Jagr skates, speaks for first time as Flyer

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Jagr skates, speaks for first time as Flyer

When Jaromir Jagr took the plunge, signing with the KHLs Avangard Omsk three years ago in Russia, he had made peace with himself.

I was a pretty sure back then it was the last time I would play in the NHL, said the soft-spoken Czech. Once again, you can never say never. You dont know what life is going to bring you.

Life brought the Flyers one of hockeys genuine talents on July 1 when Jagr spurned is beloved Pittsburgh Penguins to sign with their bitter, cross-state rival. He played 18 years in the NHL 11 in Pittsburgh.

A prolific scorer - 646 goals - who ignited every shift with dramatic flair, had wrists that resembled 2 x 4s and couldnt be knocked off the puck, people now wonder how much the right wing has left at age 39.

Theres probably a lot of people wondering if I can still play, Jagr said. Thats fine with me. Im not 21 and trying to prove something with my words. We have to wait and see. I can promise you one thing. Im going to give my best shot to play on a high level.

Dont forget. Im 39. I didnt come here for the money just to impress myself. Im not saying I am going to be dominating, Im not saying Im going to be good. I can promise you I will do all the right things to play.

Put it this way. Jagr later said he would not live in Center City but near the Flyers practice rink in Voorhees. Why?

I like to practice a lot, said Jagr, whose work ethic, general manager Paul Holmgren said, always impressed him.

I think Jaromir has not given himself due credit here, Holmgren said. Hes still a good player. He can still hold onto the puck and make plays. His shot is tremendous. His training regime what he does, weve only seen bits and pieces, its second to none.

From a role model standpoint, and what we believe he will do on the ice for us, its all good things.

Jaromir skated in Flyer orange Saturday for the first time with teammates as training camp opened. He laughed and admitted it felt strange putting on a jersey that wasnt black n gold or even powder blue from his Penguin days.

Hopefully, its a good, big deal for the people fans, Jagr said. I would appreciate it if they are happy I came. All I can tell them is I dont know if I am going to play good or bad. I cant answer that one. I am 100 percent sure I will do everything to play.

Being a Flyer will literally feel different, he said.

Flyers were always tough to play against, Jagr said. They had big guys, drafted big guys. They play very physical no one wanted to play the Flyers back then ... You knew it was going to hurt when you played against them. Thats what I remember the most.

On his first day of camp, Jagr skated on Claude Girouxs line with James van Riemsdyk.

Coach Peter Laviolette cautioned not to read anything into lines because they could change 20 times over the next two weeks. What impresses Laviolette about Jagr goes deeper that his skill on the ice. Its how he carries himself.

Comes back in shape, a great attitude and wants to be part of it, Laviolette said. Thats all positive. He brings a tremendous amount of experience. And offense. Thats exciting.

Jagr said this is a new NHL to him because hes been away so long. He doesnt know the younger players in the league. To his credit, Jagr admitted watching video of Giroux and other Flyers on YouTube and NHL.com.

He said it was too soon to talk about adjustments or how this guy or that guy looks on a line but

I wanted to see what kind of players we have on the team and how they score their goals and I was pretty impressed with those guys skill, Jagr said of Giroux and JVR.

Several times he reiterated the uncertainty of what he will accomplish but that he had learned something about hockey over his career: to appreciate what every day brings and embrace the moments that matter.

He said he didnt fully appreciate the sacrifice it took to win two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh (1990-91, 91-92).

When I came into the league I was 18-years-old, Jagr said. During the Communist years, not many people knew about the NHL. It was all about the Olympic and Czech Leagues. It was the first time I was out of the house and I was a little home sick and I wanted to go home after season.

And we keep winning and winning the Stanley Cup. I didnt appreciate what I won. I thought it was going to be like that every year.

Former teammate Mark Recchi said in 2004, as a Flyer, that it never occurred to him in 1992 that it would be 16 years later before he won his next Cup (in Carolina). Recchi retired after winning his third Cup last June in Boston.

Jagr hopes people will be patient with him during a period of adjustment from Olympic-sized ice (wider) to the narrow NHL rink again.

I wasnt here for the last few years, but it wasnt like I didnt play hockey and retired, he said. I was just playing in a different league, different ice. Thats going to be the biggest difference. The ice. Its probably going to take me some time to work out. Hopefully, its going to be quick.

While most of the roster has been in camp in August, training among themselves, Jagr came over late, attending memorial services overseas for players killed in the Lokomotiv plane crash. He was close to several Czechs, including Pavol Demitra and Josef Vasicek.

Jagr got emotional talking about the experience.

Sometimes life can be tough, he said. Everybody wanted only good things, but sometimes, life brings sadness. You feel sorry for the families and the players ... Sometimes you think that life is a little bit more than anything else.

It got me thinking also that it can happen to anybody, anywhere. That is why you should enjoy your life and every minute and work as hard as you can.

Its a work ethic, the Flyers believe, Jagr will demonstrate in abundance to every young player in camp.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

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Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

Flyers captain Claude Giroux has a word of advice for rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the two meet each other as opponents in this fall's World Cup of Hockey.

"The last few weeks, I told him to keep his head up," Giroux said Friday night on a conference call after both players were added to World Cup rosters.

"I'm pretty excited to go on the forecheck against him. It's pretty impressive what this kid has been able to do this year. To see it right beside him, he's got so much potential.
 
"To be on this team will only help him be better."
 
Giroux was named to Team Canada's roster, while Gostisbehere, the NHL's top rookie defenseman, was penciled in on Team North America (see story).

You may recall Giroux was overlooked by Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
 
"That was a little disappointing," Giroux said. "Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go play for them, you hope to get the call. I was a little disappointed for that. To be able to be on this team, I'm excited and I"m ready for the challenge."

Team North America is a unique blend of age 23-and-under players who will compete in the eight-team tournament starting in mid-September.

Whether the veteran athletes competing for other countries take this young stars contingent seriously on the international stage is subject to debate.

"I hope some teams would take us seriously," Gostisbehere said, "because I think we're pretty darn good. It's a different dynamic.
  
“You don’t have the veteran presence per say, but some of the guys on the team have been playing in the NHL for three years already. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also named to the tournament, playing for Team Europe.
 
“I am really surprised and excited,” Bellemare said in a statement. “I am happy that the way I played with the Flyers has helped me get a chance to play in the World Cup for Team Europe. I think this is going to be a celebration of hockey and it is surreal that I get to be in the middle of it.”
 
Both Giroux and Gostisbehere have been rehabbing at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since their hip and abdominal surgeries on May 17.

Bellemare will go into the tournament fully healthy, while Giroux and Gostisbehere will not. Giroux had reservations about undergoing surgery if it meant his exclusion from the tournament, sources said.
 
“The surgery was a little question mark,” Giroux said. “Maybe not so much for me, but for them. I don’t know what they were thinking. The rehab has gone very well right now. There’s no issue as to why I wouldn’t be ready for that tournament.”
 
Gostisbehere is no stranger to serious rehab from surgery. He missed nearly all of the 2014-15 season as a Phantom with a torn ACL in his left knee.
 
“It’s the same sort of rehab I did with my knee,” Gostisbehere said of his current rehab.  “We’re going to keep going down the line knowing something is at the end of the line for us. We gotta really focus.”
 
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which will be announced in late June, said he was humbled by the selection.
 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “The whole format of the tournament is pretty cool to see. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
The Flyers have eight players competing. Chicago has an NHL-high of 12.

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added to World Cup rosters

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Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added to World Cup rosters

Turns out the hip and abdominal surgeries for both Flyers captain Claude Giroux and rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere weren’t a deterrent from making their countries’ respective World Cup of Hockey rosters.
 
Also going will be center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was added to Team Europe’s roster.
 
All three Flyers were “add-ons” to Team Canada, Team North America and Team Europe as the final rosters were announced on Friday night.
 
The World Cup of Hockey tournament begins in September 17 and ends on Oct. 1.

Giroux, 28, has twice represented Canada at the World Championships and once in World Junior competition.
 
Gostisbehere, 23,  represented the U.S. internationally once the World Juniors. Team North America is all players 23-and-under or “Young Stars” as some refer to them.
 
Despite his poorest offensive output in three years, Giroux still led the Flyers with 67 points this season, playing in his 500th career game and scoring his 500th point. He won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
 
Gostisbehere took the NHL by storm as a November fill-in for the injured Mark Streit and ended up becoming a Calder Trophy finalist. That award will be announced in late June. 
 
He quickly ended up as the team’s first unit power play quarterback, and led all rookie defensemen in points (46), while establishing several club rookie records, including goals by a Flyers defenseman (17).
 
Gostisbehere was voted the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team’s best defenseman and the Gene Hart Memorial Award, given by the Flyers’ fan club to the players possessing the most “heart.”
 
Bellemare, 32, had 14 points this season as a valuable fourth line checking center and penalty killer. He also celebrated his 100th game as a Flyer. He figures to be a role player for Team Europe.
 
Ghost and Giroux both had off-season surgery on May 17. Their recovery is approximately 10-12 weeks. Both are expected at Flyers’ training camp in September.
 
Incidentally, the Flyers had just 167 man-games lost due to injury this past season. That’s the fewest number of injuries since 1998-99 when they had 120.
 
In all, the Flyers will send eight players – Bellemare, Giroux, Gostisbehere, center Sean Couturier (North America), defenseman Mark Streit (Team Europe), and three players from the Czech Republic – defenseman Radko Gudas, goalie Michal Neuvirth and forward Jakub Voracek.
 
Eight teams will compete in the tournament with every game being played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
 
Philadelphia was one of the host cities for the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996 when the Wells Fargo Center first opened as the CoreStates Center.