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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Colin McDonald staying in Flyers' system, re-signs with Phantoms

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Colin McDonald staying in Flyers' system, re-signs with Phantoms

Every team wants an insurance policy with NHL experience at the AHL level.

The Flyers will have that again in Colin McDonald.

Lehigh Valley signed the right winger to an AHL contract Tuesday afternoon, bringing back the captain for a fourth season with the Phantoms. The team also signed defenseman David Drake, 23, who played seven games for Lehigh Valley last season.

McDonald, who turns 34 years old in September, never reached the Flyers in 2017-18, but played eight games for the big club over the prior two seasons, scoring a pair of goals. He actually appeared in three playoff games during 2015-16 because of injuries to Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton, and a suspension for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

In total, McDonald, known for making an impact with his size (6-2/219) and physicality, has 148 games of NHL experience to go with 11 postseason contests.

Last season with the Phantoms, McDonald posted 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 56 regular-season games, before helping Lehigh Valley advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where it was swept by the Toronto Marlies.

In 2016-17, McDonald had 25 goals and 44 points in 72 regular-season games.

Not only is McDonald a solid safety net for the Flyers, but he also provides a good example for the organization's prospects developing with the Phantoms. He's a likeable, mature pro and has played 628 AHL games over his career, so the franchise's youngsters will be able to rely on him for another season in 2018-19.

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Phantoms' Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers pairing can't be trusted with Flyers ... yet

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Phantoms' Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers pairing can't be trusted with Flyers ... yet

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers' general manager who was able to construct an entire blue line through trades and free-agent signings was once asked, "What's the number one trait you look for out of a defenseman?"

Paul Holmgren’s response was decisive and to the point. Paraphrasing, Holmgren said, "The one who can get the puck out of his zone as quickly as possible."

As much as the game of hockey has been broken down into advanced metrics and analytics, it’s rather simple at its core. The more time a team spends in its end of the ice, the greater likelihood it'll be on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

The AHL playoffs have served as an ideal test site for Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, who have been stalwarts throughout the Phantoms' postseason run. 

However, Game 3 at the PPL Center Wednesday night further exemplified the necessary strides the Flyers' defensive prospects must take in order to develop into reliable, everyday NHL blueliners.  

Oftentimes, less is more when you have the puck in the defensive end of the ice, and it took roughly 62 seconds into the game on Sanheim’s opening shift for the 22-year-old to make a major gaffe that gave the Toronto Marlies a 1-0 lead. 

Instead of making the simple play of a quick pass up the boards, Sanheim elected to keep it, reversing his field and was suddenly stripped with the attacking forward trailing. Roughly two seconds elapsed from the moment Sanheim lost the puck to when it was behind goalie Alex Lyon in the net. 

“On that particular play, we have full possession of the puck and the opportunity to advance it," Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said. "Instead, we go back behind the net to where their guy is. That’s just playing into their hands. In that situation, and in a few of our breakouts, there were opportunities to move forward with the puck and we didn’t.”   

However, the gaffes involving the Sanheim-Myers pairing didn’t stop there. Sanheim was stripped of the puck at his own blue line during the first Phantoms' power play. Myers inexcusably lost his edge skating with the puck through the neutral zone. Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson muscled his way around Sanheim to generate a quality scoring chance, and then another terrible pass and turnover inside the Phantoms' zone.

And that all came in the first seven minutes of the game. 

If Dave Hakstol had been behind the bench (he was actually watching from the PPL Center press box), Sanheim is likely sitting in front of him for the remainder of the game. That’s essentially what transpired in mid-January at the Prudential Center in New Jersey when Sanheim’s play landed him back in the minors for a month and a half. 

Chalk this up as one bad game. Game 3 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals was simply another teaching moment as the Phantoms were blown out, 5-0, falling behind 3-0 in the series. Both players will be back there together logging close to 25 minutes as the Phantoms try to avoid elimination Friday night.    

As exciting as it is to watch Sanheim and Myers generate offense within the Phantoms' system with their size and skating ability, there’s no way Hakstol and the Flyers can depend on that pairing defensively next season. Together, they’re still young, inexperienced and unreliable. 

If anything, expect the competition between Myers and Sanheim as something worth watching when Flyers camp opens in September. Myers has closed the gap in his first full season in the AHL. 

And the guy who can clean up their play defensively will likely be the one that starts next season with the Flyers.