Flyers

Flyers-Islanders rookie game observations: Some prospects impress in 4-3 OT loss

Flyers-Islanders rookie game observations: Some prospects impress in 4-3 OT loss

In front of a sizable Wells Fargo Center crowd somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-13,000, the Flyers surrendered a two-goal lead before losing to the Islanders, 4-3, in overtime of Wednesday night's rookie game.

The Flyers received all three goals from defensemen (James de Haas, Travis Sanheim, Mark Friedman), while dominating the opening period, outshooting the Islanders, 18-8. However, the Flyers were unable to generate any sustained offensive pressure over the final 35 minutes of regulation.

Goaltender Alex Lyon started the game and stopped 13 of 14 shots. Carter Hart, a 2016 second-round pick, came in with 9:53 remaining in the second period and stonewalled the Isles, stopping 19 of 22 shots. Hart had no chance on New York’s third-period goal that cut the lead to 3-2.

For the Islanders, Mitch Vande Sompel scored the overtime winner, while Sebastian Aho tied it with 1:32 left in the third period.

Flyers forward Connor Bunnaman had three opportunities to win it in overtime with a breakaway, a shot from in close and a penalty shot, but was denied on all three by Islanders goalie Mitch Gillam, who stopped all five shots he faced.

This summer's No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick went scoreless but looked strong and had a nice backhand attempt in the first period.

Defenseman Phil Myers left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return for precautionary reasons.

Flyers' three stars:

• Mark Friedman (D) — While most eyes were focused on Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim, Friedman simply went about his business and turned in a very solid effort. Looked calm and relaxed. Displayed speed on a couple of puck rushes. Was very positionally sound playing alongside Morin. The 2014 third-round pick scored on a slap shot from the right side of the blue line that gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

• Mikhail Vorobyev (C) — The Flyers' best center on this night displayed his creative side working in tandem with right winger Ivan Kosorenkov (see story). The chemistry between the two Russians was obvious. Vorobyev displayed some keen vision and strong passing ability as he assisted on a pair of goals. The line of Vorobyev-Carsen Twarynski-Kosorenkov was the Flyers' most productive line 5-on-5.

• Travis Sanheim (D) — Aside from a mix-up between Sanheim and playing partner Myers that led to the Islanders' first goal, Sanheim gave us a little bit of everything. The 2014 first-round pick didn’t get rattled playing the puck in his own end, while also engaging in rough play with Islanders winger Travis St. Denis. He loves to jump in on the offensive end. His pinch led to the Flyers' second goal. Without an official timekeeper, I’d venture to guess Sanheim led the Flyers in ice time.

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

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Jordan Hall | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall is determined to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Flyers' general manager has had very good success with his first-round picks throughout his four-year tenure, uncovering that diamond in the rough can be a crapshoot. A hockey organization can languish for many years if they come up with a first-round bust, but it’s the mid-to-late round picks that can elevate a franchise into championship stratosphere. 

Take 2014 in Philadelphia — Hextall’s first draft as Flyers GM. So far, the majority of prospects still haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but the few teams that were able to hit a home run (Tampa Bay, Brayden Point, 79th overall; Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall; Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, 205th overall) have benefitted greatly for their early-career success.

“We always look for one really good NHL quality,” Hextall said. “When you’re talking about third or fourth round, first of all, don’t minimize it. I’m saying like us, for our staff. We need to still try and pick a hockey player, it’s important. Pulling guys out of late rounds is important. When you look at the cycle of a hockey team and depth and everything that we need, it’s important.”

While the attention has centered around the Flyers' two first-round selections, Hextall considers the team’s two fifth-round selections and two more in the seventh round to be equally vital to the Flyers' success.

“We have two seventh-round picks, they’re friggin important,” Hextall said. “We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try and hit on a guy. Whether we will or not, I don’t know what the odds say, I think it’s 2.3 percent, whatever it is. They’re low odds, we know that, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to try and hit on those guys because eventually, you’re going to hit on some of those guys.”

To further Hextall’s point, 29 of the 30 first-round picks in 2014 have NHL experience. Of the next 180 players to go off the board in Rounds 2-7, you’ll find roughly that same number who have played more than just one NHL game. Oskar Lindblom (138th overall) could eventually pan out to be the late-round gem Hextall has tried to uncover.

After sorting out his first four drafts, where might Hextall search to find that next promising prospect?

The Flyers GM has selected at least one player from the USHL in each of his first four drafts with Phantoms defenseman Mark Friedman as the highest drafted USHL prospect, 86th overall in 2014.

Who might Hextall draft

Jack Drury, C, Waterloo, USHL
A slightly undersized center listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Drury is the nephew of former NHLer Chris Drury and has acquired some of the same attributes. Drury has been complemented with a tremendous work ethic and plays the game much like his uncle with a grit and determination of contributing in the clutch. Set a new USHL record with a 23-game point streak and has committed to play at Harvard University next season.    

Under Hextall, the Flyers have also tapped into Sweden’s top junior league over the past four seasons drafting Lindblom, goaltender Felix Sandstrom and defenseman Linus Hogberg to name a few, and 2018 appears to be a good depth draft for the young Swedes especially among defense.

Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea, Sweden Jrs.
While I really admire the size and reliability of Filip Johansson, there may be some value with Lundkvist who’s not quite as highly rated as Johnasson. Lundkvist is more of a defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Both defensemen are right handed and if the Flyers can’t land a righty blueliner in the first round, they may have to wait until Round 2 or trade back into the third round after surrendering that pick to Detroit as part of the Petr Mrazek trade.

There’s a general overall belief Hextall prefers to select a center capable of converting into a winger, and while he’s admitted that many centers have that versatility, it hasn’t defined Hextall who has drafted just as many pure wingers as centers, including five in last year’s entry draft.

Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finnish Jrs.
Nordgren is small (5-9), tremendously skilled and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was one of the most impressionable players at the U-18 world juniors with a tournament-leading eight goals for Team Finland. Preferably you would like a player of Nordgren’s size to be a lightning-quick skater, but it has improved.

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It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

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USA Today Images

It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

In typical NHL fashion, the 2018-19 schedule release is a two-day event.

That means we won't know the entire schedule until around 5 p.m. Thursday, but we know enough today to put together some of the pieces.

It looks like the Flyers will open up their season out West for the third straight season.

The Flyers will play the Golden Knights in Vegas' home opener Oct. 4 at T-Mobile Arena. Their own home opener is Oct. 9 against the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.

After looking at other teams’ home openers, it appears the season starts Oct. 3 with Capitals hosting the Bruins, the Maple Leafs entertaining the Canadiens and the Canucks facing the Flames at home. Last season began Oct. 4, 2017.

While the Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Flyers won their first game in Vegas with a 4-1 win Feb. 11.

The 2018-19 season will be the fourth straight year the Flyers begin on the road. Last season, they opened up with a 5-3 win over the Sharks in San Jose.

The last time they opened at home was 2013-14, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve won their last two season openers. They’re 5-4-1 in their last 10 season openers.

They won their home opener last year, crushing the Capitals, 8-2.

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