Flyers

Wayne Simmonds returns to where it all began in first All-Star appearance

Wayne Simmonds returns to where it all began in first All-Star appearance

It took the better part of nine seasons for Wayne Simmonds to become an NHL All-Star.

Once a very raw rookie with the Los Angeles Kings, he will make his way back to the city where it all began on Friday.

Unlike Jakub Voracek, who left Columbus as a Blue Jacket then returned for the All-Star Game as a Flyer, Simmonds doesn’t feel his career will be validated this weekend just because he’s been recognized as one of the game’s best stars.

Yet he does feel it took going cross-country for people to give him a second look.

“Yeah, I definitely think coming to the East Coast allowed people to see my game,” Simmonds said this week. “People kind of watch it more than they do on the West Coast.

“When you play at 10:30 every night, people don’t get to see what you bring out there. I guess you could say it’s validation.”

Simmonds, along with Brayden Schenn, came to the Flyers from the Kings a day before the 2011 NHL draft in exchange for Mike Richards.

Unlike so many players acquired in trades, Simmonds’ career has been one of shooting upward every season as a Flyer, regardless of who’s been coaching him.

This season, he is unquestionably the Flyers' MVP. He had the game-winning goal Wednesday night against the Rangers in New York. His 10 power-play goals are tied for second in the NHL.

He scored on Thursday against Toronto, giving him three straight games with a goal. His 21 goals also lead the Flyers.

“The day he was named our All-Star representative,” coach Dave Hakstol said, “I remember saying I can’t imagine a better player or person to represent the Philadelphia Flyers and what we’re all about.

“Wayne has earned it in every area — off the ice, on the ice. I’m sure he’ll be proud to head back to L.A. for the All-Star Game and he should be.”

Simmonds posted a career-high 32 goals last season and should eclipse his career-best 60 points this year, not to mention his goal output, as well.

Remember Scott Hartnell? Not as much as you used to, right? That’s because Simmonds is the guy who replaced Hartsy in the paint on the first-unit power play and plays a regular role on a top line.

“Obviously, way bigger role,” he said, looking back. “Went from a checking-line guy to an offensive guy and kind of coming back to being that full 200-foot player. It’s an evolution.”

Hakstol added to Simmonds’ role this season by using him on the penalty kill, something he had not done since his first year in L.A.

Simmonds logged 1:26 shorthanded minutes in the first period against Toronto and used the momentum of a big four-minute challenge by scoring a goal on his first shift off the kill at even strength (see story).

Hakstol added that role this season after speaking with assistant Ian Laperriere, who runs the penalty kill.

“I think we talked about a lot of different things with him,” Hakstol said. “It was Lappy who thought he had a lot of good attributes to be a penalty killer.

“I think he does. He skates well. He has a very good stick. He is very competitive. Probably the biggest thing, he wanted to be on the penalty kill. I think this year he has shown that he takes a lot of pride in it, and that’s a big part of killing penalties. You have to take pride in that role.”

It all goes to Simmonds’ comfort level here and that didn’t happen overnight. He hid his emotions well when he first arrived as a 23-year-old.

“I was pretty down after being traded,” Simmonds recalled. “Your first organization. The team that drafted you and cultivated you and most of your game. It sucks. You have friends there, roots you built in the community. Bonds that formed.”

People reached out to tell him what the Flyers were all about — how Ed Snider treated his players as family, not just employees, how everything here was top notch.

In many ways, the Flyers from the get-go have always operated as if they were an original six and not part of the league’s first expansion.

“To come to an organization like the Flyers, I knew they were a first-class organization,” Simmonds said. “A lot of guys [in L.A.] had come from Philly. [Gave me] a lot of good insight about Philly. Didn’t take me long to realize that Philly was awesome and a first-rate organization to go to.”

As sometimes happens with trades, Simmonds first heard of it through the Flyers when then-general manager Paul Holmgren called him.

“Homer called me and I was at my uncle’s cottage in PEI,” said Simmonds, referring to Prince Edward Island. “My [cell] reception there was shoddy. Talked to Homer a bit, got my information on the flight.”

Ron Hextall, the Kings' assistant GM, was next, followed by GM Dean Lombardi.

“Not much was said between me and Hexy and Dean or I,” Simmonds said. “Thank you for what you’ve done. I appreciated the chance I got in L.A. Just moving on."

During the six years here as a Flyer, Simmonds said he’s never had a chance to chat with Lombardi and thank him for giving him his first NHL job.

That may or may not happen this weekend in L.A. Simmonds is hoping it does.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and have an actual conversation,” he said. “He did a lot for me. Obviously, gave me an opportunity. To make the team as a first-year pro. I was 20. I definitely have an appreciation toward him.”

Simmonds became engaged during the recent bye week. His fiancé, Crystal, will accompany him this weekend.

“Obviously, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I started dating her my last year I was in L.A. She got out there one or two times. This is a chance for her to enjoy it.”

And as much as Simmonds would like to reacquaint himself with the town a bit, he can’t.

“No plans,” he said. “I got my schedule from the All-Star committee and it’s pretty much that.”

Flyers 6, Rangers 4 (preseason): Youngsters continue push for jobs

Flyers 6, Rangers 4 (preseason): Youngsters continue push for jobs

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — One night after scoring a 5-1 win over the Islanders, the Flyers matched that and scored one more Wednesday to beat the Rangers, 6-4, at Madison Square Garden.

Are rookies pushing veterans out of a job and will an 18-year-old leave Philadelphia with a contract? Observations from the win:

1. Oskar Lindblom may have solidified his spot on the team after a dominating opening period with three points (two goals, assist) and a plus-3 rating. His first goal was a thing of beauty as his initial one-timer was denied by Henrik Lundqvist, but he kept with it and backhanded the rebounded into the net. Lindblom's confidence is light years from where it was this time last season.

2. I’m not sure you’ll see too much of it during the regular season, but it was enjoyable watching Mikhail Vorobyev and Claude Giroux together. In the first period, you could sense the chemistry in how they see the game that most players don’t. On a couple of occasions, they were able to cycle the puck in the Rangers' zone. Vorobyev has a real shot of making this team, but he needs to play with like-minded players, like Lindblom. The line of Lindblom, Corban Knight and Scott Laughton had nine points and was a plus-9 … in the first period.

3. One area of concern regarding Vorobyev has been his carelessness with his stick. Including the prospects game, Vorobyev has now been called for four stick infractions. I don’t think Vorobyev has that reputation, but sometimes it’s the result of adjusting to the way the game is now called at the NHL level. 

4. No doubt about it Dale Weise is fighting for a job. Despite scoring on the power play, Weise coughed up the puck in the first period that led to Matt Beleskey’s goal and then had an even more glaring turnover as he held onto the puck way too long.   

5. The Flyers took advantage of Lundqvist, who had a lot of rust in his first game action. The Flyers' first two goals are ones Lundqvist handles rather easily, and Weise’s power-play goal is one he typically stops. The five goals the Flyers scored on Lundqvist is the most he’s allowed at MSG since the Flyers scored seven on Feb. 18, 2018.

6. Carter Hart replaced Brian Elliott after the first 20 minutes. Dave Hakstol didn’t address his goaltending plan during the morning skate so it will be interesting to see if that was his plan or if he made the decision after watching the first 20 minutes. At no point did Elliott appear bothered by his previous injuries. Hart did his best work on the penalty kill as he was under heavy fire. He surrendered one 5-on-3 goal that was a flukey one for the Rangers.    

7. Yegor Zamula, the youngest player in training camp at 18 years old, had his first major gaffe when he whiffed on a backhand clearing attempt that led to Ryan Spooner’s goal. In camp on a tryout, Zamula has continued to get better and certainly hasn’t looked out of place. At 6-foot-3, 160 pounds, he’s extremely lean and GM Ron Hextall will have an interesting decision whether to extend him a contract.

More on the Flyers

Flyers-Rangers preseason game No. 4: Roster, highlights, live stream and more

Flyers-Rangers preseason game No. 4: Roster, highlights, live stream and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers will be at the preseason midpoint after Wednesday night.

First, they'll visit the world's most famous arena for their fourth exhibition game in four days when they play the Rangers.

A few notables ahead of puck drop:

• After a night off, roster hopefuls Philippe Myers, Mikhail Vorobyev and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are back at it and in favorable spots. 

Vorobyev, eyeing a bottom-six job, has the pleasure of centering Claude Giroux on the first line — not a bad supporting cast for an audition.

Myers is a part of the top D pair alongside Robert Hagg, while Aube-Kubel will be on the wing of NHLer Jordan Weal.

All good opportunities before an upcoming round of cuts Thursday.

• Brian Elliott will make his preseason debut and start in net. It'll be interesting to see how sharp he looks after not being 100 percent at the end of 2017-18 following core muscle surgery and a summer focused on recovery (see story). Carter Hart, who stopped all 11 shots he faced Monday, is tonight's second goalie.

• Scott Laughton is playing on the wing again. Head coach Dave Hakstol said last Saturday they want to get Laughton a game at center, so that should still come over the final four exhibition contests. However, the Flyers may like him more at wing right now.

• First-line center Sean Couturier (knee) did not practice Wednesday back at Flyers Skate Zone with the group not playing against the Rangers. Not skating was a part of the schedule for Couturier.

• Carsen Twarynski is an underrated winger playing well. He scored a goal and had a plus-2 rating in Tuesday night's 5-1 win (see story). Last season, he scored 45 goals for the WHL's Kelowna Rockets. The 20-year-old will be worth watching in his first season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Here's what he said after Wednesday's morning skate, via NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk:

I've had the mentality of wanting to earn my spot here over the past couple of years. If you don't see yourself doing it, it's going to be tough for you to actually accomplish it. I feel like I've been performing well and working my way to earn a spot.

Here are the essentials for tonight:

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden
Live stream: The Flyers' official website

Projected lineup

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Mikhail Vorobyev-Dale Weise
Oskar Lindblom-Corban Knight-Scott Laughton
Carsen Twarynski-Jordan Weal-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Cole Bardreau-German Rubtsov-Colin McDonald

Defensemen
Robert Hagg-Philippe Myers
T.J. Brennan-Radko Gudas
Yegor Zamula-Christian Folin

Goaltenders
Brian Elliott
Carter Hart

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