Future Flyers Report: The World Junior Championships edition

Future Flyers Report: The World Junior Championships edition

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 edition, we feature the nine prospects playing in the world junior championships. The quarterfinals begin today, and the tournament wraps up Thursday night.

Philippe Myers, D, 6-5/209, Team Canada
Some good and some bad news on the Myers front. Let’s begin with the bad.

Myers suffered a concussion during Canada’s 3-1 loss to the United States on Saturday, when Team USA captain Luke Kunin leveled him into the backboards. Kunin received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit. Myers is out for the quarterfinals. For Canada, losing Myers is a major blow. The 6-foot-5 blueliner has been its best D-man in the tournament, logging big minutes and creating offense from the blue line.

In four preliminary games, Myers registered three assists, three shots on goal and a plus-one rating. He displayed tremendous patience and vision, setting up Tyson Jost’s goal against Russia last Monday for Canada’s first goal of the tournament. Off the stat sheet, Myers has played against opponents’ top players and defended them well. Replacing Myers will be a difficult task for head coach Dominique Ducharme.

The concussion is Myers’ second this season. He suffered one late in October, and missed a few games for Rouyn-Noranda. Still, Myers’ progression since the Flyers inked him as an undrafted free agent has to have the front office oozing with excitement. And Myers’ showing before the concussion on the biggest stage in junior hockey also has to excite the orange and black, and for that matter, the Canadian hockey brass.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Team Canada
Canada has perhaps the best goaltending tandem at the world junior championships, with Hart and Kamloops goalie Connor Ingram, the WHL’s top two netminders.

Hart and Ingram split the prelims, each getting two games. Ingram got the nod over Hart last Saturday against the U.S. Ducharme’s reasoning for the decision was he wanted to get both goalies involved, and Ingram faced just six shots in his first game. As for Hart, the Flyers’ goalie prospect started Canada’s first game against Russia and its third game against Latvia. He yielded three goals to the Russians in a 5-3 win, and two goals against Latvia in a 10-2 win for Canada. He’s stopped 37 of 42 shots faced.

Against Russia, the first goal Hart allowed, on the second shot he faced, is one he should have stopped. Mikhail Sergachyov fluttered a shot top corner on Hart, who was relatively unscreened on the play. He didn’t have much of a shot on Kirill Kaprizov’s goal, and the third goal was a wicked wrister by Yegor Rykov. Hart finished 14 for 17. Hart faced more shots against Latvia, in a game the Canadians ran away with and stopped all but two of the 25 shots he faced. In the win-or-go-home round, it’s unclear, however, whether it will be Hart or Ingram in net against the Czech Republic today.

If it was up to TSN analyst and former NHL goalie Jamie McLennan, Team Canada would go back to Hart and give the first goalie drafted in 2016 a chance to shine.

“This is a win-orientated business,” McLennan said. “He’s 2-0. He may have been a little shaky here and there, but he is still 2-0. You give him the opportunity to run the table.”

Tanner Laczynski, C, 6-1/191, Team USA
Laczynski, the biggest surprise among Flyers prospects thus far, had a quality preliminary round for the United States, netting a goal and an assist in four games.

Centering the fourth line, the 19-year-old has won 64.1 percent of his faceoffs, which is ninth best in the tournament. He has provided the 4-0 U.S. stability in its bottom 12. The Ohio State centerman picked up his goal last Wednesday against Slovakia, tucking a puck past goalie Matej Tomek, another Flyers prospect (more on Tomek later).

In a limited role with Team USA, compared to what he fills at OSU, Laczynski has shown he can be relied upon in either a scoring role or a checking role.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Team Russia
It has been a rough 2016-17 season for Rubtsov, and it’s continued over into the WJCs.

The Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick is pointless in four games for Russia, playing mostly on the fourth line. Sound familiar? It should, as Rubtsov is pointless in the KHL, too. In a 9-1 Russian win over Latvia last Tuesday, Rubtsov was the victim of a tripping penalty by Maksims Ponomarenko, who chirped the Russian for overselling.

In the quarterfinals today, Russia faces a Denmark team it should easily dispatch. The game offers another opportunity for Rubtsov to show something to his coaching staff. So far, it’s been a quiet world juniors for the Russian, as it has been all season long.

Mikhail Vorobyov, C, 6-2/207, Team Russia
What a preliminary round for Vorobyov, who is tied with Canada’s Dylan Strome with six assists for the tournament’s lead in that category and tied for fourth in points with six.

Vorobyov did most of his damage in Russia’s 9-1 win over Latvia in which he racked up four assists. He added an assist against the U.S. and Canada. He also has fared well in the faceoff circle with a 62.07 percent clip and has been one of Russia’s top forwards.

Like Laczynski, Vorobyov is another mid-to-late-round draft pick that has some promise. It’s a testament to the Flyers’ scouting department. Vorobyov is still an unknown commodity in terms of how he projects as an NHL prospect, but he’s having a strong WJCs.

Felix Sandstrom, G, 6-2/187, Team Sweden
Sweden clinched the top spot in its group before its final preliminary game, which meant Sandstrom had Saturday off, but he’ll be back in net for Team Sweden today.

Sandstrom has been the tournament’s top goaltender, and has Sweden looking like the gold medal favorite. He’s stopped 62 of 66 shots, leads the tournament with a .939 save percentage and three of the four goals he’s yielded have come on penalty kills.

Expect Sandstrom to continue the momentum in the quarterfinals against Slovakia, and put Sweden in good position to take home the gold medal this year.

David Bernhardt, D, 6-3/203, Team Sweden
Let’s talk about another late-round pick having a strong preliminaries at the world juniors. Bernhardt has three assists and averaging 19:20 in four games for Sweden.

Bernhardt played 21:16 in Sweden’s 5-2 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday, his highest mark in the tournament. He played 20:30 in Sweden’s first game against Denmark, and then 17:44 against Finland and 16:28 against Switzerland.

The 19-year-old puck-moving blueliner has had a productive year with both Djurgårdens IF of the SHL and Djurgårdens IF’s J20 team. He has two goals and seven points in 21 games in the SHL, and 12 points in nine games in the Swedish junior league.

Matej Tomek, G, 6-3/183, Team Slovakia
For not playing in a meaningful game in two years at North Dakota, Tomek’s performance in the prelims is quite impressive. Tomek has been the better of the two goalies for Slovakia, and has all but locked down the starting job for its quarterfinal meeting with Sweden. Tomek has a .913 save percentage, stopping 73 of 80 shots. He lost both games he started, but kept the Slovaks in the game against Russia, allowing just two goals. Against the Americans, he yielded five goals, but the U.S. is a far superior team in terms of talent. A promising world juniors for Tomek.

David Kase, RW, 5-11/170, Team Czech Republic
Battling an injury for the last few weeks, Kase’s status for the world juniors was in question, but the winger proved healthy enough to compete for the Czech Republic. In four preliminary games, Kase added a goal, an assist, 11 shots on goal and four penalty minutes. The Czechs face Canada today in its quarterfinal matchup.

Quick hits
Travis Sanheim added two more assists last week for the Phantoms. He now has 11 assists and 15 points in 31 games.

• Rough week for Lehigh Valley goalie Alex Lyon, who was 1-1-1 and allowed 11 goals in three games. He stopped 75 of 86 shots faced last week.

• Two more points for Oskar Lindblom, who has 28 points in 30 games for Brynäs IF.

Cooper Marody made his season debut last weekend for Michigan after sitting out the first semester because he was academically ineligible. How did he do? Three assists last Friday night against Michigan State, his second game of the season.

•  Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge had three assists in three games last week, as did Saint John’s Samuel Dove-McFalls.

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here