Philadelphia Flyers

Future Flyers Report: What impact will Anthony Stolarz's season-ending injury have on future?

Future Flyers Report: What impact will Anthony Stolarz's season-ending injury have on future?

The Future Flyers Report lives to see another week.

With the AHL regular season now over-- spoiler alert: the Phantoms clinched a playoff berth -- and the CHL and SHL playoffs ongoing, there is still plenty of hockey to discuss.

So before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects still playing. This week, we'll feature a goalie who suffered a season-ending injury and a pair of Swedes who find themselves in the SHL final.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 23, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
While the Phantoms clinched their playoff ticket last Wednesday night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins, they did so at the expense of Stolarz, who suffered a serious lower-body injury and was seen on crutches after the game.

After Lehigh Valley clinched home ice in the first round last Friday with a comeback 5-4 win over Providence, coach Scott Gordon confirmed Stolarz will miss the postseason and will be out three-to-four months, according to Highland Park Hockey's Tony Androckitis.

With his season over -- one that saw a few call-ups and NHL games -- Stolarz now heads into the summer with several questions to be answered. Since the Flyers re-signed Michal Neuvirth, they now have the option to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz in the expansion draft, which will take place from June 18-20, but selections will be announced June 21.

Expansion draft aside, there are other questions surrounding Stolarz and the Flyers' goaltending situation in 2017-18. Despite re-signing Neuvirth, Hextall and Steve Mason both did not shut the door on Mason coming back next season last week, though Mason made it clear he's not open to returning if it was another season of platooning in net.

Mason also made it known that he is open to mentoring a young goalie -- such as Stolarz -- and understands the Flyers have a few kids coming up in the ranks; he just doesn't believe platoons work with goaltenders and rightfully pointed to Tampa and St. Louis as examples.

All signs still point to Mason leaving, however. Hextall said he believes Neuvirth will bounce back after a tough 2016-17, and gave pause when asked if he believes Stolarz will be ready for a full-time NHL backup job, leaving the door open for the team signing a short-term veteran backup netminder. There is also the slim possibility Hextall brings back both Mason and Neuvirth, promising Mason the No. 1 job. The answers to these questions will begin with the expansion draft because the Flyers have to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz. If Neuvirth is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, it would then be likely Hextall tries to re-sign Mason. If Stolarz is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, Stolarz leaves. Then there's the possibility Vegas stays clear of both goalies no matter who's unprotected.

Goaltending will once again provide plenty of entertainment as the offseason approaches. There are several different scenarios that could play out that directly impact Stolarz. For now, though, the 23-year-old will spend the summer rehabbing his lower-body injury.

Stolarz finished 18-9-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .911 save percentage and one shutout in 29 games with the Phantoms this season. It was an up-and-down campaign in Lehigh Valley, but he did perform well in an extremely small sample size with the Flyers.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 20, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
As expected, Lindblom will be coming to North America full-time for the 2017-18 season, Brynäs IF coach Thomas Berglund confirmed to Swedish newspaper Expressen. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week that Lindblom has "come a long way since his draft year," and hopes the Swede will be here competing for a spot in training camp.

On the ice last week, Lindblom played a major factor into Brynäs IF beating Frölunda, 4-3, in seven games to advance to the SHL final, which began Sunday with HV71. Lindblom picked up two assists in Brynäs' 6-0, Game 6 win over Frolunda last Wednesday. He had a goal in Brynäs' 5-2 loss in Game 1 of the final against HV71 on Sunday.

But it was his performance in Game 7 on Saturday that stood out most, as he registered two goals and an assist in Brynäs' 3-1 series-clinching victory. He helped Brynäs take a 1-0 lead in the opening minute, throwing a shot off Frölunda goalie Johan Gustafsson's pads, leaving a rebound for Juuso Ikonen to put in. He then scored his first of the game, backhanding a rebound past Gustafsson to put Brynäs up, 2-0. With Brynäs up, 2-1, Lindblom capped off his game with a wicked wrister past Gustafsson to secure the win for Brynäs.

It was the type of effort Brynäs has come to expect from Lindblom this season. The winger has consistently been the team's best player and one of the SHL's top players all season long.

"A fantastic player who has had a grim development this year," Berglund told Expressen. "I've never seen a player who had such a development. He really has gone from strength to strength, both as a player and as a person."

Felix Sandstrom, G, 20, 6-2/187, Brynäs IF (SHL)
Sandstrom deserves just as much credit for Brynäs IF's advancing to the SHL final as Lindblom does, as the goaltender came up with two enormous performances in goal in Games 6 and 7 to help Brynäs come back from down, 3-2, to win the series, 4-3. Let's highlight his Game 7 performance, an effort that saw Sandstrom turn away 37 of 38 shots in a high-pressure situation. He consistently answered the bell, positioned himself well and didn't bend in a win-or-go-home game. His lone blemish saw a puck bounce off his own defenseman. An incredibly impressive performance for a 20-year-old in that situation, especially considering he pitched a 32-save shutout in Game 6 down 3-2 in the series.

Carter Hart, G, 18, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Hart will get a taste of professional postseason hockey … at least as a backup. Hart joined the Phantoms on Sunday, according to The Everett Herald's Jesse Geleynse, on an amateur tryout contract (ATO). He will back up Alex Lyon in the postseason. It's unlikely he will play, however. With Hart's season coming to an end after Everett was swept by Seattle in the second round of the WHL playoffs, Hart was free to Lehigh Valley on the ATO. Hart finished the 2016-17 season 32-11-6 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with nine shutouts. He led the WHL in GAA, save percentage and shutouts. He was named the WHL Western Conference Goaltender of the Year. He was one of two WHL goalies on Team Canada during the world junior championships.

Quick hits
Philippe Myers was pointless in three games for Rouyn-Noranda last week. The Huskies were 1-2 in Games 3, 4 and 5 against Chicoutimi. They face elimination Monday in Game 6.

• Saint John swept Val-d'Or in its second-round series and is now 8-0 in the postseason. Samuel Dove-McFalls had an assist in both Games 3 and 4 and a goal and two assists in four games vs. the Foreurs. His team will face either Rouyn-Noranda or Chicoutimi in the semifinals.

Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal in Kelowna's 7-2 win over Portland last Wednesday. He was suspended for the Rockets' 6-2 win in Game 5 Friday. Kelowna faces Seattle next.

Mark Friedman made his professional debut in the Phantoms' regular-season finale Saturday night. Friedman registered an assist and finished as a plus-3 in Lehigh Valley's 4-1 win over Binghamton that clinched the Phantoms 101 points on the season.

• The Phantoms will face the Hershey Bears in the first round beginning Friday night. This is the first 100-point season for Lehigh Valley during the 76-game season era. The last time the Phantoms had a 100-point season was 2004-05 when they won the Calder Cup.

Travis Sanheim played a key role in Lehigh Valley's comeback win last Wednesday against Providence that clinched the Phantoms' playoff berth, picking up two assists.

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Five bullet points from the Eagles' 27-24 win over the Giants in their home opener (see breakdown).

• The smallest guy on the field was the biggest hero Sunday. Jake Elliott's 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game saved what could have been a disaster. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "We didn't even know he could kick it that far." Other players admitted they had hardly spoken to Elliott in the two weeks he's been here, but they would definitely go out of their way to exchange words with him in the future.

• Thirty-nine (39?!?!) rushing attempts in one game! The Birds had a grand total of 41 attempts in the first two games. The Giants came into this affair allowing 133.5 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles busted them up for 193. Wendell Smallwood told me, "We just knew where the holes would be after watching them on tape." Lane Johnson added, "We did a great job of mixing up our runs inside, outside, mix directions and delay runs."

• The Giants' trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard combined for 24 catches, 278 yards and three touchdowns. They killed the Eagles on slant routes. Considering how depleted the Eagles' secondary was, Jalen Mills said they wanted to keep everything in front of them. When I asked cornerback Patrick Robinson why they played Beckham so much in single coverage, he responded, "We didn't think he was that healthy, but in the second half, we found out otherwise."

• As if the Birds' defense wasn't banged up enough going into this game, they lost Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks along the way. Safety Rodney McLeod, who was a scratch for this game, told me he will be ready for Philip Rivers and the Chargers next week.

• Numerous players said they were proud of the way the team came together in unity in response to President Trump's comments. Alshon Jeffery told me, "It doesn't make a difference if you're black or white, we are all in this together."

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot in which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)