Flyers Winter Classic Alumni Game Roster Announced; Thoughts on Who'll Be There, Who'll Be Missed

Flyers Winter Classic Alumni Game Roster Announced; Thoughts on Who'll Be There, Who'll Be Missed

We've been eager to find out which former Flyers would lace up the skates and once again don the winged P when the team's alumni face off with the old men of the New York Rangers on New Year's Eve. We knew Eric Lindros and John LeClair were scheduled to appear, but that Mikael Renberg wouldn't be available to complete the Legion of Doom Voltron.

Today, the Flyers announced the full roster is it currently stands, with a nice cross-section of previous eras. Let's take a look at the guys who will be there, as well as those we wish could be.

Courtesy our folks over at CSN, here's who'll skate for the Flyers.

Coaches
Coach Pat Quinn
Asst coaches Keith Primeau, Mike Nykoluk

Damn shame that Primeau is only listed here, and not with the forwards.

Wish They Were Here: Bill Dineen, Roger Nielsen (RIP)

Goalies
Neil Little
Mark LaForest

Overall, not a very distinguished pairing. What more would you expect from a Flyers team that has seen so little success between the pipes since Bernie Parent retired due to injury? Little actually played just two games as a Flyer, but he spent his whole career in the organization, spanning season with the Hershey Bears and Philadelphia Phantoms. He later spent some time as an assistant coach for the Phantoms and a goaltending scout for both the Phantoms and the Flyers. LaForest played all of 38 career games as a Flyer, swinging the door for a young starter Ron Hextall for parts of two seasons. Hopefully he still has that great Trees mask

Wish He Was Here: Hexy, Pelle (RIP)

Defense
Chris Therien
Derian Hatcher
Kjell Samuelsson
Larry Goodenough
Eric Desjardins
Terry Carkner
Joe Watson
Brad Marsh
Mark Howe

Here we have a list including the Flyers' current radio color man and their most recent addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and plenty in between. Hatch is a former Flyers captain and currently serves as a development coach. Desjardins is one of the best Flyers defenders of all time, perhaps second to Howe? Carkner was the man in his day as well, and who can forget the giant Kjell Samuelsson? Watson, now 68 years old, was an original Flyer with the team from '67 to '78, winning two Cups, one alongside Goodenough, who is 10 years his junior. Marsh was a Flyers blueliner for six seasons in the mid-80s.

Wish They Were Here: Brad McCrimmon (RIP)

Forwards
John LeClair
Jeremy Roenick
Eric Lindros
Mark Recchi
Bobby Clarke
Rick Tocchet
Shjon Podein
Jim Dowd
Orest Kindrachuk
Dave Poulin
Bob Kelly
Reggie Leach
Bill Barber
Ken Linseman
Brian Propp
Al Hill

Another nice representation of multiple Flyers generations. The LCB Line will skate again, and Lindros and LeClair will join as 2/3 of the Legion of Doom, with a nice array of options to man the other wing. Lindros and Recchi were two-thirds of the Crazy Eights line, who knows where Brent Fedyk is. JR brings even more star power to the mix, and with any luck will see a Propper Guffaw.

Wish They Were Here: Tim Kerr, Keith Jones, and Peter Zezel (RIP)

The Rangers aren't bringing as much to the table, with no Gretzky or Messier highlighting the absences. John Vanbiesbrouck will face his former club though, and Brian Leetch will anchor their defense. See the Rangers roster here.

Who else do you wish had made it for the Flyers? We purposely left our lists small so you could fill in the blanks.

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

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Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.