Flyers

Flyers

BOX SCORE

The look toward next season for the Flyers officially began Sunday night following their 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Among those who played in the season finale who will remain high on the radar are goalie Anthony Stolarz and winger Jordan Weal.

Weal is intriguing because he's unsigned for next season and general manager Ron Hextall hasn't indicated whether he will re-up Weal before the expansion draft.

An unknown commodity when he arrived in Philadelphia as part of the Vinny Lecavalier trade over a year ago, Weal now appears fully vested in the Flyers.

Weal never played left wing before and yet he seemed to fit like a glove on Valtteri Filppula's line with Wayne Simmonds.

He picked up one final assist Sunday and finished the season with eight goals and 12 points in 23 games.

"A lot of hockey is the belief you can play at certain levels," Weal said. "I think having some success up here in the last part of the season really gave me that belief I can play here and have an impact and help the team win hockey games.

"I feel like I'm part of the team, for sure. When you get in, it's a great group of guys. For myself, I can take positives out of it."

 

Weal is a snail-darter-kind-of-player barely standing 5-foot-9 and said he wants to remain a Flyer (see 10 observations).

"I'd love to stay here," Weal said. "This is an organization that gave me a chance to show my stuff. When I came up this year, I was in a position to have success and I'm very thankful and would like to stay here. When you get the players I was able to play with, it's a treat out there."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol threw his support behind Weal.

"He's been a good player for us and it's been a fairly small sample size," Hakstol said. "Training camp probably didn't go as scripted as he would have liked. At the end of camp, we went down to Lehigh Valley and there was no real bump for him."

Weal went down to the minors, proved himself as an AHLer -- again -- and then returned as an NHL player.

"He did a good job for us," Hakstol said. "He was a good player for us playing in a position he hasn't spent a lot of time at -- most of the time playing left wing. I thought Jordan acquitted himself very well and at a tough time of the year."

Stolarz may or may not be the Flyers' long-time goalie. He may or may not even be the backup next season. He sometimes appears a bit awkward in the net and seven games isn't a lot to go on, but there is no rational reason for the Flyers not to give him a long look in training camp.

In retrospect, those 19 games he sat here while Michal Neuvirth was injured could have been better used playing him more than the two starts he actually had, both of which he won. Stolarz went into the season finale with a 1.93 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

What did he learn?

"It's a lot faster than the American League," Stolarz said. "It's a lot of fun being here and I've just gotta keep working hard, working on my game and take everything that I've seen on video and just bring it back to Allentown."

There is one thing Stolarz will bring into training camp next fall that he didn't necessarily have last fall.

"Definitely confidence," Stolarz said. "Obviously coming up here and being able to play at this level and kind of show I can hold my own, kind of makes me want to go out there and just work that much harder and continue to work on my game and just continue working hard so I can try to earn a spot here next year."

There's a decent line of prospects waiting for the crease that includes Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. Can Stolarz rise to the Flyers' next No. 1?

"In a few, down the road, I think," Stolarz said. "Of course I need to get some experience. It's not going to just be given to me, so I have to continue to work hard and work on aspects of my game.

 

"It's obviously a lot different than the American League. I just have to continue to work on little things. Things happen quicker and guys are smarter, so I just have to try to keep up with that."

He didn't earn Hakstol's full trust during Neuvirth's absence, as the Flyers rode Steve Mason night after night.

"There were a couple times where he showed good presence," Hakstol said. "I go back to the game in San Jose coming in after one [in relief] there and he did an excellent job. So I think that showed a little bit about where he was in terms of his mental process.

"He was ready to go, he was confident that night. He went in and he did a good job and his team played hard in front of  him, and I think we've seen a continuation of that every time he's been in that regardless of the situation, whether it was in relief or tonight like he did in a start."

That said, Hakstol wasn't ready to commit on Stolarz. Put it this way, Weal has more of a foothold on a roster spot, whereas Stolarz is going to have to turn his limited experience from this season into a platform to elevate himself above others in training camp.

When asked if he were ready for full-time duty in the NHL, Hakstol gave pause.

"I think it's a small sample size," Hakstol said of Stolarz. "I've seen enough of him to think that he's really making nice progress. In terms of answering your question, I think that's one that needs to be answered over time."

For both of these guys -- and a few others -- it starts in five months.

Ivan the Great
In his final game this season, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov logged 25:11. Nineteen times this season he was over 24 minutes.

Provorov's season average of 21:58 set a new ice time record for a Flyers rookie regardless of position.

He also became the first Flyers' rookie to appear in all 82 games during a season longer than 80 games. Four other players achieved that during the 80-game schedules of yesteryear: Mel Bridgman (1975-76), Behn Wilson (1978-79), Brian Propp (1979-80), and Jeff Chychrun (1988-89). Chris Therien appeared in all 48 games during the shortened 1994-95 season.
 
In addition to Provorov, Jake Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare each appeared in all 82 games this season. Chris VandeVelde missed his first game of the season as a healthy scratch Sunday.