Mark Friedman has Flyers' attention as new regime looks to 2019-20

Mark Friedman has Flyers' attention as new regime looks to 2019-20

VOORHEES, N.J. — At first, Mark Friedman thought he was in the doghouse.

He met with Phantoms head coach Kerry Huffman on Friday.

"Called me into the coach's office and was acting all pissed off at me," Friedman said. "Then he was like, 'No, I'm just kidding, you got called up. Go enjoy.'"

And show general manager Chuck Fletcher what you're all about.

Game 82 has arrived Saturday night for the 2018-19 Flyers and it will be Game 1 of Friedman's NHL career. The Flyers are rewarding the 23-year-old defenseman for his season-long progress with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley by giving him a look at the NHL before 2019 training camp rolls around in September.

It's also an opportunity for the Flyers to see Friedman, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who is quick on his feet and plays with purpose. The Flyers, limping to the finish line, could use a guy with something to play for against the Hurricanes (7 p.m./NBCSP).

"I've met Chuck a couple times down in Lehigh," Friedman said Saturday after an optional morning skate. "It's just rewarding for me to come here and finish the year with the Flyers and see where I end up next year."

Friedman was a 2014 third-round pick of a previous regime — Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor, the former GM and assistant GM, respectively, who were relieved of their duties in November. In his second season with the Phantoms, Friedman has made noticeable strides over 71 games.

"He's made a ton of progress since Year 1," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said.

Gordon coached Friedman last season and parts of this season as the head coach of Lehigh Valley.

"His foot speed, quickness, for his size, he can play very physical," Gordon said of Friedman's strengths. "He has a tendency to get under the opponents' skin. He always seems to be drawing penalties. He does have the ability to get up into the play. When he's using his feet, that's when he's playing at his best.

"He's a guy that can play with a lot of pace, he plays physical and he has to — obviously, he's not a big guy like some of our defensemen. For him to take up space, he's got to do it with his feet and his head. That's what we need to see him do here."

In 2019-20, the Flyers will have a crowded defense, a group growing in youthfulness. With Philippe Myers and Samuel Morin in the picture, that's eight defensemen and six spots in the lineup.

Things can change between now and 2019 camp, but Friedman's game has been recognized.

"I'm not necessarily a force offensively, but I like to consider myself as a good two-way defenseman and I feel like I've definitely contributed in both areas," he said.

"I'm not the biggest guy, but I definitely consider myself pretty strong. If a hit's there, I'd like to blow a guy up but obviously not hurt him."

Ever since he was drafted, Friedman always stood out in development camps because of his max-effort style.

"I'm a guy that puts 110 percent into everything I do, especially on the ice," he said. "I just like to compete in everything, whether it's off the ice, on the ice, no matter what it is. Hard work paid off."

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Report: Jori Lehtera sentenced to 4 months of conditional imprisonment for possession of cocaine

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USA Today Images/Aaron Doster

Report: Jori Lehtera sentenced to 4 months of conditional imprisonment for possession of cocaine

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jori Lehtera, a forward in the Flyers' organization, has been sentenced to four months of conditional imprisonment (probation) in his native Finland for obtaining and possessing cocaine, according to a report Wednesday by a Finnish newspaper Iltalehti.

Per the report, Lehtera acquired six grams of cocaine but did not import or sell the drug.

The case stems back to September 2018 when Lehtera was considered one of 23 suspects in a large cocaine ring. He twice claimed his innocence in September and December.

The Flyers placed Lehtera on waivers in early February. He went unclaimed and has played just five games for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, with the last coming on March 1.

Lehtera is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and will obviously not be re-signed by the Flyers. The 31-year-old was acquired in June 2017 as part of the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to the Blues. The Flyers also received a pair of draft picks in the deal, which were used to select prospects Morgan Frost (2017 — 27th overall) and Joel Farabee (2018 — 14th overall).

Lehtera is being paid $5 million (he has $4.7 million cap hit) this season, the final year of his three-year contract originally signed with the Blues.

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Samuel Morin takes next step toward long-awaited return to Flyers

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AP Images

Samuel Morin takes next step toward long-awaited return to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — The return of Samuel Morin took another step Thursday morning.

The Flyers loaned Morin to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for conditioning purposes in an effort to get the defenseman some game action at the AHL level before he’s likely recalled early next week. 

Morin has been overcoming an ACL injury he suffered on May 9, 2018, during the Phantoms' epic five-overtime thriller when his skate caught a rut in the ice. Morin had surgery later that month when surgeons had to take a tendon from another part of Morin’s leg to repair the torn ligament.

“You’re going to have a little bit of pain for about a year, that’s what they said and it’s normal, but it’s not a big deal,” Morin said. “I’ve gone through way worse before.” 

Perhaps more painful injuries, but not quite the grueling rehab process. 

Morin has not only been strengthening his leg through off-ice activities since last summer, but he’s been skating on the ice as far back as training camp. It wasn’t until January that the 6-foot-7 defenseman began to ramp his level of play on the ice.

The biggest challenge is the twisting and turning involved in Morin’s positional play, especially against some of the league’s more talented forwards. 

“It’s so weird. I like my stick right now. I’ve got a good stick on the puck, but guys like Jake [Voracek], they go and turn on me and it’s like trusting your knee to put all the weight on it,” Morin said. “Obviously, it’s a big challenge mentally.”

Morin will join goaltender Brian Elliott with the Phantoms this weekend as they play three games in three nights. Friday could be Morin’s first game action in nine months. 

“They’ve told me it’s going to be a year before I’m feeling where I was before,” Morin said. “It’s just trusting my knee. Obviously, it's in my head a lot. It’s going to be hard. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.”

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