Flyers Notes: GM Ron Hextall hoping to find talent late in draft

Flyers Notes: GM Ron Hextall hoping to find talent late in draft

While the NHL Scouting Combine fitness testing began Friday in Buffalo, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had returned to Skate Zone.

The organization has scheduled amateur scout meetings over the next four days in preparation for the NHL draft later this month in Chicago.

With 11 picks in the draft, Hextall while in Buffalo made it a point to meet as many players as he could – over 70 – earlier this week during one-on-one club interviews with prospects.

Obviously, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier were among the first interviews since the Flyers are picking No. 2 overall after New Jersey.

“I can’t say anything surprised me,” Hextall said of those specific player interviews. “I can say both kids seem like terrific young men who conducted themselves like pros. Very mature kids. Very professional.”

None of the prospect interviews are meant to make or break a case for drafting a player, as much as they are intended to dig beneath the surface to find out more about the player’s overall background.

“It sorta cements your thinking,” Hextall said of the combine. “It gives our amateur scouts, who already know the kids, to ask similar questions they’ve asked during the year to clean anything up in terms of injuries or other issues they had going on.

“It gives the rest of us a chance to listen and get a feel for a young player. By no means does it necessarily change your mind on a player.”

The interviews delve into family upbringing, how much structure has been in the kid’s life, his exposure to things outside of hockey, whether he had to overcome a tragedy and even undisclosed injuries he might have incurred.

“These are young guys we have to remind ourselves,” Hextall said. “Some are 17-years-old. You are trying to get a little background on them to see what they have been through in their life, what they fought through and what they deal with on a daily basis.”

Like Devils GM Ray Shero, Hextall admitted he’s taken calls about trading for his pick. He reiterated what he said last month. He’ll listen, but nothing has come across his desk that would entice him to trade the No. 2 pick.

This is a critical draft for the Flyers in that among their 11 picks – that’s quite a bit – they have five picks between the third and fourth rounds.

They need to unearth a future impact scorer at left/right wing.

Aside from Travis Konecny, who projects to have a big impact at some point – he had 11 goals in his rookie year – and Swedish prospect Oskar Lindblom, who signed this week, the Flyers have not produced a scoring winger on their roster via the draft since James van Riemsdyk in 2007. And he was traded.

Claude Giroux was a right wing turned center. He was also a first-round pick, as were JVR and Konecny. 

Hextall’s focus here is the later picks. The Flyers have not had a single such impact player since the 2000s began.

Patrick Maroon, a sixth-round Flyers selection in 2007, had 27 goals this year for Edmonton. It was his first terrific output in six years as an NHLer after a concussion-filled tenure in Philadelphia.

“We have 11 picks,” Hextall said. “They are very important. You have to hit on your first-round pick and you also have to hit on some late picks. Our guys, to this point, have done a really good job.

“You gotta continue on. You can’t take one player out of a draft to be a successful franchise. We have to continue to push and keep pulling players in late rounds.”

Contract updates
Hextall is believed to have already tendered an offer to defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to retain his rights. He is a restricted free agent. Jordan Weal is unrestricted.

Hextall said he has been in touch with both players' agents.

“I’m not going to negotiate through the media but will continue to work at (signing) all our guys, who are unsigned here and try to get them done sooner, rather than later,” Hextall said.

“If things drag out a bit, that’s pretty much the normal process of the negotiation. We’d like to have Jordan back. He’s a UFA. We have to see where that goes. Ghost we hope to have under contract before training camp.”

That Hextall said he hoped to have Ghost signed by camp indicates the RFA offer has likely been made. The Flyers can protect him in the expansion draft.

Coaching search
Hextall admitted he is behind in his search to replace power play coach Joey Mullen. He indicated it will likely remain that way because of scout meetings and such.

Flyers Talk podcast: Is this team convincing us in round robin of NHL playoffs?

Flyers Talk podcast: Is this team convincing us in round robin of NHL playoffs?

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra and Jordan Hall discuss the team's climb in the round robin.

From the Flyers' best line to what's ahead, let's dive in:

1:00 — Exciting times for Flyers fans

5:55 — Who has been the most impressive on the second line?

11:55 — Something we've noticed with the Flyers' first-line production

16:05 — Has this two-game stretch convinced us if we weren’t convinced already?

22:10 — What did we think of James van Riemsdyk being scratched? Big deal or no?

27:50 — Speaking of lineups, would we keep the same D pairs vs. the Lightning?

 33:00 — What we like and dislike about the Lightning matchup

 40:00 — The matchup could do a ton for Carter Hart's confidence

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Jakub Voracek out, James van Riemsdyk back and more changes as Flyers aim to win round robin

Jakub Voracek out, James van Riemsdyk back and more changes as Flyers aim to win round robin

With the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed up for grabs Saturday, the Flyers' No. 1 line will look differently and the reason for why is unknown.

What we do know is Jakub Voracek will not play in the Flyers' round-robin finale against the Lightning at Scotiabank Arena.

"He's not available," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday in a video interview, "that's all I can say for tomorrow."

As we learned during training camp when Voracek was absent from a scrimmage, there will be various levels of weirdness, uncertainty and inevitable speculation when a player is unavailable. Because of a mutual agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to respect an individual player's right to medical privacy during this time, clubs are not allowed to release specifications for any injuries/illnesses in the return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Naturally, time will tell about the severity of or length of time needed to return for Voracek's undisclosed absence.

Regardless, not having Voracek hurts the Flyers' chances to win the round robin. If the Flyers beat Tampa Bay, they'll secure the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which is slated to begin next Tuesday. If the Flyers lose to the Lightning, they'll settle for the No. 2 seed. The team has won its first two round-robin games by a combined score of 7-2 over the Bruins and Capitals.

Update: What Flyers fans need to know for round-robin finale, 1st-round matchups

When the Flyers started rolling in November of the regular season, Voracek was one of the club's best players. Since Nov. 1, the facilitating winger had 47 points (eight goals, 39 assists) and a plus-14 rating in 58 games. He finished the regular season with a team-best 44 helpers, 56 points and a plus-14 mark in 69 games.

"Jake's got a unique skill set, a veteran guy that's been around and has played in some big games," Matt Niskanen said Friday in a video interview. "We'll welcome him when he comes back. In the meantime, keep chugging forward with the guys we have."

The Flyers will chug forward with 20-year-old rookie winger Joel Farabee climbing to an exciting spot in the lineup. He'll play on the first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, while James van Riemsdyk will return to the lineup after being interestingly scratched for the Flyers' 3-1 win Thursday over the Capitals. Connor Bunnaman, a 22-year-old forward who will likely be an extra come the first round if the Flyers are healthy, played in van Riemsdyk's place.

"It was less about benching James than looking at the big picture," Vigneault said. "Yes, James had been OK, just OK so far, after having in my estimation a real strong training camp. But I wanted to get Joel in, I also wanted to get Bunny in at some point, and I felt with the opposition, that it was the right time. Probably less to do with benching, more to do with the big picture."

The 31-year-old van Riemsdyk will join the third line. Vigneault is known to communicate with his players when they're taken out of the lineup or there's a notable change. The two-time 30-goal scorer wouldn't disclose the message between the player and coach, but van Riemsdyk was positive Friday, taking everything in stride.

“With those types of conversations, generally like to keep those in-house," van Riemsdyk said.

“For me, I look back at my career and playing in the playoffs and all these things, I’ve had success doing that in the past. My approach is going to stay the same and try to be the best player I can be and maximize every day. That’s always the way I approach things no matter what, I love the game. We have a great team and have a great shot this year, so my motivation and approach remains consistent day in and day out. No matter if you have a day that doesn’t go your way or if you have a day where things are going well, you go to the next day and you have to do it all over again.”

On the defensive side of things, Shayne Gostisbehere will draw into the lineup for Robert Hagg. Vigneault and his coaching staff had wanted to get Gostisbehere some action in the round robin. They trust the 27-year-old defenseman who could give a boost to the Flyers' power play, which is 0 for 8 through the round robin. Expect to see Hagg back with Justin Braun when the first round begins.

Here is the Flyers' lineup for Saturday's round-robin finale:


Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Joel Farabee
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Connor Bunnaman-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick


Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Shayne Gostisbehere-Justin Braun


Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

• What Flyers fans need to know for round-robin finale, 1st-round matchups

• Flyers are making believers in round robin, pick up huge win for East seeding

Don't expect the Flyers to be mingling with their rivals at Hotel X Toronto

Costly injury comes at interesting time, creates more decisions for Flyers

The Flyers were never on a hot streak — they're just that good

• Feel good to be back? Despite possible injury, Flyers open tourney with a bang

From lineups to big picture, everything Flyers fans need to know for round robin

• Can the Flyers go all the way? Our Stanley Cup predictions are here

• Flyers celebrate return of hockey with OT drama and positives in exhibition

• So, about those Penguins ... 1st-round matchup for Flyers?

• Picture collage and signs show love for Flyers as they eye Cup run in Toronto

Couturier's goals in NHL bubble: Stanley Cup and an important baby book item

• Could Flyers still share the wealth against Blue Jackets in 1st round?

Would Islanders be Flyers' kryptonite if they meet in 1st round?

Flyers announce playoff roster, have fans going crazy over shirts

• All types of Flyers odds (including the Cup) as NHL's 24-team tourney begins

• Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done

• Trust the captain, he'll know what to do if the Flyers face the Hurricanes

• Analyzing Hart's situation, another Flyer becomes a dad, more

Lindblom has new contract, his comeback is on with Flyers

• Flyers-Canadiens is perfect on paper, but would it be a trap?

• What round-robin schedule change could mean for Flyers' strategy

• What happened? Voracek says calm down, he's fine ... now you know

Key Flyer missing, buzzing rookie, don't forget Ghost and more

• The Flyers' lineup, practicing celebrations, no hiding these two and more

• A 'dangerous card' in the Flyers' hand, Giroux still wows and more

• Fans can purchase Flyers playoff shirts with new slogan

• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times

Analyzing the Flyers' schedule to open 24-team tournament

5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament

Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff

Who are the Flyers' top 5 reinforcements for 24-team tournament?

• Elliott has sweet new mask for Flyers' playoff run

• Flyers sign a player to extension at position of strength

What to know as NHL, NHLPA finish big step, announce schedule

Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

Flyers have two top 50 pending UFAs; will they re-sign them?

• Everything Flyers fans need to know for NHL's 24-team tournament

• Bettman gives Gritty the hard truth for why he can't be in Toronto bubble

Key dates, protocols announced as Flyers set to return