Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

One ring down, one ring to go.

Claude Giroux is enjoying a summer of marital bliss after tying the knot with fiancee Ryanne Breton.

When he returns to Philadelphia later this summer, he’ll begin his quest once again to earn that much more elusive championship ring. Of course, few people believe the Flyers are close to winning a Stanley Cup, but with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, they’re closer.

Maybe one more stud defenseman, Carter Hart in his prime, and switching the captain back to center?

Is it possible that after topping the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, Giroux’s left wing conversion was just a one-year experiment?

General manager Ron Hextall stated a desire to sign a third-line center who would help kill penalties, but only signing one on his terms. The players that seemingly fit that role — Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash and Derek Ryan — all signed three-year contracts elsewhere, and the concern within the organization is eventually blocking Morgan Frost’s path to the NHL (see story)

So Hextall was asked on July 1 how the Flyers find that center they weren’t able to sign through free agency and the first answer that almost immediately came to mind was moving Giroux back to center. 

I believe the Flyers' brass has already given the idea consideration, and if you move the pieces around on paper, the team looks considerably deeper with Giroux in the middle again. 

Several elements stand out when you compare and contrast the different combinations.

1. The Flyers are considerably more balanced with Giroux at center, with three lines that can do offensive damage and create matchup problems for the opposition, especially at home with last change.

2. Konecny could be buried with Giroux at wing. He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top six if Giroux switches back to center. During the first half of last season, Konecny was paired with players that didn’t have a similar skill set, and consequently, the super-skilled winger struggled to find any offensive rhythm.

3. While effective at times last season, Laughton doesn’t seem ready to jump into the role of a third-line center. The 2012 first-round pick played some of his best hockey late in the season on the left wing with Jori Lehtera at center. 

If Dave Hakstol elects to make this change in the preseason, the biggest concern moving forward doesn’t necessarily involve Giroux’s move back to center, but rather can Couturier continue to excel by posting solid offensive numbers without Giroux on his wing? The two players were inseparable last season until the final two games of the Flyers' playoff series against Pittsburgh.  

And it may be the best option to start next season. 

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Flyers prospect Carter Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

Flyers prospect Carter Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

By the day, even by the hour, Carter Hart looks and sounds more and more like a professional.

He's worked with a sports psychologist to tackle the mentality of goaltending.

He's noticeably stronger and his dietary habits are impressive.

His hockey résumé is in tip-top condition.

He turns 20 years old in August and will no longer look like a pro in 2018-19.

He will be one — and already with some added preparation.

"I actually just deleted my Twitter the other day because there's no point in all that," Hart said a week and a half ago at Flyers development camp. "You see a lot of news and stuff, and whether it's positive or negative, you just don't want to hear that stuff. For me, I just try to stay away from it and worry about what I'm doing and where I'm at right now."

A wise move by a kid who exudes wisdom, a precociousness that has Flyers fans gaga over his future, which is nearing. The 2016 second-round draft pick seems destined for his first AHL season but will fight for an NHL job come September.

"I want to be a Philadelphia Flyer next year," Hart said. "That's my goal."

At the junior level, he showed he's ready for his next challenge. He set records with the WHL's Everett Silvertips and put up a staggering 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in 2017-18.

While those numbers are nice and shiny, Hart will be the first to point out the stark difference between junior and pro hockey. 

"In juniors, you have guys that are 16 years old that some of them are just hitting puberty now," Hart said. "In pros, you're dealing with men. So you're going from playing with boys to men, so obviously it's going to be a jump up but I think you just have to adjust and adapt to everything."

If there's a prospect to bank on doing so, it's Hart. The readiness factor goes beyond the numbers with the netminder.

"People that haven't met him and don't work with him day in and day out just see what he does on the ice, but for me, it's that whole maturity and professionalism that he's already completely grasped," Everett general manager Garry Davidson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia in May. "Because there are guys his age that are going to the pro game that are going to have to learn all of those things and some of them will never learn it and will come up short. But he's got that already going for him."

Hart will use it throughout the summer and especially during the fall when he's back in Voorhees, New Jersey, for training camp. He's aware of the situation all around him — from the number of goalies in the club's picture to Flyers fans calling his name.

Aware, but not focused on it.

"I just have to worry about doing my job and going out there and playing and performing," he said. "Coming to camp in September, my job is to just stop the puck. The only thing that really matters is what I think of myself. I can't worry about what the staff thinks, what management thinks, what other people think, what fans think — I just have to worry about what I think as soon as I step out on that ice."

Hart has that down.

And he understands his life will soon be different.

"You're going to be on your own pretty much completely for laundry, eating, groceries," Hart said. "I've talked to a lot of people and that's the biggest transition from junior to pro is not having a billet. I know my billet Parker Fowlds is probably the best there is."

Fowlds won't miss Hart on Twitter.

"He doesn't even know what Twitter is," the goalie said with a laugh.


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Joel Farabee, the newest piece to Flyers' future, is just like you

Joel Farabee, the newest piece to Flyers' future, is just like you

His favorite baseball player growing up was Chase Utley.

He tweeted #FlyEaglesFly on Feb. 4, and a few hours later, the Birds won their first Super Bowl.

He loves Wawa and Pat’s King of Steaks.

He has a summer house in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Joel Farabee is the most interesting man, not born in Philadelphia.

“I think there have already been a few people who have called me Joe-ELL,” Farabee said.

It is not “Joe-ELL,” it’s “Jo-ull.” Farabee will have to get used to it now that the Flyers drafted him with the 14th pick in last month’s NHL draft. There are now two prominent Joels in town.

The other Joel — and just this one instance — is Joel Embiid, an established superstar in the NBA and a national treasure on social media. Farabee has a ways to go to reach that level.

“He’s a great athlete,” Farabee said. “Two different sports, two different names.”

But that’s not how it goes in Philly. We’re famous for mispronouncing water. Farabee will have to deal with folks around here garbling his first name, at least until he creates his brand here. That is going to take time as Farabee has elected for the college hockey route and at 6-foot, 161 pounds, the Cicero, New York, native has his work carved out for him in the weight room.

Farabee departed Flyers development camp in Voorhees, New Jersey, two weeks ago to return home, pack his bags and head to Boston University for a summer Intro to Archaeology class. In the fall, he’ll join a prestigious Terriers program that’s historically churned out NHL players — Keith Tkachuk, Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy, Kevin Shattenkirk, Charlie Coyle, Clayton Keller.

The left winger originally committed to University of New Hampshire in December 2014 but de-committed after Scott Borek, who was an assistant at UNH, left for Providence College.

“When I committed there, I was 14,” Farabee said. “I remember when I got offered, I didn’t really know anything about college, so it was kind of a weird feeling. … Then [Borek] left, so I wanted to see some other schools. At the time I de-committed, I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was going to leave. I saw some other schools. I really just felt like BU was a great place to play.

“But I think, all in all, I don’t regret any decisions. I’m really excited to go to BU. The facilities there, the coaching staff is awesome. I’m just really excited to play there and be in Boston.”

Development camp was the first chance for Flyers fans to see Farabee and for people who stuck around from Day 1 to the conclusion with the 3-on-3 tournament, they saw a steady progression. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall insists the camp is not for talent evaluation, but it’s hockey in the summer, and it’s the first time many can get a glimpse at their prospects.

Farabee showcased his skating, skill and shot throughout the camp but dazzled during the 3-on-3 tournament. Leading up to the draft, Farabee was described to have an accurate shot with a shoot-first mentality, which was the type of prospect the Flyers certainly needed.

In the 3-on-3 tourney, Farabee put that ability on full display. There was one part of his game that Hextall highlighted afterward that the naked eye doesn’t necessarily see: deception.

“He disguises whether it’s a shot or a pass,” Hextall said. “He’s got really quick hands. A lot of guys will come down, the goalie knows where they’re going to shoot, so you see goalies make a save and go, ‘That was quick.’ It really wasn’t because they read the puck off the stick blade.

“The puck is really hard to react to. Joel hides things. If he’s going to shoot the puck, he’ll turn his hands real quick, bang and let it go. Or he’ll open up for a shot and he’ll pass the puck.

“A lot of top guys in the league, you wonder why they score or how that pass went through … they’re showing hands to the defenseman, to the goalie. Joel is one of those guys.”

The USA Hockey National Team Development Program had a pretty strong 2018 draft class with 16 players selected. The Flyers drafted two — Farabee and Gavin Hain (174th overall). Jay O’Brien, the Flyers’ second first-round pick, had a brief stint with the NTDP but wasn’t a regular.

Farabee played on a line with Oliver Wahlstrom, who was drafted by the Islanders with the 11th overall pick, and Jack Hughes, who's projected to go No. 1 overall in 2019, last season. During his age-17 season, he was with Wahlstrom and Jake Wise, who he’ll play with at BU.

“It was really good. They’re really elite players, they’re really fun to play with,” Farabee said. “They think the game really well. It makes the game a lot easier when you know where they’re going to be. I really loved playing with them. I get to play with Wise at BU next year and I’ll be playing against Wahlstrom at [Boston College], a little rivalry.”

Circling back on that February Sunday evening that forever changed Philadelphia sports, Farabee, Wise and Wahlstrom were back together again. This time, with their billet family.

The trio, along with Mattias Samuelsson, the son of Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson, watched the Eagles beat the Patriots, 41-33. Wise and Wahlstrom are Pats fans.

“It was a fun rivalry,” Farabee said.

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