Flyers

Future Flyers Report: German Rubtsov tearing up the Q, Robert Hagg hot, look at Phantoms' goalies

Future Flyers Report: German Rubtsov tearing up the Q, Robert Hagg hot, look at Phantoms' goalies

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we highlight the Phantoms’ goalie situation, a defenseman on the brink of the NHL, a center tearing up the QMJHL and much, much more. Let’s dig in.

Robert Hagg, D, 6-1/191, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Hagg’s development progresses a step forward each game, a positive sign for the Flyers. With the NHL trade deadline approaching — March 1 — Hagg could find himself as a call-up if the Flyers decide to sell at the deadline, or find a taker for an expiring contract on the blue line (Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz). Last week, Hagg continued to see his more assertive play in his own zone begin to translate to the stat sheet. He registered two goals and two assists in three games last week, including a goal and an assist on his 22nd birthday Wednesday.

It took Hagg eight games to get his first point of the season and 16 games to record his third. In his last 15 games alone, he has three goals and five assists and is a plus-7. He’s second on the Phantoms with a plus-11 rating and is on track to finish as a plus player for the first time since he played just 10 games in 2013-14. Last season, he finished as a minus-11. Through 42 games this year, he’s at a plus-22 jump in that category. There is an argument as to how much weight we should put into plus/minus, but that's a considerable jump.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Another Future Flyers Report, another check-in on Rubtsov. After escaping an injury scare, Rubtsov didn’t miss any time last week for the Saguenéens and didn’t miss a beat, either. The 2016 first-round pick had his first multi-goal game in the Q, his fourth and fifth multi-point games and seven points in three games last week. He was named the first star (one goal, two assists) of Chicoutimi’s 4-3 win over Rimouski on Sunday, and the second star (two goals, one assist) of the Saguenéens’ 5-2 win over Val-d’Or on Thursday. Since coming over from the KHL, the center has six goals and 10 assists in 10 games. With the increased role and playing on the North American surface, the Flyers have to feel a lot better about Rubtsov’s development now than they did two months ago, and he’s quickly become a must-watch forward in the QMJHL.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Let’s check in on the Phantoms’ goaltending situation. Coach Scott Gordon has done an excellent job splitting the net up between Lyon and Anthony Stolarz since Stolarz returned to Lehigh Valley on Jan. 6. Let’s begin with Lyon, a first-year pro who has started nine of the 17 games since Stolarz’s return. Lyon got the starting nod in two of Lehigh Valley’s three games last week with mixed results. On Wednesday, Lyon turned in a 27-save shutout, his third of the season and his professional career. But on Saturday night, the Yale product allowed four goals on 21 shots in the Phantoms’ 4-3 loss to St. John’s. His 20 wins have him second in the AHL behind Tristan Jarry and Jack Campbell, who both have 21.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Stolarz got the nod Friday against St. John’s and stopped 19 of 21 shots faced in a 4-2 win. It was his eighth start since his stint with the Flyers while Michal Neuvirth battled a left knee injury. With how Gordon has divvied up the net, it’s a safe bet Stolarz gets the start Tuesday at Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. The Phantoms have four games this week, so it could be a 50/50 split. What’s interesting going forward is both Stolarz and Lyon are restricted free agents after the season and the Flyers will certainly want to bring both back. Consider both Neuvirth and Steve Mason are unrestricted free agents, too, it’s also a safe bet that either Stolarz or Lyon could be the Flyers’ backup next season to either Neuvirth or Mason. The super early favorite has to be Stolarz considering his experience, both in the AHL and NHL.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
For precautionary reasons, according to Sons of Penn’s Alexander Appleyard, Lindblom was held out of the Sweden Hockey Games portion of the Euro Hockey Tour because of a lower-body injury. Lindblom has been cleared to play for Brynäs IF when the SHL season resumes Tuesday. Last week, Lindblom spoke with Brynäs’ Kari Litmanen about his season, his development and how often he talks with the Flyers. Here are some highlights, with the help of Google Translate.

On his development: “The strength and speed have been developed and I feel like I can do a little more with the puck than before. My development has meant that I can keep the puck an extra second and the little extra seconds allow me to get away a pass for a shot.”

On communication with Flyers: “I’m talking the most with their development responsible for forwards. During the season, it is quite a bit of contact — that the focus is on the present. (The Flyers) usually sends video links and clips of match situations I’ll check in order to develop my game and get better.”

Quick hits
• Rouyn-Noranda defenseman Philippe Myers was cleared to return from his concussion, suffered at the world juniors, last week, but did not play. He’ll likely play Wednesday.

• Phantoms forwards Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton are battling injuries. Leier has missed five straight games, while Laughton suffered his injury Friday. Gordon did not offer any new information Saturday, per Highland Park Hockey’s Tony Androckitis.

Sam Morin had his second career multi-point game last week with the Phantoms, registering a goal and an assist in Lehigh Valley’s 5-0 win over Binghamton on Wednesday.

Pascal Laberge tallied a goal and an assist and was named the No. 1 star in Victoriaville’s 4-3 shootout win over Québec on Saturday. In the shootout, Laberge deked Québec goalie Evgeny Kiselev with a nifty move and scored, but it was ruled no good because he didn’t keep the puck going forward. Close call. You can decide yourself here if it was a goal or not.

• Another shutout for Everett’s Carter Hart, who turned in a 31-save blanking of Moose Jaw Saturday. Hart now has a WHL-leading eight shutouts and 2.01 goals-against average.

• Ohio State freshman Tanner Laczynski has gotten back on track after a brief slump after returning from the world juniors. Laczynski had a goal and two assists in two games against Minnesota. He now has two goals and three assists in his last five games. 

Merrick Madsen made 32 saves and yielded two goals in No. 4 Harvard’s 6-2 rout of No. 6 Union on Friday.

• Western Michigan winger Wade Allison added an assist Friday against Nebraska-Omaha. His five-game point streak was snapped Saturday. He has nine points in his last nine games.

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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