Flyers

Flyers prospect Samuel Dove-McFalls hopes versatility leads to NHL contract

Flyers prospect Samuel Dove-McFalls hopes versatility leads to NHL contract

WINDSOR, Ontario — Flyers prospect Samuel Dove-McFalls is hoping a move back to wing will make him a more versatile player as he looks to make the jump to pro hockey next season.

Dove-McFalls, a natural center, has spent parts of his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playing wing because of injuries among the Sea Dogs' forward group.

The 20-year-old is hoping his versatility will help earn his entry-level contract from the Flyers and a spot in Lehigh Valley.

"It can only be beneficial for me to play both positions, it'll help me be more versatile for when I get to the next level," Dove-McFalls said Monday at the Memorial Cup. "Some guys play one position their whole career, they have to play there, otherwise they're not able to play their game, so I think it's only good for me that I spent some time playing the wing this year."

A knee injury limited the 6-foot-1, 202-pound forward to just 29 games last season. Even when he did return to the Saint John lineup, Dove-McFalls admitted he wasn't 100 percent.

However, after a full summer of training, the Montreal native felt better than ever entering the 2016-17 season.

"I did a lot of power skating. I felt my skating was better and I felt a lot more confident out there," he said. "Last year, I was getting a little frustrated and stuff.

"[I] got more explosive and I think I move around the ice a lot better."

The work put in during the summer paid off this season as Dove-McFalls set new career highs for goals (17) and points (53) in 66 games with the Sea Dogs. He added five goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games.

One of Dove-McFalls' goals for this season was to earn his entry-level contract from the Flyers. He has until June 1 to do so before the Flyers lose his exclusive rights, according to CapFriendly.com. Drafted in the fourth round (98th overall) in 2015, Dove-McFalls could make the jump to the Phantoms next season if signed.

"Obviously, you do [think about it], but you have to play for the team," Dove-McFalls said. "I don't control what they do and what decision they make. All I can do is try to play my best.

"When the team does well, then everyone does well. Hopefully, that's going to happen, that's the plan."

Dove-McFalls is in constant communication with Flyers player development coach John Riley, and the two don't always talk just hockey.

"[He] just sends me articles about pro athletes and what the pro life is all about," Dove-McFalls said. "Not necessarily always just hockey — stuff that's off the ice too. When he does come and watch me play, he focuses more on the hockey part.

"[The articles] show how hard it is to be a pro and how dedicated you have to be to the game. Articles on Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant — those greats who are dedicated to their game."

Dove-McFalls continued a trend for Flyers prospects this spring. He became the fourth straight to win a President Trophy as QMJHL champions, joining Philippe Myers (Rouyn-Noranda, 2016), Sam Morin (Rimouski, 2015) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Val-d'Or, 2014).

Described as a big two-way forward who can kill penalties and contribute offensively, Dove-McFalls points to current Flyer Sean Couturier and Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal as NHLers he tries to model his game after.

In order to make that jump to the pro game, Saint John coach Danny Flynn thinks Dove-McFalls needs to continue improving on his skating.

"He has to continue to work on foot speed. He has to continue to play a solid two-way game, but he has a good feel for how he's got to play," Flynn said. "If I were to be critical, because all young kids need development from our best player to our weakest player, foot speed would be an area that he'd like to improve on."

Seeing youngsters such as Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov make the jump to the NHL has Dove-McFalls excited for the future.

"It's interesting," he said. "Obviously, they had nine or 10 guys at the world juniors this year and then you have Konecny and Provorov who were already on the team, so that's exciting. We have a lot of good young prospects.

"I think the organization is moving in the right direction. I'm not really looking too far ahead, I realize I'm still a long ways away, but it's good they're going in the right direction stockpiling prospects."

Flyers trade Taylor Leier to Sabres for Justin Bailey

Flyers trade Taylor Leier to Sabres for Justin Bailey

General manager Chuck Fletcher isn't exactly blowing fans away with blockbusters.

However, he is starting to make an imprint.

Fletcher on Thursday night made his second trade by sending forward Taylor Leier to the Sabres in exchange for forward Justin Bailey. The move comes less than a week after he dealt forward Jordan Weal to the Coyotes.

Leier, 24, did not play a game for the Flyers this season after playing 39 in 2017-18. The 2012 fourth-round pick surprised many by making the club's opening night roster last season but Leier slowly lost his role as a fourth-line, penalty-kill guy, playing just nine games after the calendar flipped to 2018.

This season, he had 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 34 games with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. Before being traded, he was starting to turn himself into a call-up candidate, scoring 10 points (six goals, four assists) in his last 10 games with the Phantoms.

For obvious reasons, though, Fletcher had no ties to Leier, who is set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason and is making just $720,000 in 2018-19.

It's as simple as Fletcher probably liked Bailey's size and prospects more than he did with Leier. Bailey, a 23-year-old right winger, is 6-foot-4, 214 pounds and will also be a restricted free agent in the summer. In 37 games this season with the Sabres' AHL affiliate Rochester, Bailey, a 2013 second-round pick, had nine goals and 11 assists.

Over the previous three seasons, he has put up five goals and three assists in 52 games with the Sabres. He also owns a pair of 20-goal seasons with Rochester and, interestingly, his father Carlton Bailey played 10 seasons in the NFL.

While fans' patience may be growing a bit thin with Fletcher, wanting the GM to make more notable moves, it's important to remember the trade deadline isn't until Feb. 25. There's no real rush, especially when dealing with franchise-changing calls.

Bigger decisions, principally with Wayne Simmonds, will ultimately come. Meanwhile, the Flyers have won three of their last four games and face the Canadiens Saturday before not playing again until Jan. 28 because of the bye week.

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Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz activated off injured reserve, loaned to Phantoms

Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz activated off injured reserve, loaned to Phantoms

Updated: 9:54 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers activated goaltender Anthony Stolarz off injured reserve Thursday and loaned him to Lehigh Valley for conditioning purposes. Stolarz suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of a 5-1 loss to the Canucks on Dec. 15 in Vancouver when he allowed two goals on four shots.

With injuries to Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon, Stolarz was pressed into duty in the early part of December, making six starts over a 10-day stretch. With a 3.90 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage, Stolarz actually played better than the numbers he posted.

“In the games that I did watch, I don’t think he was given a lot of help for stretches and he kept the team close, and whether they won or lost the game, I don’t think you could point the finger at him,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers recall Stolarz, who can stay for 14 days without clearing waivers. Considering how well he played in wins at Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, there may be a team willing to take a chance on Stolarz as an inexpensive backup looking ahead to next season. 

With such limited playing time over the past two seasons in his recovery from meniscus surgery in September 2017, Stolarz is better served as the No. 1 in Lehigh Valley, where he can improve his game and regain his confidence. If Stolarz can build upon his small body of work this season, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers view him as a viable backup option for next season.      

No hearing for Lehtera

Flyers forward Jori Lehtera will not receive supplemental discipline from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety following his reckless hit into the back of Bruins forward Ryan Donato. Lehtera received a five-minute board major and a game misconduct. 

Lehtera likely avoided a suspension because Donato wasn’t injured on that play. The Bruins' winger was bleeding as a result of the hit, but never missed a shift in the third period.

Lehtera spent 17 minutes in the box compared to just 5:40 on the ice. At this point, Gordon has two highly ineffective veterans in Lehtera and Dale Weise, who cleared waivers on Wednesday but will remain on the team’s active roster. 

Will a third trick be a charm?

Sean Couturier’s three goals against the Bruins marked the first time since October 2002 that the Flyers registered hat tricks in consecutive games. Mark Recchi ripped home three goals in a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames, while John LeClair potted four goals three nights later in a 6-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

It also marked the eighth time in Flyers franchise history that the team had a hat trick in back-to-back games, but that feat has never occurred in three straight games.

So, who could be the likely candidate to put three on the board at the Bell Centre Saturday and make franchise history?

I’m leaning on Claude Giroux, who has 10 goals in 30 career games against the Montreal Canadiens, with a two-goal effort against the Habs in 2011.

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