John Boruk

Trade talks or contract talks? Right now, doesn't sound like Wayne Simmonds is going anywhere

Trade talks or contract talks? Right now, doesn't sound like Wayne Simmonds is going anywhere

Last year it was Brayden Schenn who was dealt on draft night. 

Could this year be Wayne Simmonds?

According to a report Tuesday by Michael Russo of The Athletic, the Flyers are gearing to potentially trade Simmonds. Russo’s report mentions the Flyers as one of 15 different teams the Minnesota Wild could possibly swing a deal with under new general manager Paul Fenton.

While the speculation comes as little surprise, general manager Ron Hextall said last week immediately following his pre-draft press conference that he expects to have preliminary discussions with Simmonds' agent regarding a contract extension.

“Yeah, we’ll talk at some point,” Hextall said. “We had pro meetings, the week before was four days of amateur meetings. Combine before that. It’s a real busy time. That gets pushed back to later.”

Hextall certainly didn’t make it sound as if he’s gearing up to deal Simmonds this weekend, and he typically doesn’t resort to smoke screens as a way of misleading reporters. 

The Flyers' power forward has been a regular in Voorhees, New Jersey, throughout his rehab following surgery to repair a tear in his pelvis area. Hextall feels Simmonds is already on track to be 100 percent for training camp and anticipates a monster season from the 29-year-old right winger as he not only enters the final year of his contract but is also out to prove that last season was a fluke.

“I’ll be honest with you, Simmer’s a fast-twitch muscle guy, I don’t have any concern with him,” Hextall said. “I saw him [Thursday] morning, he’s gonna work his way, he’s with [team director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin]. He’s got great guidance. ... I have the expectation for Simmer to come back and be as good as new.”

Last year, Hextall mentioned he had not anticipated trading Schenn until the deal with St. Louis was pieced together on draft night. Something similar could also happen with Simmonds, who has a limited no-trade clause in his current contract, which allows him to submit a no-trade list of 12 teams. 

All of which leaves you wondering whether a big deal goes down in Big D.

More on the Flyers

What should the Flyers do with Simmonds?

• Simmonds played with more injuries than he can remember

• Hextall doesn't plan on trading up in draft, but ...

• How much will Flyers change? That's Hextall's challenge

Is skating hockey's most fixable flaw? Flyers aim to find out

Is skating hockey's most fixable flaw? Flyers aim to find out

If the Flyers had to redraft 2007 all over again, knowing what we all know now, then Stars captain Jamie Benn in all likelihood would have been the franchise’s second overall selection right after the Chicago Blackhawks snagged Patrick Kane.

Instead, the organization chose James van Riemsdyk, who at the time was considerably more polished and NHL-ready than Benn was at the age of 18. In fact, you have to scroll down another 127 picks after the selection of JVR into the fifth round to see that the Stars finally selected Benn.

How could a player that eventually won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer in 2015 become somewhat of an afterthought and nearly dismissed on draft day? 

Poor skating ability. 

Despite having the size of a power forward, Benn was a below-average skater and teams clearly shied away from drafting him. From that moment, Benn was determined that an inadequate skating technique wouldn’t deter him from playing in the NHL.

Want an even better example? 

With a smaller 5-foot-10 stature, but tremendously skilled with a high hockey IQ, Tampa Bay's Brayden Point slipped to the late third round. His skating was the one area that needed major improvement. Point worked strenuously over the summer with former Canadian world champion figure skater Barb Underhill. 

Now, the Lightning center is a 30-goal scorer, and perhaps most impressively, Point is lightning quick. He finished second to Oilers superstar Connor McDavid in the league’s fastest skater competition during All-Star weekend’s skills competition.     

The Flyers have a similar player in their system that checks a lot of Ron Hextall’s boxes except for the one next to skating ability. It’s the single biggest reason Matthew Strome fell to the Flyers in the fourth round (106th overall) in last year’s draft after watching his older brothers go top five (Ryan — fifth overall in 2011, Dylan — third overall in 2015).     

“Matthew Strome is a pretty good example,” Hextall said last week. “With Matthew, skating is his weakness. He’s got one flaw, everything else is pretty good. So, you look at Matthew and if he can just improve it — he’s never probably going to be a great skater, but if we can just ramp him up two levels, he’s got a real good chance at playing in the National Hockey League.”

Playmaking ability or possessing a high hockey IQ are traits that require years of development, whereas poor skating is a mechanical flaw that demands rewiring the brain and breaking old habits similar to how a golf coach makes adjustments to a player’s swing.

“I can spend an hour with some players and they can get the stride right off. In one hour, some guys get way better,” said Slava Kouznetsov, who has served as the Flyers' skating coach since 2006. “Some guys spend weeks of training to get the same stuff done. It’s learning a new language. Some guys pick it up right away with the way the brain is wired, and some guys will never be able to speak the language. Some guys will take years to pick it up.”

Kouznetsov was able to fine-tune Steve Downie’s skating technique that was considered choppy with a short stride, which left him unable to have the required stamina to stay out during an entire shift. Downie was a late 2005 first-round pick who had other issues that plagued his nine-year NHL career, but without improving his skating stride, Downie would have never made it on to an NHL roster. 

The deeper you go into the NHL draft’s middle to late rounds, the more unlikely it becomes that those players will make the jump to the NHL. The success rate is somewhere in the single digits. There are simply too many holes in a player’s game that organizations can’t plug. Yet, the key is finding a skill that’s considered NHL quality and then hoping those problem areas are correctable.

More and more teams around the league believe skating is the one fixable flaw contingent on one significant variable.     

“First you have to teach the brain new ways, then you have to reteach your body to adapt to the new way,” Kouznetsov said. “Most important thing is you have to be willing to do that. That’s the biggest. You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make the horse drink.”

Which may be Hextall’s biggest challenge on Day 2 of the draft. Knowing and sensing which prospects will work tirelessly to fix those flaws, and which players are inevitably too set in their ways to overcome them.

More on the Flyers

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Jack McBain

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Scouting report
If you watch tape of McBain, you immediately have to keep in mind that he’s played his teenage hockey in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was physically an overpowering player against lesser competition. 

McBain was drafted by the Barrie Colts of the OHL, but elected to keep his amateur status intact, which will allow him to attend Boston College next fall. That’s when we should receive a real gauge of where his skills stack up playing in the NCAA Hockey East Conference.

A big-bodied center, McBain isn’t the most elusive skater, nor is he the most creative playmaker. He plays more of a north-south game but doesn’t back down from the high-traffic areas. He prefers to use his big frame to overpower opponents and works well down in the trenches.

Surprisingly, he’s a solid puck handler, but again, a lot of those plays looked easy for him against smaller, inferior competition. 

He plays with a long stick, which enables him to be disruptive while getting that stick into a lot of passing lanes and using his reach effectively on the backcheck. 

As the best player on the ice, he probably tries to do too much, but he doesn’t back down and he’s very assertive. There doesn’t appear to be much hesitation in his game. It’s obvious McBain has the frame and the tools to be a future NHL player. 

Fit with Flyers
Interestingly, McBain knows what it’s like to play with the Flyers crest on his sweater. Before joining the Toronto Junior Canadiens, McBain was a member of the Don Mills Flyers minor-midget AAA team in Canada. 

McBain is a player the Flyers can snag with their second-round selection (50th overall). I just don’t project him going higher considering he has never played major junior hockey.

If you look within the farm system, the Flyers don’t have very many big-bodied centers within the organization and McBain could certainly help fill that void. However, he’s also the type of big-bodied player that could effectively transition to left wing if he can’t handle the responsibilities of playing down the middle.

If McBain can successfully make the jump to college hockey, the Flyers could have a second-round pick with first-round talent.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Rasmus Sandin

• Profile: Ryan Merkley 

• Profile: Dominik Bokk

• Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtsov