Figuring Out the Flyers: Depleted defense

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Figuring Out the Flyers: Depleted defense

Each day between now and the Flyers first game, Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker will take a stab at answering one big question facing the 2012-13 Philadelphia Flyers.

Up first: How will the Flyers compensate for injuries along the blue line?

Tim: This is the most dicey aspect of the Flyers' entire roster. There is no sugar-coating that their depth has been blown apart with starters Erik Gustafsson (foot) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (post-concussion syndrome) both injured and with top-three D-man Andrej Meszaros admitting hes not sure he is ready for game competition after rehabbing his right Achilles tendon the entire lockout. Suddenly, Bruno Gervais, who was signed as a free agent for depth purposes, will become a full-time starter in the No. 6 spot. If Meszaros cant go, it means Gervais and Andreas Lilja are your No. 5 and No. 6 D-men. No way this defense is anywhere as mobile, skilled or defensively sound as it was in October 2011 with Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. One of the reasons goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was so strong in March was because the Flyers' defense was performing well in front of him. Double-trouble ahead.

Sarah: Anyone who's followed Tim and me over the offseason knows we're both concerned about the state of the Flyers' defense. But maybe, in a weird way, the injury-weakened D might not be as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. Really bear with me for just a second. Back in Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov faced a lot more shots than he has so far here in Philly. In 2010-11 with the Coyotes, for instance, Bryz faced 2,125 shots. Last season with the Flyers? 1,554. With some goaltenders, facing extra pressure allows them to get in more of a rhythm, and perhaps this could be the case with Bryzgalov behind a Flyers defense corps thats maybe not blocking as many shots as it was last year. If not, the other sort of good news is: minor-leaguers the Flyers recalled last season on defense fit in seamlessly with the club (i.e. Brandon Manning). Theyre hopeful thats once again the case.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net or Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com

Ron Hextall pleased with Flyers' draft after filling team need with 7 forwards

Ron Hextall pleased with Flyers' draft after filling team need with 7 forwards

BUFFALO, N.Y. — They came to the NHL draft with a simple mission: fortify themselves at the forward position.
 
And of that end, the Flyers seemed to succeed, taking seven forwards, two defensemen and one goalie during the two-day draft, which concluded Saturday.
 
General manager Ron Hextall moved one of his 11 total picks to 2017 in a late deal with the Islanders.
 
“We had a lot of picks, and sometimes you get a little too greedy on the day of the draft and you want to use your picks, and you forget about next year or the year after,” Hextall said. “Going into today, I wanted to move one or two. We have nine picks next year.”
 
Six of his seven forwards were taken Saturday. The team selected centerman German Rubtsov (22nd overall) during the first round Friday night.
 
“We’re happy,” Hextall said. “The needs we filled, moving into the draft, we knew we’d be heavy with forwards. We ended up that way.”
 
Here's Hextall's quick take on his nine picks from today:
 
Second round

36: Pascal Laberge, 6-1, 174. Center/wing. 18. Victoriaville (QMJHL).
Hextall: “Character, the grit, the will, he fit the bill. We see a kid who is potential top six forward. He has speed and skill. Good size.”

48: Carter Hart, 6-1, 180. Goalie.  Turns 18 in August. Everett (WHL).
Hextall: “We feel he has a good shot at being a No. 1 goaltender. Brady Robinson spent time with him the last couple weeks and was real impressed with his ability and work ethic. Most important, the mental part of it. Big part for a goaltender, and he seems to have everything in place.”
 
52: Wade Allison, 6-1, 205. Right wing. 18. Tri-City (USHL).
Hextall: “We didn’t expect him to be there. We zeroed in on some bigger bodies later in the draft not knowing if we’d get a kid like him. He’s got speed, got size, real good shot. Good intelligence. A good support player who can play up in your lineup.”

Third round
 
82: Carsen Twarynski, 6-2, 201. Left wing. 18. Calgary (WHL).
Hextall: “A prototypical power forward. We knew we needed to add some size and grit. Our guys to a man all liked him. Terrific character and work ethic with a nice set of skills, too. He’s not just a bottom-end guy.”

Fourth round

109: Connor Bunnaman, 6-0, 183. Center. 18. Kitchener (OHL).
Hextall: “We really like him. Good skill later. His feet need to come a little bit, which I can probably say about a few of these guys. Excited we got him where we did. Another guy who fell.”
 
120: from Arizona: traded to NYI for 4th round in 2017
 
Fifth round

139: Linus Högberg, 6-1, 183. Defense. 17. Växjö HC (SHL)
Hextall: “That’s our sleeper. He’s a guy we talked about through our meetings. His name kept popping up as a late guy. An undervalued and underrated guy. He’s our sleeper.”
 
Sixth round

169: Tanner Laczynski, 6-0, 174. Center. 19. Chicago (USHL).
Hextall: “Going to school, Ohio State, I believe. Again, a skill player and we got four years with him. As you saw, our emphasis was a little on skill and size and we feel we filled both with some of these kids.”
 
172: Anthony Salinitri, 5-11, 170. Center. 18. Sarnia (OHL).

Hextall: “Smaller guy but a skill forward. You try and hit on his skill. He has lots of ability and upside. Obviously, he is not the biggest guy. But to add some skill, we like him.”
 
Seventh round

199: David Bernhardt, 6-3, 203. Defense. 18. Djurgårdens IF J20 (SHL)
Hextall: “Decent-sized guy, good with the puck but a little inconsistent. Enough there though where you can grab onto.”

NHL Notes: Sabres acquire defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in trade with Panthers

NHL Notes: Sabres acquire defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in trade with Panthers

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres general manager Tim Murray filled his team's wish list by acquiring veteran defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

The deal was announced shortly after the second round of the NHL draft opened Saturday. Besides swapping second-round picks, with Buffalo moving up to No. 33 from No. 38, the Panthers acquired defenseman Mark Pysyk and the Sabres' third-round pick, 89th overall.

Entering his eighth NHL season, Kulikov adds experienced depth to Buffalo's young group of defensemen. And he has a left-handed shot, something Murray said was among his key offseason needs.

The Panthers' first-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Kulikov has one year left on his contract and is set to make $4.5 million next season. He had one goal and 17 points in 73 games last year. Overall, Kulikov has 28 goals and 138 points in 460 career games (see full story).

Canucks: NHL reviewing whether to penalize team for tampering
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The NHL is reviewing whether to penalize the Vancouver Canucks for tampering after general manager Jim Benning expressed interest in acquiring players under contract, including Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.

"I have received a number of concerns and not solely from the teams involved," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters during the second day of the NHL draft on Saturday.

"What I'll say is I have a discussion both with Jim and (Canucks president) Trevor Linden. They understand where we are in this situation and have talked about announcing something early next week with respect to what we intend to do about it."

The Canucks confirmed that they have been contacted by the NHL regarding Benning's statements (see full story).

Sabres: Kane investigated on harassment claim
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that Buffalo police are investigating an allegation that Sabres forward Evander Kane physically harassed two women at a downtown bar.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Friday because police have not revealed any details of their investigation.

The person said Kane is accused of grabbing the woman by the arm or shoulder early Friday. The person said no charges have been filed and no one has been arrested.

Buffalo's WIVB-TV first reported the investigation.

This is Kane's second run-in with legal trouble in six months. In March, prosecutors announced after a three-month investigation that Kane would not face a sexual assault charge stemming from a December incident because there was no evidence to support the allegation.

Kings: Lewis signs 4-year extension
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Forward Trevor Lewis has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Kings.

The club announced the deal Saturday.

Lewis has been a key player on the Kings' depth lines for the past six seasons, playing a defensive game during Los Angeles' run to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. He scored two goals in the Kings' Cup-clinching victory over New Jersey in 2012.

The 29-year-old Lewis had eight goals and eight assists for the Kings last season. The Salt Lake City native has never had more than 25 points in an NHL season, but he has 23 points in 75 playoff games.

Lewis was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

NHL draft: Flyers add physical, power forwards in Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman

NHL draft: Flyers add physical, power forwards in Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Flyers said they were going to go top-heavy at this year's NHL draft with bigger, skilled forwards and not defense, where the pipeline is already stacked.

But just to cover themselves at both ends, they took a player from the Calgary Hitmen that has played both defense and left wing in the third round (No. 82 overall) Saturday at First Niagara Center — Carsen Twarynski. 
  
Twarynski, 18, is a teammate of current Flyers prospects Travis Sanheim, a defenseman, and forward Radel Fazleev in Calgary.
 
“I played forward the last couple years but until my year midget, I switched back and forth to defense,” the 6-foot, 201-pound winger said. “Last four or five years I decided to stick to forward.”
 
He said Sanheim filled him in about the Flyers and was hoping to be selected by Philadelphia.
 
“It’s good to have that insight from those guys,” Twarynski said. “I talked to Travis a little bit at the end of the season about how this would all go down. He told me to enjoy it and told me a lot of good things about Philadelphia.”
 
Another fellow Hitman, defenseman Jake Bean, was selected Friday by Carolina at No. 13.
 
The Flyers contacted Twarynski shortly before the draft combine and had several visits.
 
“It was special because we came here as a family trip and don’t get to go out much anymore because of the travel,” Twarynski said. “This was a very proud day for my family.”
 
Scouting reports say while he lacks high-end offensive ability, he doesn’t mind going to the dirty areas of the ice or stand in front of the net and take punishment for a tough goal or assist.
 
He scored 20 goals with 45 points for the Hitmen this season.
 
“My best asset is my physicality,” he said. “I’m a power forward that is good two ways. I can put the puck in the net and make plays around the net. I got a lot of good assets and I’m a versatile player.”
 
He feels he is “couple years” away from being an NHL player.
 
In the fourth round at No. 109, the Flyers chose center/left wing Connor Bunnaman. The 6-foot, 183-pound Guelph native played for Kitchener this season with 16 goals and 38 points in 68 games.
 
“I had to play both positions at Kitchener just to get into the lineup,” Bunnaman said. “I like center more — like taking draws.”
 
He said he got the impression the Flyers were going to take him and contacted him several times throughout the season.
 
Scouts say he’s strong on the puck, plays hard along the walls and projects as a third-line center in the NHL.
 
“I feel I’m a two-way power forward who could fit into their system,” Bunnaman said, adding while he doesn’t have a deep knowledge of the Flyers, he liked watching Danny Briere play.