For Jakub Voracek, Sochi was a 'great experience'

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For Jakub Voracek, Sochi was a 'great experience'

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Jakub Voracek was visibly exhausted. His flight back from Sochi on Thursday was 11 hours long -- and that doesn’t count the time it took him to drive home from Newark, N.J.

But for the 24-year-old first-time Olympian, representing the Czech Republic was entirely worth it.

“It was a great experience,” Voracek said Friday at a stop by Skate Zone. “I think it was a great setup -- the village, Olympic Park. I really enjoyed it. It’s too bad it was short like that. Unfortunately, we had to play a very hard team in the quarterfinals. But it’s good to be back now.”

The Czech Republic made it to the quarterfinals, where it was eliminated by the U.S. in a 5-2 loss. But playing against such tough competition was a learning experience for the young Flyers forward, who said he was able to take away a lot from the opportunity

In addition to the U.S., the Czech Republic faced Sweden (who made it to the gold-medal game), Latvia, Switzerland and Slovakia. They finished 2-3.

“You have to learn from every game, every shift that you play there,” Voracek said. “For some, it happens only once in a lifetime. It was another step in my hockey career. I’m just going to take it and hopefully use it in the future and especially in the season.”

Voracek played very well through the entire tournament, perhaps best of all in the Czech Republic’s 4-2 win over Latvia in which he scored the tiebreaking goal. That night was the on-ice highlight of his time in Russia.

“It was a big goal in that game,” he said, “but it’s too bad I didn’t score more. I really enjoyed every shift I played in the Olympics. But now I’m happy to be back.”

He was happy to be in Sochi, too. And like his Flyers teammate Andrej Meszaros (see story), Voracek had a great time in the Olympic Village and didn’t have any problems like the ones publicized widely in the media.

“I think the setup, the way it was, everything was great,” he said. “I think the media blew it up here a little bit too much. But as an experience for me, my first Olympics, it was just awesome.”

If his NHL career continues as it has, Voracek will be a likely candidate for the next Winter Olympics, which will be held in 2018 in South Korea. That is, of course, if NHL players are permitted to participate.

It’s no surprise that, after his time in Sochi, Voracek is firmly in the camp of those who believe players should be allowed to play in the Olympics if they so choose.

“Once every four years, I don’t think it’s going to hurt to go to the Olympics,” he said. “For every player from the NHL, I think it’s a great experience.

“Representing your country in the Olympics, every athlete dreams of it since he’s growing up.”

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.