Flyers

NHL Notes: P.K. Subban guarantees Predators will win Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: P.K. Subban guarantees Predators will win Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A good night's sleep has P.K. Subban more confident than ever about what the Nashville Predators will do on their own ice trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 0-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.

He delivered an All-Star guarantee for Saturday night.

"There's no question," Subban said Thursday. "We're going to win the next game, and then we'll move forward."

Subban came very close to guaranteeing a win in the moments after Pittsburgh's 4-1 win Wednesday night. The Penguins turned a 1-1 game into a rout by scoring three goals in the first 3:28 of the third period , forcing Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to pull star goaltender Pekka Rinne for rookie Juuse Saros.

On Thursday, the All-Star defenseman channeled Mark Messier, who backed up his own guarantee of a Rangers' win against New Jersey in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. Subban explained why he was so confident, noting the Predators know they deserve to be playing for the Stanley Cup.

"We're capable of playing even better than we did in Pittsburgh, and I thought we played some great hockey," Subban said. "I mean, out of 120 minutes, maybe we'd like to take back six of them. Ultimately, we have to be realistic with where we're at. We're down 2-nothing. We're coming back in our barn, and we don't lose here. So it starts Saturday" (see full story).

Sabres: Team relinquishes rights to Estephan, Possler
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have relinquished the rights to prospect forwards Giorgio Estephan and Gustav Possler by not signing them to contracts before an NHL deadline struck Thursday.

Estephan will re-enter the pool of players eligible to be selected in the draft this month. Possler becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The 20-year-old Estephan was Buffalo's sixth-round pick in 2015, and Possler was a fifth-round pick in 2013.

Estephan scored a career-best 35 goals and 89 points in 68 games last season with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League. He added 11 goals and 24 points in 18 playoff games.

The 22-year-old Possler had two goals and four points in 21 games for Swedish League's Djurgardens IF in a season cut short by an ankle injury.

Panthers: Thornton hired as business executive
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Shawn Thornton is now a Florida Panthers executive.

The recently retired forward was announced Thursday as the Panthers' new vice president of business operations. Thornton revealed in April that he would join the team's front office and work under Panthers president and CEO Matthew Caldwell after taking a bit of time after the season to prepare for his new career.

"It's a humbling day for me and I'm excited to begin the next chapter of my career in hockey," Thornton said.

Thornton played for two Stanley Cup winners as part of the Boston Bruins. He played professionally for 20 years, spending the first half of that toiling in the minors before eventually breaking through and logging 705 NHL games with the Bruins, Panthers, Anaheim and Chicago.

He is one of two players to play more than 600 games in the American Hockey League and at least 700 in the NHL. The Panthers said Thornton also is the only player this century to record 10 fights, score 10 goals and win the Stanley Cup in the same season.

"Shawn's work ethic, enthusiasm and passion for the Panthers organization is second to none," Caldwell said. "We are thrilled to welcome him to our executive team and know that he will bring the same level of professionalism, experience and leadership to the business side of our organization as he did in the locker room" (see full story).

Wild: Brunette promoted to assistant GM
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have promoted Andrew Brunette to assistant general manager, the latest post in the organization for one of the best players in franchise history.

Brunette's elevated role was announced Thursday, with 10 other hockey operations and business side promotions.

Brunette was a hockey operations adviser last season after serving as an assistant coach the two years before that. He played six seasons for the Wild, ranking in their all-time top five in games played, goals, assists and power-play points.

Shep Harder, who was director of hockey administration, was also named an assistant general manager. Brent Flahr was promoted from assistant general manager to senior vice president of hockey operations.

Matt Majka, the chief operating officer and executive vice president, was named president of the Wild.

One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

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Zack Hill/ Philadelphia Flyers

One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

Bobby Brink will remember waiting.

With the NHL draft, most players will say it doesn't matter where you go or when you're taken, it's just special to hear your name called — a dream realized.

Brink, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound winger from Minnetonka, Minnesota, masterfully delivered in his draft year. He carved up the USHL for 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 regular-season games with the Sioux City Musketeers, turning himself into what many viewed as a first-round prospect.

He didn't learn his draft destiny until Saturday, Day 2 of the event, at pick No. 34 overall.

"I landed in a great spot with the Flyers," Brink said last month at development camp, "and I couldn't be happier to be here."

Thrilled, absolutely. But …

"It's motivation that teams passed up on you," Brink said. "It was a long day Friday."

He won't forget.

The Flyers traded up to snag Brink. They were excited he was still available on Day 2, three selections into the second round (see story). Brink said he had met with the Flyers throughout the year and at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"I knew the history of the Flyers," Brink said. "It's such an historic organization.

"They didn't tell me they were going to draft me or anything, but I thought I was on their radar."

For good reason.

Brink isn't regarded as the biggest, fastest or strongest, but there's a deceptive quickness to his skating, he thrives on outsmarting the opposition and he's exceptionally skilled. 

I rely on the scouts to put the list together and Bobby was a player that our entire staff highly endorsed, scouted and very much liked as a hockey player. I've known Bobby and his family for many years. His dad Andy coached my son and also taught him in school. So there's a long relationship there. 

In terms of the background, I felt comfortable giving my opinion to the staff about what a quality kid from a quality family. Watched him play at every level, and it's remarkable — he was a star player in squirt and peewee, and he's a star player in the USHL. It's been amazing to watch his rise. He's a high-quality prospect.

- Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher

During the 5-on-5 scrimmage to finish off development camp, Brink stood out playing alongside top prospects Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe.

"He's a small guy, but he works hard," the 6-foot-6 Ratcliffe said. "He seemed to control the puck and it was on a string for him out there.

"He's a really good player."

Brink, who is headed to the University of Denver, said growing up he has admired smaller players in the NHL like Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane.

"Seeing them do that, I realize that I can do it, too," Brink said. "They're providing me opportunity, for the smaller guys, by having so much success."

Gaudreau, the 25-year-old five-time All-Star, is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger who was drafted out of the USHL in 2011. He heard his name called in the fourth round.

Sometimes waiting can be a good thing.

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Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

The Flyers selected Noah Cates during the fifth round of the 2017 NHL draft, plucking him out of Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota with the 137th overall pick.

At the time, Brent Flahr, Chuck Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild were sitting at No. 147.

"A kid like Cates was right in our backyard," Flahr said. "One thing in Minnesota when you are there, you hate when Minnesota players, especially the good ones, go ahead of you."

Flahr can now thank Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor. As the assistant general manager of the Flyers, Flahr no longer has to kick himself for missing out on Cates.

"Nick Pryor did a good job," Flahr said last month at development camp. "He was right near his house. They got him. He looks like a real good prospect for us."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

As a fifth-round pick out of high school, Cates was once well below the surface in the Flyers' prospect pool. With time and hard work, he's beginning to blossom — and the Flyers see it. 

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said. "He's quietly gotten better and better every year, and everything we ask him to do, he's doing it."

In 2017-18, Cates scored nearly a point per game (21 goals, 34 assists) over 60 contests with the USHL's Omaha Lancers. He then followed it up by playing an important role for 2019 national champion University of Minnesota Duluth, recording 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and a plus-12 mark through 40 games as a freshman.

What made the national title even sweeter was winning it alongside his brother Jackson Cates, for a school just shy of a 2½-hour drive from his parents Jeff and Jenny Cates.

"Awesome," Cates said. "I think they were at every game this year. It was so much easier for them that we were in the same spot, a couple hours from home. They're obviously so proud of us."

Couple his freshman year with a goal and two assists for the U.S. in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and it was a productive 2018-19 for Cates.

"Just grew so much, developed so much with the college game — living on my own, going to school and everything like that," Cates said. "Just an awesome year all around and capping it off with that national championship was so special with my family."

Cates is far from the skinny, offense-first player he was in high school. He's gone from 6-foot-1, 165 pounds to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. He's a smart, all-situation thinker — in large part because of his development with the Bulldogs and trust from head coach Scott Sandelin.

"My role kind of grew as the year went on, got more comfortable," Cates said. "A little bit of power play, some penalty kill, last-minute stuff — that's important to play in all those key situations, so important moving on to have that experience. To do it for a team like that, it was really special. I can't say enough good things about that program and the whole year in general. Coach Sandelin gave me a lot of opportunity and I'm so grateful for that opportunity and took advantage of it."

The Flyers noticed.

"He scored goals, he's on the ice when you're protecting leads, he's killing penalties," Samuelsson said. "He's a very rounded hockey player."

Cates said it's too early to tell how long he'll stay in school.

"When you're on a team like that and with a program like that, you don't want to leave too early and maybe hurt your career," Cates said, "especially with the opportunity that's in Duluth."

After all, there's no real rush. Flahr, Fletcher and the Flyers know him well.

"So happy to be in Philadelphia," Cates said.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development. They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

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