Despite new role, Talbot eyes more production

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Despite new role, Talbot eyes more production

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Scott Hartnell is sidelined with a foot injury.

Wayne Simmonds has been out with a concussion, though he’s expected back Saturday against Carolina.

Jaromir Jagr, well, he’s playing in Dallas.

There’s three reasons why the Flyers' goal production is so awful this season with just a puny 25 goals in 11 games. Their goal differential is minus-5.

There’s more to it than that, too.

Max Talbot had a career year in 2011-12 with personal highs in goal scoring (19) and points (34).

In a shortened 48-game season, no one is expecting any player in the NHL to match their previous totals.

Yet, in Talbot’s case, it’s hard to score when you’re not getting shots.

Unless your Tommy Sestito -- two shots, two goals in the same game. There are only so many Sestito’s in the world.

Anyway, Talbot has just 10 shots through 11 games. In six of them, he had just one shot. That's not going to get it done. He has just three assists this season.

“My shooting percentage was higher last year,” Talbot said.

His line and role were different, as well. He played with Jakub Voracek much of the season with a different winger on the other side.

Right now, he’s with Brayden Schenn and Voracek in a mostly checking role.

“There’s no real reason,” Talbot said. “I just got to work harder in front of the net and get some shots and rebounds.”

He doesn’t think it has anything to do with making a conscious effort to shoot more. In reality, he is shooting slightly less than last season when he averaged 1.4 shots a game. He probably would have more shots and more scoring chances in a different role.

“Before I had 19 goals, I had 13 [in Pittsburgh],” Talbot said. “That’s not why the Flyers signed me -- to score some goals.”

Indeed, when Talbot returned to Pittsburgh last season, Pens coach Dan Bylsma kidded him about becoming a goal scorer once he left the Penguins.

The thing is, the Flyers need more goals. Talbot is a guy capable of delivering even though his role is that of a defensive centerman and wing, not to mention an outstanding penalty killer.

“There’s no reason for this. I’m going to put my head down and keep working,” he said.

Coach Peter Laviolette has Talbot’s back.

“He’s used in a little bit different role this year,” Laviolette said. “He’s more on a straight checking line. Right now we need Max at center. The role might be a little different for him.

“That’s not to say he’s not getting chances or opportunities, but I think he’s done a nice job for us. He provides a lot of energy.”

Does he need to shoot more?

“I answered this a few days ago and I want to make sure it is not misconstrued this time,” Laviolette replied. “Max is having a good year. Offensively, there is room for improvement from all of our guys.

“We’re not scoring enough in general. The power play can be a little more effective, though it seems to have found some goals the last four or five games. Five-on-five, I think we’re getting better.

“We’re down in the offensive zone. There is sustained zone time that looks more like our identity and attack. But there’s probably a lot of players who fit in the category you’re putting Max in that they probably want to contribute more.”

Flyers do their homework, trade down to draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov

Flyers do their homework, trade down to draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Were it not for the Russian drug scandal involving its under-18 World Junior squad this year, chances are, German Rubtsov would have been a top-10 NHL draft prospect.

The entire U-18 team was banned by WADA for testing positive for meldonium, a performance enhancer, at this year’s championships in Grand Forks.

Which is why Rubtsov fell in Friday’s draft at First Niagara Center as the Flyers traded down four picks to No. 22 to pluck a kid who was supposedly their best two-way centerman (see story).

“We were caught taking a not-allowed substance and weren’t allowed to go into the tournament,” the 6-foot-1, 174-pound forward said. “Obviously, a disappointment but it is over and I look to the future.

“None of us knew. We had a little glass of juice and tablets and [were] told in the morning to take this because it is good for your health. The coaching staff gave it to us.”

General manager Ron Hextall said the Flyers did extra homework on him because of the scandal.

“We dug deep here in terms of his character,” Hextall said. “I dug deeper than I’ve ever dug. More research on this kid than I’ve ever done. Really good character and team guy.”

Rubtsov, who turns 18 on Monday, does not speak English and used Flyers scout Ken Hoodikoff as his interpreter. Hoodikoff spent much time with Rubtsov this past year.

“We had lots of contact, more than any other team,” Rubtsov said. “Not worried I didn’t go higher. I was hoping to be drafted by the Flyers. I like Philadelphia. All year they kept an eye on me and talked to me. They put a big effort in.”

Rubtsov’s agent is Mark Gandler, who also represents Ivan Provorov. Gandler wants him playing somewhere in North America this season but that could be a long shot.

“He’s got a contract [with Vityaz],” Hextall said. “We’re prepared he’s going to the KHL this year. Not a lot of chance of him coming over here.”

Hextall said even if Rubtsov did come here, he would not be ready, even for the Phantoms.

“I’d like to try to play at the NHL level,” Rubtsov said. “If not, I’ll play wherever they tell me.”

European observers believe were it not for the scandal, Rubtsov might have been a top-10 pick.

“The Russian factor and him not being at the Under-18 was a big platform for him and there were multiple reasons [for sliding down],” Hextall said.

By trading down from No. 18 with Winnipeg, the Flyers missed out on drafting highly-touted Kieffer Bellows, a pure goal scorer.

The club needs goal-scoring wingers. Rubtsov is projected as a solid, all-around centerman.

Scouts say Rubtsov has considerable defensive awareness for such a young age. He likens himself to Evgeni Malkin and does not come from a hockey family background.

“I need to work on my quickness in every which way,” Rubtsov said. “I am a two-way player and pride myself on my hard work.”

Hextall emphasized his speed.

“He’s a really good hockey player, he brings speed,” Hextall said. “He’s got good size. Still 17. Really, really smart and plays the game the right way but pushes the pace.”

Flyers draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov at No. 22 after swapping pair of picks with Jets

Flyers draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov at No. 22 after swapping pair of picks with Jets

Updated: Saturday, 12:23 a.m.

The Flyers did not stay put at No. 18 overall in the NHL draft Friday night.

They traded the pick and the 79th selection (third round) to the Jets for the 22nd overall pick and the 36th selection (second round).

At No. 22, the Flyers drafted 17-year-old Russia U-18 center German Rubtsov (6-1/174), who turns 18 on Monday.

Rubtsov, a lefty shot, posted 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 28 games with Russia’s U-18 team during 2015-16.

International Scouting Services ranked him as the 15th-best 2016 draft prospect and he's known as a two-way center with plus hockey smarts.

“We really liked the early part of the second round, so we actually looked at adding a pick, we have two later seconds so we talked about maybe moving up,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said in an interview with NBCSN following the selection. “So when this opportunity came along, actually German was a guy we had in mind and we felt like we’d get him at 22.

“The forward is our priority in this draft and we have a lot of picks so we’ll be drafting more.”

The Flyers now have three picks in the second round with selections 36, 48, 52. The draft finishes Saturday with Rounds 2-7, starting in the morning.

Draft notes
• As expected, Scottsdale, Arizona, native Auston Matthews went No. 1 overall to the Maple Leafs, becoming the seventh U.S.-born player to go as the top pick and the first since 2007.

• An NHL record 12 U.S.-born players were drafted in the first round.

• The Jets took 6-foot-7 Windsor (OHL) defenseman Logan Stanley with the No. 18 overall pick acquired from the Flyers. Stanley is the cousin of Capitals center Michael Latta.

• USNTDP (USHL) left winger Kieffer Bellows, who was popularly tied to the Flyers at No. 18 before Hextall moved back, was drafted No. 19 by the Islanders. Bellows’ father, Brian, was taken No. 2 overall in the 1982 draft and went on to play 17 NHL seasons.

• There were seven trades made during Round 1 of the draft.

2016 Flyers free-agent target: Islanders RW Kyle Okposo

2016 Flyers free-agent target: Islanders RW Kyle Okposo

Each day until July 1, the day free agency begins, CSNPhilly.com producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
 
Kyle Okposo, right wing
 
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 217
Last team: New York Islanders
2015-16 cap hit: $2.8 million
 
Scouting report
One of the biggest names on the free-agent market, Okposo is a nifty puck-handler with a fearsome shot, making for a richly talented offensive winger.
 
Sounds just like Ron Hextall’s No. 1 offseason need.
 
The 2006 seventh overall pick finished last season with 64 points — which would have been second on the Flyers — by tallying 22 goals and a career-high-tying 42 assists. His last three seasons have gone for 50-plus points, while in 2013-14 he posted a career-best 69.
 
Okposo is a multifaceted scorer, understanding how to produce in a variety of ways, whether it’s using his body or skill. He knows how to play big and small.
 
The righty shot is dangerous on the power play and a bona-fide top-six forward.
 
Many believe he’s just reaching his prime.
 
Projection
The Islanders have essentially said so long to Okposo, so he’s up for grabs.
 
The Flyers have interest but it looks to be a daunting task to snag the 28-year-old.
 
With the extension of Radko Gudas and the need to re-up restricted free agent Brayden Schenn, it simply doesn’t appear monetarily plausible for the Flyers to reel in a top-six forward the ilk of Okposo.
 
Rumblings have it that Okposo could be searching for a long-term deal in the ballpark of $7 million a season. Whether he’s worth as such is one thing. Whether the Flyers could afford it is another.

I’m a believer the Flyers should seek out Okposo, but unless Hextall pulls off an unforeseen trade to surprisingly clear the barn and make room, I don't see it happening.