Holmgren talks three possible Flyers draft picks

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Holmgren talks three possible Flyers draft picks

VOORHEES. N.J. - General manager Paul Holmgren has made no secret of the Flyers’ longstanding draft philosophy: Draft the best player available, no matter his position or the team’s specific needs.

But, he said in his pre-draft press conference Wednesday, if he saw both a defenseman and a forward available at pick No. 11 that were of equal talent, he knows which way the Flyers would likely go.

"Well, then we’d probably lean toward the defenseman," Holmgren said. "Just because of our needs."

So, which defensemen will be available with the 11th pick? It’s a tough call -- as Holmgren said, no matter how many mock drafts the Flyers put together, one team who selects before them on Sunday (the draft begins at 3 p.m.) will surely make a surprise pick that throws everything off track.

In CSNPhilly.com’s mock NHL draft, Russ Cohen predicted the Flyers would go after a towering defenseman with some familiar ties: Darnell Nurse, the nephew of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (see story).

By all accounts, Nurse is certainly a Flyers-type player. And, understandably, Holmgren likes what he’s seen from the 18-year-old Ontario native.

“I’ve seen Darnell play a few times,” Holmgren said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid. He’s like 6-4, I would venture to guess he weighs like 210 pounds (he’s listed as 6-5/192). He’s still, when you watch him play, a lot of elbows and knees, but he’s a rugged, hard-nosed player that can fight, pretty good with the puck, and he’ll continue to get better.

"But I have no idea if he’ll be there at our pick.”

Even if he isn’t, 2013’s draft class is a deep one -- especially on defense. Another good possibility to target at No. 11 is Finnish D-man Rasmus Ristolainen, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound 18-year-old who has been playing professional hockey in Finland since he was 16 years old.

“Physically, he looks like a man right now compared to some of the kids you see,” Holmgren said of Ristolainen. “He played in the men’s league in Finland. I would say of all the defensemen (with the exception of Seth Jones, the top defenseman in the draft), in my opinion, he’s probably the most ready to jump right in. Offensively, looks like a good prospect -- solid defensively with a big shot.”

Asked for an NHL comparison, Holmgren said Ristolainen reminded him of Adam Larsson, the defenseman selected by the New Jersey Devils fourth overall in 2011.

Ryan Pulock, the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) defenseman from Manitoba was the final prospect Holmgren commented on Wednesday. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, the 18-year-old is well known primarily for one feature of his game.

"He’s really got a bomb for a power play," Holmgren said. "He’s actually pretty physically developed, too. There’s a lot of good prospects [this year]."

Holmgren added Pulock is "not as physical as Nurse," but that he's still certainly "a good solid prospect."

NHL Notes: Kings activate goalie Jonathan Quick from injured reserve

NHL Notes: Kings activate goalie Jonathan Quick from injured reserve

LOS ANGELES -- Goalie Jonathan Quick has returned to the Los Angeles Kings after injuring his groin in the first period of the season opener.

Quick led the Kings during warmups before Saturday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner missed 59 games with the injury, which occurred Oct. 12 against San Jose. He has been skating with the Kings for several weeks, but he didn't make any rehabilitation starts in the minors.

The Kings only announced his return by activating him from injured reserve 40 minutes before the opening faceoff.

Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 when the eighth-seeded Kings steamrolled the competition on their way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title.

When healthy, Quick has been the Kings' starting goalie since December 2008.

Ducks: Vermette's 10-game suspension upheld
NEW YORK -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 10-game suspension assessed to Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette.

Vermette slapped his stick against the back of linesman Shandor Alphonso's legs after losing a faceoff to Minnesota's Mikko Koivu during the third period of the Ducks' 1-0 win on Feb. 14. Vermette had a hearing with Bettman on Thursday after appealing the initial suspension.

Bettman announced Saturday that the 10-game ban would remain; Vermette has served four games already.

Vermette will lose $97,222 in salary.

The normally mild-mannered Vermette appeared to act out of frustration when Alphonso dropped the puck before the forward had put his stick in place on the ice. Officials immediately assessed a game misconduct to Vermette.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.