Dave Hakstol: 'There will be a change or two' vs. Canucks

Dave Hakstol: 'There will be a change or two' vs. Canucks

VOORHEES, N.J. — Another lifeless effort and another loss lead to more changes, but don’t read too much into the lines and defensive pairs the Flyers showcased Wednesday.

At least according to head coach Dave Hakstol.

“Well, we didn’t really have lines out there today,” Hakstol said after the team’s practice at Flyers Skate Zone. “We were just working on different things. There was kind of a mixture. I think we put seven forwards in each color and guys were just kind of mixing through. There will be a change or two to the lineup, yes.”

If Wednesday’s practice is indicative of the “change or two” Hakstol hinted at afterward, Travis Konecny might see time at right wing with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl, and Nick Cousins could draw back in after being a healthy scratch for the last five games.

Konecny made the switch to left wing during training camp, a shift from right wing and center he played in junior and a move that helped his chances to make the Flyers. The 19-year-old has six goals and 20 points in 42 games thus far into his rookie season, playing in all but one game in which he was benched in San Jose on Dec. 30.

In five games since the benching, Konecny has two goals and 14 shots on goal. When Hakstol sat Konecny, the coach said it was for Konecny to “continue to develop.” Konecny responded with his first goal in 22 games against Anaheim the next game on Jan. 1.

Now, it appears Konecny could begin Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center alongside Giroux and Raffl on the Flyers’ top line.

“Today, he took a couple shifts on the right side,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “But that’s not really inherent of anything. I don’t have lines set for tomorrow yet. So what did I see out there today on the right wing? I wasn’t really evaluating the play offensively. There were some things we were working on defensively in terms of our rush coverage.

"We weren’t very good in that area during the second period (Tuesday), and we haven’t had a lot of time to work on things like that. Took 10 minutes today to try to get a little bit of that detail back.”

On Tuesday night, the Flyers’ offense continued to struggle to generate quality scoring chances, despite throwing 40 shots at Sabres backup goalie Anders Nilsson in a 4-1 loss in Buffalo. In the 11 games since their 10-game winning streak was snapped Dec. 17 in Dallas, the orange and black are 2-6-3 and have averaged 1.73 goals.

Jakub Voracek, who has six points in his last 11 games, spent Wednesday’s practice skating with Sean Couturier in the middle and Matt Read and Cousins at left wing. Pressed on if he was aware of any lineup changes for the Canucks game, Voracek said it’s Hakstol’s decision and doesn’t know what changes could be in store for Thursday.

“Everybody in the past played together,” Voracek said. “We know what to expect. No matter what the lines are going to be tomorrow or the next three games, we have to make sure we bear down. When we have the chances, we have to make sure we score.”

Cousins has not been in the Flyers’ lineup since Dec. 30 against the Sharks, a game in which he played left wing with Couturier and Dale Weise. After winning a roster spot in training camp, Cousins has been in and out of the lineup this season.

He’s been a healthy scratch nine games, and if he does sit out Thursday against Vancouver, that number will reach double digits. He’s already matched his point total (10) in two fewer games this season than last but has not been able to be a mainstay.

After practice Wednesday, Cousins said Hakstol has yet to address in detail what he wants Cousins to change in order for him to get back into the lineup.

“(Hakstol) hasn’t said much to me, actually,” Cousins said. “So, yeah, it is what it is. He obviously has his lineup that he’s sticking to and I’ll be ready when my name’s called. If and when that is, I don’t know. I’m just taking it day by day and working hard in practice.

“I’m just trying to stay ready. I’ve been working hard with (Ian Laperriere) after practice, working on little stuff that we need to work on. Working hard in the weight room. There’s nothing else I can do. I can only control what I can control. I don’t make the lineups. I'll be ready when my name (is called).”

Hakstol did hint Cousins could be back soon, perhaps as early as Thursday.

“Cousins has just been the odd man out here,” the second-year Flyers head coach said. “It’s not that he has to change a whole lot. There’s going to be a change or two with our lineup tomorrow. He’s certainly a guy, when he’s in, he always brings that scrappy, competitive edge to his game, but more than that, he brings some playmaking as well.”

Asked if he was more at the point of evaluation or an experimental stage in looking to solve the Flyers’ recent offensive woes, Hakstol conceded it was a combination of both.

“We’re not going to start mixing and matching all over the place,” Hakstol said, “but at the same time, we haven’t had a whole lot of success over the last 10 games. We’ll do things with reason and with purpose, and if we feel a change is necessary and makes sense, we’re going to make it.”

Loose pucks
Mark Streit took full practice with the Flyers on Wednesday but will not be available Thursday against Vancouver. Streit, who hasn’t played since Dec. 11, said Saturday’s game in Boston is an option and it’s a day-by-day thing. Streit is currently on long-term injured reserve, and when activated, the Flyers would have to make a corresponding move. ... Shayne Gostisbehere was paired with Nick Schultz, who has played just three games since Nov. 11. It’s unclear if Gostisbehere will be a healthy scratch against Vancouver. Streit was paired with Radko Gudas, and Michael Del Zotto skated with Brandon Manning. The Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald pair stayed together.

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

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

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.