Flyers

With final cuts looming, Flyers' lineup at practice may give glimpse of roster

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With final cuts looming, Flyers' lineup at practice may give glimpse of roster

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ron Hextall is still sweating it out.

With three days remaining before the NHL roster deadline, the Flyers elected not to make final cuts prior to Saturday’s lengthy practice, keeping their extended roster through Sunday’s preseason finale against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. 

“We’ve got a lot of good players here,” the Flyers' general manager said. “Two players have to go for your roster size, we’ll see how tomorrow night’s game goes, see if we have injuries and then we’ll finalize a couple decisions.”

Hextall said he will the final cuts following Sunday's game.

It seems as though the Flyers will use Sunday’s game as less of a dress rehearsal for the regular season opener Wednesday and more of a final exam for bubble players. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol denied that assumption.

“I wouldn’t read into it,” he said. “We’re going to try to get as close to our game night lineup as we can but we still have some pretty tough decisions to make.”

Hextall also pushed back. 

“You don’t make decisions based on one game,” he said. “It can play a small part of it but not a big part.” 

Either way, the decisions are expected to be grueling on both sides of the ice. 

On defense, Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning are expected to make the roster in some capacity, leaving prospects Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim battling for two potential spots. 

“There’s a lot of factors that factor into these decisions,” Hextall said. “It’s not just the obvious of who played best. A lot of things play into it — the future, the past, a role, the type of player we need to finish off our roster. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”

As of Saturday, those things were looking good for Hagg. The 22-year-old was working with Gostisbehere, signaling that the team views him as a regular. Meanwhile, bubble players Morin and Sanheim were matched together as an extra pairing.

“I think I had a pretty good camp so far and seems like the coaches and staff are happy with me,” Hagg said. “I’m still here, so I guess I’m doing something good. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far.” 

At forward, it’s a more complicated picture.

Two of Taylor Leier, Jori Lehtera, Oskar Lindblom and Matt Read will not make the starting roster Wednesday, with 21-year-old Lindblom, exempt from waivers, appearing like the odd-man out. The highly touted winger spent practice on an extra line with Lehtera and Read.

“Everyone wants to play in the NHL,” Lindblom said. “If the coaches want you here, you stay. I haven’t thought about it too much. Coaches decide. Hexy decides.” 

Meanwhile, Scott Laughton centered the fourth line featuring Leier and Michael Raffl.

“That line brings a lot of speed and it’s pretty exciting,” Laughton said. “Raffl gets in there on the forecheck. Leier is pretty good at making plays and finding you, so it felt good out there.”

Leier, who is not waiver exempt, appeared to be the big winner Saturday, working on the fourth line and heading the Flyers' 5-on-3 penalty kill unit. 

“I feel very comfortable,” he said. “Like I’m ready.”

But like many of the young guys pressing for an NHL job, Leier enters Sunday's finale feeling an elevated sense of urgency.

“There’s been anxiety throughout the whole camp,” he said. “That comes with the territory and business we're in. Everyone goes through it, but it’s something you have to push aside and get through.”

Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

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Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

While the Flyers have not announced the start of their rookie and training camp, they did provide an indication Tuesday of when the camps will be.

For the third straight season, the Flyers and New York Islanders will square off Sept. 12 in their annual rookie game. This time, it returns to New York.

The game will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders' practice facility in East Meadow, New York. According to Newsday's Andrew Gross, ticket proceeds will benefit the Islanders' Children's Foundation.

In years past, the Flyers have streamed the games on their official website.

Last year, the Flyers-Islanders rookie game was on Sept. 13, 2017, two days after rookie camp began and two days before the main camp opened.

The rookie game marks the official end of rookie camp, so by the process of elimination, a safe guess would be the Flyers' rookie camp will be Sept. 10 and training camp likely opening a day or two after the game.

The Islanders beat the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime last September. The Flyers won the first game two years ago. From 2007 to 2014, the Flyers and Capitals faced each other in their annual rookie games.

Rookie games are fun because they're the first glimpse of prospects and with the Flyers, there's a ton to be excited about — even if signing James van Riemsdyk accelerates their process (see story).

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Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

A young Flyers defenseman cracked the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list, but it's not exactly who you are thinking.

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, was listed Sunday night as the league's 17th best blueliner as NHL Network continued its nine-part series looking at the game's top players.

That's not a slight to Gostisbehere by any means, but many would argue that Provorov's overall game is far more in tune of a top-tier player than Gostisbehere.

Here is NHL Network Ken Daneyko's explanation for "Ghost," who ranks right behind Boston's Torey Krug and ahead of Carolina's Dougie Hamilton:

"He really came into his own last year. This kid is dynamic, and for me, I think there are some defensive liabilities, but because how offensive the game has become and defensemen being part of that offense, Gostisbehere can do it all. He's shifty and can make a pass in the blink of an eye for a great scoring chance."

Gostisbehere had a frustrating sophomore season in 2016-17 after exploding onto the scene in 2015-16. Last season, though, he rebounded in grand fashion.

The 25-year-old finished fourth in the NHL among defensemen in points with 65. He led all defensemen in power-play points (33) and was tied for the league lead with seven power-play goals.

His offensive production returned — actually increased substantially — to his rookie season level, when he scored at a 0.72 points per game clip in 2015-16. Last season that number was 0.83.

But Gostisbehre's defensive game began to round into place. He credited that to "a little more snot," but the player we saw in his own end was far better than what we've seen before.

We can chalk some of that up to Dave Hakstol putting Gostisbehere with Provorov in late December. The pair became dynamic because, at any moment, either could jump up in the offensive zone and create, but Provorov was the pair's anchor.

“He’s a 1,000 of years better than me defensively,” Gostisbehere said in April. “We use that to our advantage and it really showed as a pair. Provy’s very good defensively, but offensively, he took another step.

"He’s probably one of the best, if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL.”

Provorov did not totally get snubbed by the NHL Network. Daneyko had Provorov on the bubble and if we return to this list after the 2018-19 season, it's safe to say Provorov will likely, at least, make the leap.

"For such a young age, poise, good in all three zones and only getting better," Daneyko said of Provorov. "He moves the puck and has good offensive instinct. He's going to be a real good player for a long time."

Provorov, 21, was tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals in his second NHL campaign but didn't post ludicrous overall numbers — just 41 points and not many on the power play.

But Provorov played the tough, shutdown minutes (see story). He led the team in ice time with 24:09 per game, more than 2 1/2 minutes more than Sean Couturier's 21:35 and 2 minutes and 42 seconds more than Gostisbehere.

We're splitting hairs here, really. Lists are lists and a good list often creates debate. Does it matter that Gostisbehere, not Provorov, made the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list? Not really, but it's still a neat honor.

If anything, it's another testament that the Flyers are doing things right even if the process at the rink is slower than fans would like.

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