WINDSOR, Ontario — Flyers prospect Samuel Dove-McFalls is hoping a move back to wing will make him a more versatile player as he looks to make the jump to pro hockey next season.
Dove-McFalls, a natural center, has spent parts of his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playing wing because of injuries among the Sea Dogs' forward group.
The 20-year-old is hoping his versatility will help earn his entry-level contract from the Flyers and a spot in Lehigh Valley.
"It can only be beneficial for me to play both positions, it'll help me be more versatile for when I get to the next level," Dove-McFalls said Monday at the Memorial Cup. "Some guys play one position their whole career, they have to play there, otherwise they're not able to play their game, so I think it's only good for me that I spent some time playing the wing this year."
A knee injury limited the 6-foot-1, 202-pound forward to just 29 games last season. Even when he did return to the Saint John lineup, Dove-McFalls admitted he wasn't 100 percent.
However, after a full summer of training, the Montreal native felt better than ever entering the 2016-17 season.
"I did a lot of power skating. I felt my skating was better and I felt a lot more confident out there," he said. "Last year, I was getting a little frustrated and stuff.
"[I] got more explosive and I think I move around the ice a lot better."
The work put in during the summer paid off this season as Dove-McFalls set new career highs for goals (17) and points (53) in 66 games with the Sea Dogs. He added five goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games.
One of Dove-McFalls' goals for this season was to earn his entry-level contract from the Flyers. He has until June 1 to do so before the Flyers lose his exclusive rights, according to CapFriendly.com. Drafted in the fourth round (98th overall) in 2015, Dove-McFalls could make the jump to the Phantoms next season if signed.
"Obviously, you do [think about it], but you have to play for the team," Dove-McFalls said. "I don't control what they do and what decision they make. All I can do is try to play my best.
"When the team does well, then everyone does well. Hopefully, that's going to happen, that's the plan."
Dove-McFalls is in constant communication with Flyers player development coach John Riley, and the two don't always talk just hockey.
"[He] just sends me articles about pro athletes and what the pro life is all about," Dove-McFalls said. "Not necessarily always just hockey — stuff that's off the ice too. When he does come and watch me play, he focuses more on the hockey part.
"[The articles] show how hard it is to be a pro and how dedicated you have to be to the game. Articles on Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant — those greats who are dedicated to their game."
Dove-McFalls continued a trend for Flyers prospects this spring. He became the fourth straight to win a President Trophy as QMJHL champions, joining Philippe Myers (Rouyn-Noranda, 2016), Sam Morin (Rimouski, 2015) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Val-d'Or, 2014).
Described as a big two-way forward who can kill penalties and contribute offensively, Dove-McFalls points to current Flyer Sean Couturier and Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal as NHLers he tries to model his game after.
In order to make that jump to the pro game, Saint John coach Danny Flynn thinks Dove-McFalls needs to continue improving on his skating.
"He has to continue to work on foot speed. He has to continue to play a solid two-way game, but he has a good feel for how he's got to play," Flynn said. "If I were to be critical, because all young kids need development from our best player to our weakest player, foot speed would be an area that he'd like to improve on."
Seeing youngsters such as Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov make the jump to the NHL has Dove-McFalls excited for the future.
"It's interesting," he said. "Obviously, they had nine or 10 guys at the world juniors this year and then you have Konecny and Provorov who were already on the team, so that's exciting. We have a lot of good young prospects.
"I think the organization is moving in the right direction. I'm not really looking too far ahead, I realize I'm still a long ways away, but it's good they're going in the right direction stockpiling prospects."