Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Oilers
7 p.m., CSN

After a horrid two-game stop in Florida, the Flyers (4-5-2) will open a four-game homestand at the Wells Fargo Center when they battle the Edmonton Oilers (4-6-1) Tuesday evening.

Here’s what you need to know for the game:

1. The new guy
Newcomer Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to make his Flyers debut Tuesday night. The 31-year-old signed a two-way contract with the club last week and has been working hard to get himself back into game shape (see story).

Colaiacovo, who has spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings in his NHL career, was paired with Luke Schenn during practice Monday afternoon. Flyers head coach Craig Berube also had Colaiacovo penciled in with the second power-play unit.

Though injury-prone, Colaiacovo is a solid puck-moving defender and rarely gets beat one-on-one because of his strong skating ability. Berube plans to ease Colaiacovo into the lineup. He’ll monitor the veteran’s minutes against the Oilers as his conditioning level may not be up to par just yet.

2. Coburn improving
It appears defenseman Braydon Coburn could be back sooner than the Flyers expected.

Coburn, who hasn’t played since the season opener because of a lower-body injury, practiced for the first time on Monday since Oct. 21 and said he was pain free after stepping off the ice.

“It was good to get back out there and ease into it,” Coburn said (see story). “There is definitely improvement and it felt good.”

Nick Schultz, who signed as the Flyers’ seventh defenseman this past summer, has been a pleasant surprise on the back end with Coburn and Andrew MacDonald (lower-body) sidelined. Schultz has picked up three assists to go along with a plus-3 rating in 10 games this season.

As mentioned above, Colaiacovo will be paired with Schenn versus Edmonton. Schultz will continue to play with Michael Del Zotto, and Mark Streit will skate with Nicklas Grossmann. That means Brandon Manning is the odd man out for Tuesday’s tilt.

3. Oil spill
Edmonton will be without two key leaders on Tuesday.

Andrew Ference, the Oilers’ captain, was suspended by the NHL for three games after delivering an illegal check to the head of Canucks forward Zack Kassian. The nasty collision occurred in the second period of Edmonton’s 3-2 loss to Vancouver on Saturday. Here’s the video, courtesy of ProHockeyTalk.

The Oilers will also be without star forward Taylor Hall, who leads the team with six goals and 10 points in 11 games. The 22-year-old sprained his medial collateral ligament in his right knee when he crashed into Vancouver’s net during Saturday’s loss. He’s expected to miss two to four weeks.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let’s go with Vinny Lecavalier. The veteran forward returned to the Flyers’ lineup against Florida and scored the team’s lone goal. He’s posted two goals and two assists in four games this season, but hasn’t yet found his place. Lecavalier’s line with Wayne Simmonds and R.J. Umberger didn’t look particularly strong on Saturday, but the rest of the team looked flat as well. Simmonds is better suited to play with a speedy centerman and Umberger has been almost invisible in the offensive zone so far. If Lecavalier can’t get something going, expect more line changes in the near future.

Oilers: With Hall sidelined for the next few weeks, Edmonton is going to rely heavily on Jordan Eberle to contribute on a nightly basis. The 24-year-old ranks second on the team in scoring with eight points (three goals) in 10 games and has shown he’s more than capable of putting up solid numbers (220 points in 285 career games). He has an accurate shot and is an underrated setup man. But his size (5-11, 180) makes it hard for him to win puck battles in the corners.

5. This and that
• The Flyers won both matchups against the Oilers last season. Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each registered three points in the season series.

• Voracek has collected at least one point in 10 of the Flyers’ 11 games this season and 13 of his 16 points have been earned at even-strength (see weekly observations).

• Talk about streaky. Edmonton began the season with a five-game winless streak before reeling off four consecutive victories. Now, the Oilers enter Tuesday having dropped two in a row.

• Lecavalier has produced six goals and four assists in his last eight games against Edmonton.

• The Oilers are 0-2-1 on the road with 17 goals against, but are a perfect 4-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL 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: Is it really a two-player race atop the NHL draft?
 
Dougherty
Maybe it's because the Flyers have the No. 2 pick and we tend to put the top prospects under an unfair microscope in years that do not include bona fide picks atop the draft.
 
Maybe it is as simple as whoever the New Jersey Devils do not draft.
 
Maybe we're overthinking this. Maybe we're not.
 
These are the questions that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and his staff are asking themselves in the weeks leading up to the June 23-24 NHL entry draft in Chicago.
 
It appears to be a two-player draft, or at least that is what we've talked ourselves into. All the chatter has been around Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier.
 
"I would say it's pretty accurate," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron recently told the team's website. "They're both excellent players. … I think the media maybe has it that way, but I think there are other players that could come into play as well."
 
I am on the record saying the Flyers should get an immediate impact player at No. 2 in either Patrick or Hischier, unlike the last time they picked in this slot in 2007.
 
So, I believe the Flyers will be coming away from Chicago with either Patrick or Hischier, but I also don't believe it is as much of a slam dunk as we've made it out.
 
By many accounts, it is not a projected deep draft class. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently told TSN Radio 1040 he doesn't believe the two are "completely clear of the pack."
 
"The last time we had a draft like this — say 2012," Pronman said. "I think many scouts had Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly … it all depended on which teams were picking where. I think this is another one of those years.
 
"I do think Hischier and Patrick are the likely No. 1 and 2, but if somebody else snuck into there, I wouldn't really be surprised."
 
There also doesn't appear much separation between Patrick and Hischier themselves. Hischier has been trending up, while questions remain about Patrick's durability.
 
While both the Devils and Flyers have publicly downplayed injury concerns about Patrick, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. If New Jersey decides to draft Hischier with No. 1, I could see a scenario in which the Flyers opt to go another route than Patrick.
 
In early May, Hextall said with "any young player who has had injuries, you do background checks." What if the Flyers find something in those background checks they don't like?
 
Therefore, I don't think we're overthinking it too much to take a look at other top prospects in this class, such as Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Portland center Cody Glass or Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki. Because I do think there is a legitimate possibility the No. 2 pick could be someone other than Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

Hall
The Flyers, in an overly advantageous position, should not get cute here. 

Depth at center is so vital to any organization. The Flyers have been lacking just that and it has shown the past three seasons.

With this draft, a high-end center is falling into their lap at the No. 2 pick. From all indications, Patrick and Hischier are at the head of the class.

Sure, the Flyers should do their homework, and they will. They'll be thorough in their scouting and preparation leading up to June 23.

To me, though, this is pretty simple. The Flyers' decision will essentially be made by the Devils' choice at No. 1 — and that's the odd convenience of the second overall selection.

Unless Hischier goes to New Jersey and alarms sound on Patrick's health, the Flyers need to make the obvious call and add one of these two centers.

Paone
Let's break this question down into simplest terms.

Could the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2 come June 23 in Chicago? Of course, they could.

As Tom mentioned above, Vilardi, Glass and Suzuki are all up there at the head of this class with the projected top two, though seen by many as a slight level down from Patrick and Hischier.

A lot of times, decisions like these come down to team preference of a certain player. But don't expect Hextall to make that preference known until he steps to the podium to announce the Flyers' pick on draft night.

But could and should are two very different questions.

Should the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2?

Nope.

Let's be honest, the Flyers fell backward into this No. 2 pick. And with that, they have the chance to select a potential stalwart forward with a strong knack for putting the puck in the net, which both Patrick and Hischier possess. And each should be able to show that off in the NHL sooner rather than later. Remember this: The Flyers' "Big 4" of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux scored 90 of the Flyers' 212 goals last season. That accounts for 42.5 percent. Immediate scoring help is needed and both Patrick and Hischier should have the ability to bring that to the table.

Yes, the questions about Patrick's durability are legitimate. And yes, Hischier is trending even further upward.

But, to me, this goes back again to simplest terms.

The Flyers should pick whomever New Jersey doesn't out of Patrick and Hischier.

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.