Dave Hakstol: 'Not the plan right now' for Mike Vecchione to play this weekend

Dave Hakstol: 'Not the plan right now' for Mike Vecchione to play this weekend

The Flyers signed Mike Vecchione, Shayne Gostisbehere's old teammate at Union College, Friday to a one-year contract worth $925,000 (see story.)

After signing his contract, Vecchione said he gave his parents a big hug filled with tears of joy.

"It's been a long time coming, you wait your whole life for this," he said after Saturday's morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

But Vecchione won't be on the ice with his former teammate yet. The 24-year-old center hasn't skated in a week and will not be in the lineup Saturday night against the Devils (see game notes). It's unclear when he'll get into the lineup. Saturday was his first practice with the team.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Vecchione won't play Sunday against the New York Rangers, either.

"There's always a chance but that's not the plan right now," Hakstol said. "He's gotta practice, he's got to get a little bit of time in, give us an opportunity to get to know him a little bit better, give him an opportunity to get settled in a little bit."

Vecchione said he wants to be a "sponge" in the upcoming days and learn the system, talk to the coach and figure out what role he'll be playing.

Since he doesn't have a place in Philadelphia, Vecchione has been staying at Gostisbehere's spot.

When asked if he was paying rent or doing dishes to stay with Gostisbehere, he said he's thankful Ghost took him in.

"We haven't worked out the logistics of things," Vecchione said with a smirk on his face. "We'll see what happens. I'm only going to be here a couple of weeks, so I'll try to keep it clean over at his house."

Livin' on a prayer
The Flyers are hanging on by a limb in the NHL playoff race.

They currently sit six points out of the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot, and every game has turned into a must-win scenario.

But Hakstol doesn't think there's anything different about this game.

"We've been in the same mode," Hakstol said. "I think our focus is on exactly what it's been -- taking care of our own backyard, taking care of our own business, and that's what we've done. And that's the opportunity that we have again today. It's no different today than it was two days ago or a week ago."

For Hakstol's sake, he better hope his guys are in the same mode they were Thursday night when they unloaded six goals against the New York Islanders on 30 shots.

If the Flyers lose in regulation against the Devils on Saturday, the Bruins beat the Panthers and the Maple Leafs pick up at least one point against the Red Wings, the Flyers are eliminated from the playoffs.

Michal Neuvirth will get the start over Steve Mason on Saturday against the Devils. Neuvirth has better career numbers against the Devils (6-3-5, 2.23 GAA) compared to Mason's (0-9-0, 3.93 GAA) record.

But Hakstol claimed that wasn't the reason Neuvirth will be starting.

"There's a lot of factors, the biggest factor is the back to back," Hakstol said. "Neuvy has a had a great week here in terms of practice and readiness, so we felt like this is the start that Neuvy will get it and Mason will go tomorrow."

Next man up
With Matt Read out for the rest of the season with a broken right arm, Colin McDonald has been called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

At the age of 32, McDonald isn't new to the NHL by any means. He's played for four different teams in the NHL and a total of 145 games, including five with the Flyers last season.

"You're waiting a long time and you're just really excited to get this opportunity as the year goes on," McDonald said. "You kind of start doubting if you're going to get a chance and sure enough, here it is. I'm excited to go out and do that."

McDonald was also called up during last season's playoff run with the Flyers, so he knows what to expect heading into the final games of the season. In three playoff games against the Washington Capitals last season, he took four shots and had 13 hits.

"The fact that they called me up in the middle of their playoff run last year and stepped right in, I think they know I can step into a similar situation," McDonald said. "And maybe that's part of the reason why they called me up, even though I haven't been here all year, they felt confident that I'm going to be able to do my job, so that's my mindset."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds

Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Colin McDonald

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Micheal Del Zotto-Shayne Gostisbehere

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

G: Michal Neuvirth

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Philadelphia Flyers

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Noah Cates became a hit in high school.

His first year after graduation, though, he didn't exactly mind being away from the classroom. From Stillwater, Minnesota, Cates traveled south to Omaha, Nebraska, for a full season of USHL hockey with the Lancers.

A nice, little perk to the decision?

"No school that year for me, so that was fun just to play hockey," Cates said with a smile three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "Develop, work on everything."

Despite not hitting the books, Cates, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick of the Flyers, learned a lot, gaining a knowledge base he'll use moving forward.

Because it's back to school.

In mid-to-late August, the 19-year-old is headed to the University of Minnesota Duluth to continue his education and hockey career with the 2018 national champions, where he'll be joined by his older brother Jackson Cates.

"Very excited," the younger Cates said.

A year away from home to prepare for the college hockey life did Cates well. He grew on and off the ice, which built confidence — especially important ahead of development camp, a world junior summer showcase and his freshman season.

"Just how to be a pro, show up every day," Cates said. "It's a long season but you have to be consistent — that was a big part for me. Consistently, doing the right thing, day in and day out.

"It's all about confidence. If you're confident you can play with those guys and that your body can hold up, you can do it. That's just a big part of it and what I developed this year."

Cates, a left winger with a true offensive skill set, came on strong after a feeling-out start to the season in which he totaled 14 points (six goals, eight assists) over his first 22 games. From then on, he broke out for 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in his final 38 contests, finishing second on the Lancers with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 60 games, while posting a plus-21 rating. 

"Second-half league for me, just got more comfortable with the team, the coaches, the league," Cates said. "The team did well, so I kind of fit in, did my part."

The offense has always been a part of Cates' game. Beyond the statistics, what truly stood out from the 2017-18 season was the added strength to his 6-foot-1 frame. Cates weighed 165 pounds at 2017 development camp. He said he started the year with Omaha at 170. Impressively, by season's end, he was a solid 180 to 185.

"That was a big part, how I progressed throughout the season," Cates said. "That was my main goal going there to step into college hockey and get ready to play against those older guys, so it was a really good season in that case."

Cates will now take his next test — back in class and on the ice.

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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