Flyers

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brendan Warren never expected the phone call.

It was a late Friday night in mid-June. Coyotes development camp was 10 days away, so Warren had been training in preparation. The Michigan product had plans for Fourth of July, too, to follow the annual summer visit with his NHL organization.

Then his phone buzzed.

"I was shocked," he said. "It just came out of nowhere, 9:30 one night."

Warren had been traded.

"They said I'd be going to the Flyers," he said.

Arizona sent Warren and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick to the Flyers in exchange for Nick Cousins and goalie prospect Merrick Madsen. Warren, who just turned 20 years old in May and finished up his sophomore year at Michigan, had a lot change in a matter of minutes. He started texting his friends and classmates the news.

The first one to respond: Cooper Marody, Michigan teammate and Flyers prospect.

"I was actually leaving a Sam Hunt concert and I saw the text there, and I called Brendan right away and we talked for a while," Marody said. "We were both pretty pumped about it."

When Warren heard he was headed to the Flyers, Marody came right to mind. The thought of having his support in a different setting allowed for some comfort to seep in amid the emotions of being traded. Starting over — and suddenly — isn't fun, but having a friend helps.

"I was really happy," Warren said of joining Marody. "He was really excited for me.

"The more I thought about it and the more I talked to my adviser and my family, everyone said it was such a great thing for me. So I got really excited about being a part of an organization like the Flyers."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (CSNPhilly.com)

There Warren was, his nameplate above a locker at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, right next to much-anticipated No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick. This was not only development camp, but also Warren's orientation. He was meeting a whole new organization, a band of new prospects from all parts of the world.

Reassuringly, across the dressing room was a familiar face in Marody.

"I'm glad that I can be here with him and hang around him for camp," Warren said during the Flyers' July 7-12 development session.

Marody liked the company, too.

"We're excited to be here together," Marody said. "It's a little easier going to these camps knowing somebody so well like Brendan."

As 20-year-olds with a lot in common, Warren and Marody have grown close. Both are natives of Michigan and became Wolverines in 2015 — the same year they were drafted, Warren in the third round by the Coyotes, Marody in the sixth by the Flyers. The forwards made immediate impacts in their freshman seasons, as Michigan went on to win the Big Ten championship and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey championship, where it bowed out to eventual title winner North Dakota.

"They're different players, but what is unique about them, I think they have a very strong connection," Michigan assistant coach Brian Wiseman said last week in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. "They're both very likable kids, they're great teammates, they care and they work hard. I think we had them playing together, oh man, a large majority of their careers, at least their first year and well into maybe their second year. I think Cooper and Brendan might have played every game together as a freshman."

Playing exclusively on the same line, Warren and Marody jelled and left an imprint. Warren appeared in all 38 games and finished with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists), including a three-assist game against Niagara. Marody put up 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 32 games, finishing second among Michigan freshmen in scoring to only Kyle Connor, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and now Winnipeg Jet.

"Both our freshman seasons, we played together and did very well, did well for our team and developed a lot of good chemistry," Marody said, "so I think we can definitely take that here [to the Flyers]."

Last season, Michigan was hit hard by departures and suffered a down year, going 13-19-3 overall and 6-12-2 in the Big Ten. Warren collected 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 35 games, while Marody scored three of his five goals in a hat trick against rival Ohio State, but played only 18 games (15 points) because of academic ineligibility, a setback that may have resulted from a sickness.

Wiseman and the Wolverines are optimistic for 2017-18, expecting jumps from both Warren and Marody as they become upperclassmen. Wiseman, who played for Michigan and has been an assistant since 2011, said Warren was a goal scorer when recruited by the Wolverines and believes that is still coming at the college level.

"Tremendous skater, high compete level, his motor is nonstop, with the ability to score," Wiseman said. "Brendan's skating ability allows him to be effective in any type of game.

"He didn't score much in the last year and a half for us. I think there's still a goal scorer in there, I know there is a goal scorer because he's got a tremendous release and he works at it often. So we're looking for that growth in that part of his game, the offensive side of the game. … He's one of our top penalty-kill unit guys.

"Brendan Warren has invested the time to be a really good hockey player. For that, I am really encouraged what this year may hold for him."

Marody is a key cog to Michigan's power play — which was tops in the country in 2015-16 — and "leads the charge offensively," Wiseman said, as far as puck possession and playing down the middle.

"Cooper is a very smart, highly intelligent hockey player, has a gift of slowing down the game, reading situations and making high-level, executed plays," Wiseman said. 

"Some of the things he can do with the puck, engaging teammates by the way he sees the ice and distributes pucks into spaces is an exceptional skill he has."

Wiseman said Michigan saw "rapid" growth from Marody in the USHL.

"I expect that type of growth at the next stop as he makes his way through Michigan and into the pro hockey route," Wiseman said.

There's still work for both as Wolverines.

"As they move along in their careers," Wiseman said, "we have some things to improve on in their individual games."


Brendan Warren and Cooper Marody (Michigan Athletics)

Wiseman's engagement with the Flyers will probably kick up a notch.

The Flyers are in constant communication with Michigan throughout the season, tracking the development of Marody. Ann Arbor, Michigan, should be a popular destination spot for the Flyers' brass now with Warren in the fold, as well.

"They'll come up to a lot of our games, send us clips of highlights of NHL plays that we can do or work on, or just little things like that," Marody said. "Ask us how we're doing, if we need any advice or anything like that. If they come out and watch us, we'll talk to them after the game and they'll let us know how we're doing."

Both Michigan and the Flyers have a rooted interest in the players, but the end goal is the same, Wiseman said.

"What we want with Cooper and Brendan now is to be a great player for the University of Michigan and to prepare them the best we can to hopefully be a Philadelphia Flyer one day," Wiseman said. "And that's [the Flyers'] goal in place, too."

Wiseman has built a relationship with Flyers development coach John Riley, the Wolverines' primary contact during a busy season. Michigan understands the importance of preparing its student-athletes for competition presently, as well as in the future.

"Like other teams and organizations, the director of player development usually goes to us," Wiseman said. "So John Riley and I, we speak often to develop Cooper within the last two years since being drafted, some of the things that they see and acknowledge in conversations, and we have the same thing. We're around the kids more on a daily basis, so we just want to make sure we're all on the same page in this development path — that's the goal."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (Michigan Athletics/CSNPhilly.com)

Warren's first contact with the Flyers came as he was processing the news on the night of the trade. He heard from Riley and general manager Ron Hextall — a quick introduction and run-through of the protocol, and then back to work for Warren.

"Right after I got the call from Arizona that night, Mr. Hextall called me and said welcome, we're excited to have you," Warren said. "He then told me when camp was and what to expect a little bit. And then I got a call from John Riley, the player development coach, and he just kind of went over the same stuff. He said he's going to be my resource throughout the year and then said see you at camp."

So Warren scratched his Fourth of July plans and instead trained through the holiday and right up to the new date of his summer development camp.

"That's hockey, though," Marody said. "It's no problem."

"Absolutely," Warren said.

Wiseman expressed the same message. As an assistant coach at the Division I level, his players are not only student-athletes but also NHL prospects. Wiseman is involved for guidance and support in situations such as Warren's this summer.

"I wanted to let him process it, so I reached out to him the next day just to explain, 'Hey, this is what pro hockey is about — some of these things do happen,'" Wiseman said. "Because I know that he's been dialed in with the Arizona Coyotes since he was 18. This is the aspect of pro hockey that sometimes we may not like, but it's reality. But he was excited about the opportunity.

"I didn't sense any disappointment or have to pick and cheer up the kid. He understood that this is what it is and he was ready to go forward."

Did Marody give Warren a Flyers introduction?

"Not really," Marody said. "I think a lot of it speaks for itself. It's obviously a huge, big-time organization with tons of history. We both know it's a tremendous honor to be prospects here and we're just looking forward to the future."

At development camp, Warren and Marody made for obvious roommates, which was actually somewhat fresh because they don't live together at Michigan.

"We see plenty of each other, we don't need to room together," Marody said with a laugh.

The "Go Blue" boys enjoyed the experience together — and hope it's the first of more to come.

"It's like you grow together with these experiences," Warren said, "and hopefully one day we're both here playing for the Flyers.

"That's the main goal."

Taking the road from Ann Arbor to Philadelphia.

"Being here, it's very inspiring for both of us I think," Marody said. "We both believe that we can do it and that we'll be up here someday."

Wiseman sees the potential behind it all.

"There's still some growth in these two kids, but they have a tremendous foundation to be really good players," Wiseman said. "And not only for us, but I think to make the Philly people, the Flyers' organization and some of your fan support really interested in the prospects."

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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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.

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