Flyers

Flyers prospects buying into Ron Hextall's patience

Flyers prospects buying into Ron Hextall's patience

When Sam Morin and Robert Hagg returned from their respective NHL debuts with the Flyers, Phantoms coach Scott Gordon sensed something different right away, and it had nothing to do with their performance on the ice.

"The smiles were bigger," Gordon said Wednesday. "There's no questions about that. It's just one game but until you actually play that first game, I think as a player, you're waiting and you're hoping, and what if it doesn't happen? And when you get that first game, it's a load off your shoulders. I'm sure they were walking a little bit lighter."

For both guys, it was like a sample you receive walking through Costco. Next season, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will likely have both defensemen buying in bulk as they take on a bigger load after Hextall said last week the team will go younger as they replace free agents Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz (see story)

But the timeline would test any young player's patience.

"Yeah, that's [Hextall's] philosophy and I agree with it 100 percent," Hagg said. "You need to be good down here (AHL) in order to have a chance at the NHL. You need to relax and realize you have young players down here and take our time to develop. When we're ready, we'll get a shot."

No other Flyers defensive prospect has as much AHL experience as the 22-year-old Hagg, who has logged 192 games. 

"You look at a guy like Robert, who's been here for three years -- it would be very easy to say, 'Jesus, it's just not going to happen here,'" Gordon said. "But he needed every bit of those three years to get to where he is now, and he's probably the most consistent defenseman out of our group. He doesn't have the amazing numbers offensively, but what he does in our defensive zone, on our penalty kill, how he gets up into the play, how he's improved his puck skills -- it's been a process."

Twenty-eight of the 30 first-round picks from the 2013 draft had already broken into the league by the time Morin (drafted 11th overall) made his debut.

"You see all those guys get their chance, but I'm not frustrated," Morin said. "I know my time's going to come. I didn't want to go to the NHL and not get better because I wasn't playing a lot. In juniors, I got a lot of ice time, here I've gotten a lot of ice time and I've gotten better every day and still getting better."

Now Hagg, Morin and 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim will be the defensive pillars in the Phantoms' first playoff appearance since 2009. The 6-foot-7 Morin, who's been compared endlessly to that of Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, feels there's room (in his game) to grow. 

"I'm still young," he said, "and when you see me in five years in the NHL, you're going to be like, 'That time in the AHL was worth it.'"

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

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AP Images

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

We began our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible centers. This draft is top-heavy at wing and defense. We continue our previews with a look at left wingers.

Filip Zadina, 6-0/195, Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina, who finished as the third-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, led all QMJHL rookies and was tied for seventh among all players in 2017-18 with 82 points. He won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect. Playing for the Czech Republic, Zadina was named to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship All-Star team, scoring eight points in seven games. Hard-working winger with an elite shot, future top-liner.

Draft projection: Top three

Brady Tkachuk, 6-3/196, Boston University (NCAA)
The son of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), Brady Tkachuk checks in as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting. Had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games during his freshman season at Boston University and added three goals and nine points in seven games during the world juniors. He plays a physical game much like his dad and brother but has a little more finesse to it.

Draft projection: Top five

Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, USNTDP
Farabee finished as the 12th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Possesses excellent speed and a strong shot and plays an effective two-way game. A little undersized but the game has changed, so that shouldn’t be a major issue. He had 15 goals and 40 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL in 2017-18, and 33 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 10-18

Grigori Denisenko, 5-11/176, Yarolsavl Jr (Russia)
Denisenko saw a three-spot drop from the Central Scouting midterm rankings to the final, finishing as the seventh-best European skater. He’s gifted with the puck and makes plays, but he has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player. The Russian factor may scare teams away. Had nine goals and 22 points in 31 games in the MHL and played four games in the KHL playoffs. On talent alone, Denisenko is among the best in this year’s class.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Blake McLaughlin, 6-0/162, Chicago (USHL)
McLaughlin checks in as the 24th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Another American prospect among the top draft-eligible left wingers, McLaughlin’s best attribute is his shot, though he’s an excellent skater. He finished the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel as nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s headed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Could squeak into late first round but probably a second-rounder.

Draft projection: Early second round

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

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JustSports Photography

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

Philadelphia, PA (May 18, 2018) — NBC Sports Philadelphia announced today the network will air the American Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals games featuring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Toronto Marlies. Games Three through Five will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7 p.m.
 
May 23 - Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 3 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 25** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 4 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 26*** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 5 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, *if necessary
 
** Philadelphia Soul will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

*** The Philadelphia Phillies game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, regardless if there is a Game 5 or not.

Atlantic Division Champions for the 2017-18 season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The winner of the best-of-seven series will then advance to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. After posting the AHL’s second-most wins (47) and second-most standings points (105), the top-seeded Phantoms eliminated the Providence Bruins in four games (3-1) in the opening round before defeating the Charlotte Checkers in five games (4-1) in the Atlantic Division Finals — a series which included the historic longest game in AHL history.