neuvirth, he has to find a way to shed the stature as the guy who always gets injured.

“I can’t change the history. I can only change the future,” Neuvirth said. “I will do whatever it takes to stay healthy and help my team on a regular basis.”

His NHL career hinges on it.

2019 Flyers development camp: Roster, schedule and more

2019 Flyers development camp: Roster, schedule and more

The future will be prevalent this week at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, starting Tuesday through Saturday as the team holds its annual development camp.

Some of the organization's brightest and newest prospects will be in attendance, learning the fine details of how to be a pro with various drills and off-ice training.

Let's get you set for the 2019 edition with five things to know.

1. Development, not evaluation

It's time for the annual reminder: Flyers development camp is about providing the team's prospects with proper training habits — on and off the ice — to grow as players. The five-day session is not about Flyers coaches and officials analyzing the prospects for the purpose of evaluation and future roster construction.

The whole premise of camp is for it to be educational.

2. Keep your eyes peeled

While the Flyers won't be evaluating, there will be plenty to watch for fans. With each development camp, there is always a ton of talent on the ice with many future pros and some prospects on the NHL doorstep.

For example, last summer's development camp featured Carter Hart, Philippe Myers, Mikhail Vorobyev and Mark Friedman, all of whom played for the Flyers in 2018-19.

This year's crop of players features some of the organization's top prospects and a trio of forwards who could join the Flyers at some point in 2019-20.

3. Numbers to watch

There are two sheets of ice at Skate Zone that will oftentimes be used simultaneously throughout camp.

With 41 players listed on the camp roster, which includes newcomers to the organization, here are five players to watch:

No. 48, Morgan Frost — A can't-miss playmaking center who was ranked as the 13th-best prospect in hockey by ESPN's Chris Peters during March. Over his final two junior hockey seasons, Frost combined for 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games with the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (see story).

He'll be turning pro in 2019-20 and will be pushing for the Flyers during training camp. You'll want to keep an eye on him, especially when he's doing this:

No. 60, Joel Farabee — An advanced, quick-rising winger who needed just one year of college hockey before turning pro. Farabee, a strategic goal-scorer with a lot of skill, put up 17 goals and 36 points in 37 games with Boston University and was named the 2019 Tim Taylor Award winner for national Rookie of the Year.

"If he needs some seasoning in Lehigh, that happens with a lot of really strong prospects, but it also wouldn't surprise me when the Flyers have him in their opening night lineup next October," U.S. under-18 head coach John Wroblewski said to NBC Sports Philadelphia in late March (see story).

No. 76, Isaac Ratcliffe — Another goal-scoring winger, Ratcliffe is hard to miss, not only thanks to his 6-foot-6 frame, but also because of his superb hands and soft touch. The 2017 second-round pick scored 50 goals and 82 points in 65 regular-season games for the OHL's Guelph Storm before tacking on 30 more points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 24 playoff games (see story).

Just like Frost and Farabee, Ratcliffe is turning pro in 2019-20.

No. 45, Cam York — The Flyers' newest first-round pick, York will get his first taste of the organization. The defenseman does not lack skill or scoring ability. The Flyers watched York a lot before drafting him No. 14 overall last weekend.

"He's put up big numbers offensively," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said (see story). "He's a talented guy and projects to be a very good defenseman for a long time."

No. 54, Yegor Zamula — An under-the-radar defenseman who could have a Myers-like climb. Zamula is 6-foot-3, 176 pounds and had a promising 2018-19 season with 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) in 61 regular-season games for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. Here's how the Flyers found the undrafted product and signed him (see story).

Below is the full camp roster.


4. The schedule

The development camp is free and open to the public.

Fans can watch along the boards from certain areas or in the stands.

The 3-on-3 tournament has always been a fan-favorite event. A new wrinkle is the 5-on-5 scrimmage Saturday night, which should be fun.

Here is the full camp schedule (which is subject to change) with times. The sessions for goaltenders are 8:15-9:45 a.m. and 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:30-11:45 a.m. on Friday and 10-11:15 a.m. on Saturday.

5. The staff

The Flyers' player development coaches run camp, while general manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault will sure to be watching some of it.

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Ryan Hartman has been traded, but he might not find out for a few days

Ryan Hartman has been traded, but he might not find out for a few days

Hey Ryan, it’s Chuck, I have something very important to tell you, please give me a call back when you get a chance.

Well, that’s awkward.

After a busy offseason already, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher pulled off yet another trade today (see story) and the piece heading out of Philly may legitimately not know about the deal. Looks like, from his tweet, that Ryan Hartman is on vacation.

Don’t worry, Flyers fans are trying to help in any way they can to let him know.

If you recall, Hartman was the return for Wayne Simmonds last year before the trade deadline, so essentially, this deal for Tyler Pitlick is a straight swap with Simmer.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this, it’s pretty funny. You wonder if Hartman knew it was coming. If not, enjoy the lake and wishing you all the best next season.

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