Kjell Samuelsson

Flyers 'see this rise' with Philippe Myers, who can handle the pressure

Flyers 'see this rise' with Philippe Myers, who can handle the pressure

Philippe Myers is no longer a mystery that went untouched in the 2015 draft.

When people watch, they scratch their heads.

How did this kid go undrafted?

He came to the Flyers at 196 pounds. Many didn't know the pronunciation of his first name. He was just a training camp invite.

That has all changed. There are expectations now.

Except, deep down, he's no different.

"I'm the same person that was undrafted," Myers said last week at Flyers development camp. "I try to stay off the social media stuff, try to just focus on myself. It's not a good thing to get too wrapped up in all of that. Just trying to focus on myself and try to get better as a player and try to get stronger in the gym."

So when things didn't go his way to start the 2017-18 season, his first year pro with anticipation among the fan base, Myers didn't panic because he's been there before.

It's almost as if going undrafted paid off.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman, a fluid skater and skilled for his size, turned it right back on after overcoming injuries and a somewhat slow start with the AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Following 14 games over the first two and a half months of the year, Myers appeared in 36 from Dec. 23 to the end of the regular season, putting up three goals, 11 assists and a plus-10 rating. He then punctuated it all with three goals and four assists over 13 postseason games.

"Before Christmas, it was a little disappointing with all the injuries and stuff, but I think I progressed pretty smoothly there after Christmas and in the playoffs," Myers said. "I'm pretty happy with the way that the season went. By all means, I'm not satisfied, but I'm pretty happy, in general, how it went."

Myers had general manager Ron Hextall's eye back in 2015 when the big blueliner went undrafted. He has the GM's attention even more so now, even in July.

"Phil, he just got better and better as the year went on. You saw him at the start of the year and he was a good player. Then as the year went along, you just see this rise. It's what you want," Hextall said. "You want your players to get better the entire year. To Phil’s credit, he did. 

"The playoffs were as good as he played all year. Toward the end of the season, he was a horse for us. He was a very good player. I don't want to say opened our eyes because we expected that from him, but he certainly put himself in a position this year for us to take a look at him."

With 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin likely out until February recovering from a torn ACL, Myers is the next in line to join the Flyers' young foundation of defensemen, including Shayne Gostisbehere (25 years old), Ivan Provorov (21), Travis Sanheim (22) and Robert Hagg (23).

Is Myers ready?

"If he had played a whole year, maybe he would be close," Flyers development coach Kjell Samuelsson said last week. "But he was hurt a lot so I think he needs more time in the minors."

While it doesn't seem like there's a spot open yet, anyway, that can change throughout a long regular season. And possessing a coveted right-handed shot only helps Myers' call-up chances for his NHL debut in 2018-19.

"Try to push for a roster spot here in September," Myers said.

Right as the Flyers push their process into a new gear.

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Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson talks Morgan Frost, Philippe Myers, development camp

Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson talks Morgan Frost, Philippe Myers, development camp

VOORHEES, N.J. — Morgan Frost had filled out his frame since the last time he was here.

Considerably too.

Frost stood by his stall Thursday after the first day of the Flyers' 2018 development camp not only one year older but also noticeably more mature physically. Since Sault Ste. Marie's season concluded one day before Frost turned 19 years old, the 2017 first-round pick had gained nine pounds. He finished the 2017-18 campaign at 175 pounds but came to Voorhees weighing 184.

One day on the beach with U.S. Navy SEALs and Frost has to head back to the cafeteria.

“I actually weighed myself today,” he said. “After training yesterday, I was about 181. Trying to get a good dinner in here.”

If there's one thing holding Frost back from receiving a legitimate opportunity to make the Flyers in training camp, it’s his size. He still needs to add strength. Even on the team’s development-camp roster, he’s listed at 172 pounds. His goal is to play above 180.

With that comes the point of development camp. Teaching prospects how to be professionals, the small details that get overlooked. Think of groceries and laundry, everyday tasks we don’t even think about. The camp is more than just boring hockey drills.

For a prospect like Frost, it’s about learning how to gain the right weight, sustaining it and playing with it. For others, it’s about learning patience and taming the lion inside.

“They can’t get fully developed physically in one summer,” Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson said. “That’s impossible, but they believe that. They go after it and then realize when next season starts, it’s going to take a long time.”

Take Mark Friedman into account.

Friedman, a 2014 third-round pick, is now in his fifth development camp. One has to wonder how much more Friedman can take out of it, even after turning pro last season. But as Samuelsson was quick to note, development camp is a little different for college players.

Because of their amateur status, a college player can't sign an entry-level contract and still play NCAA hockey like a major junior player can. As a result, they can’t participate in training camp and preseason, which was one factor why a prospect like Friedman is here.

Samuelsson said the Flyers require college players to attend development for one year after turning pro.

“We have changed the camp a little bit too,” Samuelsson said. “There’s always new things he can pick up. I honestly think he can learn a lot still. You never stop learning in hockey. I think [Friedman] can learn a lot still and he has a lot to learn just to become a pro.”

Another development camp veteran is Philippe Myers, who the Flyers discovered as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Now in his third camp, Myers is one of the team’s top prospects.

Myers’ first pro season in Lehigh Valley can be split into two tales. The first, Myers suffered through injuries. The second, he started to look like the player that began stealing headlines.

As the Flyers enter this summer looking to add a defenseman, Myers is the team’s best internal option to push for a roster spot in training camp. He’s a right-handed shot who skates well and moves the puck.

But Samuelsson was reluctant to say Myers is NHL-ready.

“If he had played a whole year," Samuelsson said, "maybe he would be close. But he was hurt a lot, so I think he needs more time in the minors."

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Sam Morin sees work with Kjell Samuelsson pay off in Flyers' OT preseason win

Sam Morin sees work with Kjell Samuelsson pay off in Flyers' OT preseason win

BOX SCORE

Since the day he was drafted in June 2013, the Sam Morin comparisons have been made to Chris Pronger, but the credit since then can be given to Kjell Samuelsson.

Samuelsson, a 14-year NHL veteran and the Flyers' director of player development, has worked extensively with Morin over the past few years to refine the rookie’s all-around game. It’s a constant work in progress, but if Morin was a piece of pottery, Samuelsson would have to admire the way it's taking shape.

“I’m really confident in my game and I really believe I can make it," Morin said following Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime preseason victory against the Rangers (see observations). “It’s not over. I just need to stay focused. Work hard. Every day, every practice I’ll earn my spot and I know it.”

In the first period, Morin was able to pick his spots. With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, late in the stanza, the defenseman joined the rush, filled the slot and wristed a shot in the top corner over the blocker side of Rangers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

“The game now is too quick for a slap shot, except for the power play. The release is everything,” Morin said after his first goal at the NHL level. “I work a lot with Kjell with that. When I came my first year, my draft year, I was taking those big slappers, and scoring big goals, but you can’t do that here. Guys are going to block it, and that’s something I learned from Kjell. I think I have a pretty good shot. I’m pretty confident with that.”

Earlier in the opening period, Morin showed some restraint after he leveled forward Gabriel Fontaine. Moments later, he answered a challenge to drop the gloves with Bobby Farnham, who came into the fight giving up eight inches to the 6-foot-6 Morin (see video).

Once again, Morin pointed to the Samuelsson effect, as well as offseason surgery, for taking a more passive approach to those five-minute majors.

“That guy jumped me and I was ready for him," Morin said. "I did my job. I pissed him off and he gets a penalty for it. I got hand surgery this summer, too. Especially earlier in camp, I didn’t want to destroy my camp by getting hurt, but I wasn’t really confident with my wrist, but I feel great and I can fight, that’s for sure.

“Kjell is real good with me for that. In juniors, I was pretty crazy for that. I was less patient and hungry for those things. I’m still learning and I try to get better every day.”

Interestingly, Morin has been engaged in a heated battle with teammate Travis Sanheim for one of the two open positions on the Flyers' blue line. The two former first-round picks have been roommates from the moment they reported to rookie camp and into training camp. Morin didn’t watch the game at Madison Square Garden in which Sanheim scored twice (see story), but said he heard about it.

Tuesday night, Morin finally heard his name called, and he’s on track to see his name with the rest of the NHL regulars. 

“He’s in a mix of eight right now. That’s the positive of it. He’s played well," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "The other seven guys are doing a good job. I know the focus is always on the young guys, but it’s a group of eight right now."

“I’m ready," Morin said. "I win those 1-on-1 battles. My game is just about that.”

Forwards discover their scoring touch
• At one point, the Flyers had played seven-plus periods of hockey and their four goals were all scored by rookie defensemen (three from Sanheim, one from Morin). The forwards finally snapped that trend when center Scott Laughton tied the game at 2-2 less than three minutes into the second period. Oskar Lindblom added his first, redirecting Andrew MacDonald’s shot from the point, and Travis Konecny answered with the game-winner in overtime off a pass from Claude Giroux.

“I always find that in the two years that I’ve played in preseason games before, the defense always steps up in preseason and gets a majority of the goals, so I wasn’t surprised," Konecny said. "But it’s definitely nice that we’re starting to get a little bit of movement and start to put pucks away.

• For the second straight night, Giroux was operating on the left wing on a line with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux picked up the primary assists on Morin’s goal and the Konecny overtime winner as the line had more time in the offensive zone compared to Monday’s game in New York. The line generated nine shots on net while winning the possession battle with a 69 percent success rate in the faceoff circle.

“I thought it was a nice progression,” Hakstol said. “You’re not going to have a finished product overnight. I thought [Monday] was a good start. I thought tonight was a good progression from there. They created a lot tonight. They had the puck a lot, spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, and that’s what you want to see.”

• Like with Lindblom, the Flyers appear to have found another mid-round gem with center Mikhail Vorobyev, who was taken 104th overall in 2015. Vorobyev had an exceptional rookie game with a pair of assists and was called up from Lehigh Valley on Tuesday to center the Flyers' third line with Lindblom and Konecny. Vorobyev has a vision to see openings and plays that other guys would otherwise miss, which included an impressive cross-ice pass to Giroux. 

“I think he only played 10 or 11 minutes tonight. I thought he played a heck of a hockey game,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t get into much of a rhythm or flow in the first period with all the penalties. He made a couple of high-end plays offensively up and down the rink. He has a great sense of what’s around him. I thought he was reliable. It was really nice to see him come up, and he took advantage of a good opportunity.”