Holmgren talks roster moves, what's to come

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Holmgren talks roster moves, what's to come

WASHINGTON -- Preseason hockey ended for the Flyers on Friday night with an exhibition game against the Capitals that only serves as a tune-up for next week’s regular-season start.

The bigger news was the Flyers' roster.

Austrian winger Michael Raffl, who appeared to have a spot all but locked up at left wing, was sent to the Phantoms along with defenseman Oliver Lauridsen.

By process of elimination, that left Chris VandeVelde as the sole survivor at left wing with Tye McGinn going back to the Phantoms early Friday morning following Thursday’s loss in New Jersey.

The Flyers still have 14 forwards in camp, including 19-year-old Scott Laughton, who the organization feels has to play center, whereas VandeVelde has played both center and wing.

The 25-year-old Raffl was trying to make the jump from Europe to North America without a year on the smaller ice at the AHL level. He nearly succeeded.

“He played four of our games and I thought he did something good in each of those games, but we want to get him more experience on the smaller ice down there where he can play more minutes,” general manager Paul Holmgren said of Raffl. “Kind of learn the North American game.”

VandeVelde has a minor-league deal. He will likely be offered a two-way contract, Holmgren said. The Flyers have 48 pro contracts and a couple of “slide” contracts, as well. Fifty is the limit.

The wild card, once again, is Laughton.

“Yes, a lot depends on what happens with Scott,” Holmgren said. “He has the little 'J' [junior eligibility] beside his name unless he plays X-number of games. We kept our options open with Chris. He’s played pretty good for us.

“The difference there is Chris is a North American player and has played three years pro and NHL games. For purposes of sending Michael down, it’s important to get him playing more minutes down there.”

Laughton can stick around for nine NHL games before going back to junior or the clock starts ticking on his NHL contract.

Ideally, the Flyers would prefer to place Laughton with the Phantoms, but they can’t because of age restrictions.

“We want to be extra careful,” Holmgren said. “It’s good that he is still here. I thought he was one of our better guys [Thursday] night and it was hard to find a guy who played good.”

Laughton and VandeVelde both played Friday night in the Flyers' preseason finale against the Caps.

Holmgren said he is having difficulty deciding on whether to keep 13 or 14 forwards.

As part of this decision, there remains the question on defense -- carry seven or eight?

Holmgren admitted he’d like to sign Hal Gill, who is on a tryout. Both men are slated to meet Saturday morning. Holmgren said he is considering asking Gill to sign a minor-league deal.

The 38-year-old Gill would be a better option as a seventh defenseman rather than asking a younger player, who needs playing time, to sit in the press box as an extra. The Flyers don’t like doing that.

“He doesn’t get beat,” Holmgren said of Gill. “You could argue that he is slow, but he’s been the same player for probably the last 10 years. Maybe the game has gotten a little faster.

“Having him at camp has been a real pleasure. He is full of life. For an older guy who played as many games as he has, he provides enthusiasm. He’s a good pro. I love having him around.”

Complicating this is the fact that the Flyers have seven regulars on defense right now with Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson vying for the final spot among the top six.

Holmgren said he would not put Gustafsson through waivers for the purposes of sending him to the Phantoms for fear of losing him.

NHL rosters have to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday. Holmgren said he would like to make some roster decisions by late Friday.

Holmgren: Gagne not in Flyers' plans
Free agent forward Simon Gagne said late Friday that he had not heard from the Flyers. Holmgren said, at this point, Gagne no longer figures in any plans for the Flyers, regardless of what happens with their current roster.

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers on Wednesday night took to the PPL Center — home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms — to give fans an early glimpse of the organization’s young talent, much of which will play on a nightly basis in Lehigh Valley.

One player that may reach Philadelphia before he ever lands in Lehigh Valley did not disappoint as the evening’s main attraction.

In his quest to make the Flyers’ roster at 19 years old, heralded prospect Travis Konecny scored a goal and tallied an assist to lead the orange and black past the Devils, 2-0, in their fourth preseason game, improving to 2-2.

Let’s dive into the action with 10 observations from the game:

1. We start with who else? Konecny. Head coach Dave Hakstol paired the talented winger with Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl, two of the few NHLers to suit up Wednesday. Konecny jumped all over the opportunity, deflecting an Andrew MacDonald shot for a goal 4:30 into the second period. Just shy of five minutes after, he delivered a pretty touch pass to Raffl in front for a 2-0 lead. Konecny just narrowly missed adding another goal and assist, as well, later in the stanza. You know when he’s on the ice because you’ll see bursts of unmatched speed. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder is incredibly shifty with the puck and adept at avoiding contact. At times, he’ll get pushed around when a bigger body squares him up, but he makes up for it with his elusiveness. The 2015 first-round pick sure played the part of an NHL player ready to contribute to a team in need of playmaking.

2. Samuel Morin is a big boy. The 6-foot-7 defenseman really utilizes his tall frame and upper-body strength when battling along the boards. Obviously he needs to work on his skating and puck handling, but he has the size and makeup to compete.

3. Goalies Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon will duke it out for playing time in Lehigh Valley. It’s an impressive tandem. Both combined for the shutout. Stolarz, 6-foot-6, made eight saves in the opening period and 11 total over 29:23. He showed good quickness and instincts. Lyon, not so big at 6-foot-1, is sound and holds records for his time at Yale. He converted seven saves. It’s a duo worth keeping tabs on throughout the season.

4. Forward Colin McDonald will be a nice safety net for the Flyers if they ever need a body willing to bring nothing but physicality. He made loud, impactful hits and had a fight — albeit a short and weak one — early in the first period.

5. Defenseman Mark Alt lost a fight quickly in the second period. He may have lost his balance, but he went down hard. Alt appeared fine when he got up. However, he never returned to the game.

6. The Flyers killed two power plays on the night. The PK continued to show more aggressiveness and disruptiveness on the puck carrier, which wasn’t always the case last season. It’s a big reason the Flyers fell in such a big hole against the Capitals during the playoffs. So far this preseason, the Flyers are 16 for 17 on the penalty kill.

7. Along with Schenn, Raffl and MacDonald, other Flyers to play were Boyd Gordon and Chris VandeVelde, who handled themselves well, as expected. Defensive prospect Robert Hagg had an assist, as did Schenn and MacDonald.

8. Keith Kinkaid was in net for the Devils. He’s expected to be New Jersey’s backup netminder. The 27-year-old is 15-14-5 in his career with a 2.71 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Not crazy stuff, but still a goalie with NHL experience. However …

9. The Devils visit the Rangers Thursday night, so they too deployed a fair share of prospects, resulting in Kinkaid without a ton of help.

10. The PPL Center is a beautiful venue and should be a hot-spot for Flyers fans throughout the 2016-17 season. The trip is doable, parking is accessible and cheap and the arena doesn’t sport a bad seat. The Phantoms should be fun with added experience and talent.