Laviolette excited to return to Team USA, Flyers

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Laviolette excited to return to Team USA, Flyers

The best thing that could have happened for Peter Laviolette was a little distraction from the boredom of a four-month long offseason.
 
Perhaps something like a Team USA orientation camp just prior to the start of Flyers rookie camp, which opens today at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
 
“The Olympic team is added work, but certainly welcomed by me,” Laviolette said. “I’m excited about it and the opportunity to go there and represent the United States. I think that is a great opportunity to do something good for our country and the sport of hockey. I’m really excited about that.”
 
That camp got Laviolette’s juices flowing again. Got him in the right frame of mind for this brief camp that leads directly into the Flyers’ full training camp next week (Sept. 12).
 
He'll go from Team USA to the Flyers without missing a beat.
 
“I did this before in 2006 from a head coaching role, and I understand the balance that needs to take place and didn’t seem to really affect anything we did with Carolina that year,” Laviolette said. “It starts to get you back into that [hockey mode]. There was stuff done before that with the Flyers, but I do think it puts you back into the rink with meetings and players there and we had to run systems meetings. It jump-starts you and gets you going for the season.”
 
It’s not very often the Flyers don’t make the playoffs. For Laviolette, summer began in early May and he couldn’t wait for it to end.
 
“It’s tough when you don’t get to do what you wanted and have to watch the playoffs,” he said.
 
“It doesn’t have the same meaning on the outside as when you are inside and competing. I think I found late spring and early summer to be hard to handle. It wasn’t the plan, the goal or where we wanted to be.
 
“After you get by that, for me, it was exciting knowing guys are coming back healthy from where we were last year. The man games we lost, it’s exciting guys are coming back full health for the most part.”
 
There are 25 rookies in this camp and one amateur tryout (defenseman Mark Nemec from Maine).
 
Assuming a full healthy Flyers roster -- including Claude Giroux -- there really aren’t any obvious holes to be filled where a rookie prospect could be plugged into the mix, but there will be at least one forward spot filled by some lucky player -- maybe Scott Laughton.
 
The question is, can Laughton stick around this time? Last year, he made it through five games before going back to Oshawa.
 
Laughton, Nick Cousins and Petr Straka are all hoping to do something now to get onto the Flyers' roster.
 
Who has the best shot?
 
“I would say Scott,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “We’ve got to give him an opportunity to see what he does. Give him some games, just based on what he did last year. The rest is up to the players and how they look.
 
“Some really stand out in the practices. We’ve got the rookie game with the Capitals, and we’ll continue to take looks at them.”
 
If Laughton and Tye McGinn, who is not in this camp, are both on the roster, that’s 14 forwards right there on the 23-man roster.
 
Defensively, Mark Alt might be the only blueliner capable of making things tough for someone but again, the coaching staff is hoping the blue line gets pushed. Alt could do that.
 
In Laviolette’s mind, some prospect just might surprise.
 
“For me to tell you there is no room on our team for them, I won’t do it,” Laviolette said. “I’m not gonna say that at all. Wouldn’t it be great if Player X came in and made it hard for us to do anything else?
 
“I know that would be a great thing. I don’t think that is the case -- there is no room. If someone can find themselves a spot, that is what training camp and exhibition games are all about.”
 
Defense is already overstocked -- a rarity for the Flyers -- with seven likely set to the roster: Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Erik Gustafsson, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros.
 
What happens to Bruno Gervais and Oliver Lauridsen? That’s the current log jam that makes Alt’s job in this rookie camp that much harder.
 
“It will play out,” Holmgren said. “It’s not a bad thing to have that many players and that much depth. As we saw last year, we ran into some issues through injuries. You never know.”

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brendan Warren never expected the phone call.

It was a late Friday night in mid-June. Coyotes development camp was 10 days away, so Warren had been training in preparation. The Michigan product had plans for Fourth of July, too, to follow the annual summer visit with his NHL organization.

Then his phone buzzed.

"I was shocked," he said. "It just came out of nowhere, 9:30 one night."

Warren had been traded.

"They said I'd be going to the Flyers," he said.

Arizona sent Warren and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick to the Flyers in exchange for Nick Cousins and goalie prospect Merrick Madsen. Warren, who just turned 20 years old in May and finished up his sophomore year at Michigan, had a lot change in a matter of minutes. He started texting his friends and classmates the news.

The first one to respond: Cooper Marody, Michigan teammate and Flyers prospect.

"I was actually leaving a Sam Hunt concert and I saw the text there, and I called Brendan right away and we talked for a while," Marody said. "We were both pretty pumped about it."

When Warren heard he was headed to the Flyers, Marody came right to mind. The thought of having his support in a different setting allowed for some comfort to seep in amid the emotions of being traded. Starting over — and suddenly — isn't fun, but having a friend helps.

"I was really happy," Warren said of joining Marody. "He was really excited for me.

"The more I thought about it and the more I talked to my adviser and my family, everyone said it was such a great thing for me. So I got really excited about being a part of an organization like the Flyers."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (CSNPhilly.com)

There Warren was, his nameplate above a locker at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, right next to much-anticipated No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick. This was not only development camp, but also Warren's orientation. He was meeting a whole new organization, a band of new prospects from all parts of the world.

Reassuringly, across the dressing room was a familiar face in Marody.

"I'm glad that I can be here with him and hang around him for camp," Warren said during the Flyers' July 7-12 development session.

Marody liked the company, too.

"We're excited to be here together," Marody said. "It's a little easier going to these camps knowing somebody so well like Brendan."

With a lot in common between the 20-year-olds, Warren and Marody have grown close. Both are natives of Michigan and became Wolverines in 2015 — the same year they were drafted, Warren in the third round by the Coyotes, Marody in the sixth by the Flyers. The forwards made immediate impacts in their freshman seasons, as Michigan went on to win the Big Ten championship and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey championship, where it bowed out to eventual title winner North Dakota.

"They're different players, but what is unique about them, I think they have a very strong connection," Michigan assistant coach Brian Wiseman said last week in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. "They're both very likable kids, they're great teammates, they care and they work hard. I think we had them playing together, oh man, a large majority of their careers, at least their first year and well into maybe their second year. I think Cooper and Brendan might have played every game together as a freshman."

Playing exclusively on the same line, Warren and Marody jelled and left an imprint. Warren appeared in all 38 games and finished with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists), including a three-assist game against Niagara. Marody put up 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 32 games, finishing second among Michigan freshmen in scoring to only Kyle Connor, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and now Winnipeg Jet.

"Both our freshman seasons, we played together and did very well, did well for our team and developed a lot of good chemistry," Marody said, "so I think we can definitely take that here [to the Flyers]."

Last season, Michigan was hit hard by departures and suffered a down year, going 13-19-3 overall and 6-12-2 in the Big Ten. Warren collected 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 35 games, while Marody scored three of his five goals in a hat trick against rival Ohio State, but played only 18 games (15 points) because of academic ineligibility, a setback that may have resulted from a sickness.

Wiseman and the Wolverines are optimistic for 2017-18, expecting jumps from both Warren and Marody as they become upperclassmen. Wiseman, who played for Michigan and has been an assistant since 2011, said Warren was a goal scorer when recruited by the Wolverines and believes that is still coming at the college level.

"Tremendous skater, high compete level, his motor is nonstop, with the ability to score," Wiseman said. "Brendan's skating ability allows him to be effective in any type of game.

"He didn't score much in the last year and a half for us. I think there's still a goal scorer in there, I know there is a goal scorer because he's got a tremendous release and he works at it often. So we're looking for that growth in that part of his game, the offensive side of the game. … He's one of our top penalty-kill unit guys.

"Brendan Warren has invested the time to be a really good hockey player. For that, I am really encouraged what this year may hold for him."

Marody is a key cog to Michigan's power play — which was tops in the country in 2015-16 — and "leads the charge offensively," Wiseman said, as far as puck possession and playing down the middle.

"Cooper is a very smart, highly intelligent hockey player, has a gift of slowing down the game, reading situations and making high-level, executed plays," Wiseman said. 

"Some of the things he can do with the puck, engaging teammates by the way he sees the ice and distributes pucks into spaces is an exceptional skill he has."

Wiseman said Michigan saw "rapid" growth from Marody in the USHL.

"I expect that type of growth at the next stop as he makes his way through Michigan and into the pro hockey route," Wiseman said.

There's still work for both as Wolverines.

"As they move along in their careers," Wiseman said, "we have some things to improve on in their individual games."


Brendan Warren and Cooper Marody (Michigan Athletics)

Wiseman's engagement with the Flyers will probably kick up a notch.

The Flyers are in constant communication with Michigan throughout the season, tracking the development of Marody. Ann Arbor, Michigan, should be a popular destination spot for the Flyers' brass now with Warren in the fold, as well.

"They'll come up to a lot of our games, send us clips of highlights of NHL plays that we can do or work on, or just little things like that," Marody said. "Ask us how we're doing, if we need any advice or anything like that. If they come out and watch us, we'll talk to them after the game and they'll let us know how we're doing."

Both Michigan and the Flyers have a rooted interest in the players, but the end goal is the same, Wiseman said.

"What we want with Cooper and Brendan now is to be a great player for the University of Michigan and to prepare them the best we can to hopefully be a Philadelphia Flyer one day," Wiseman said. "And that's [the Flyers'] goal in place, too."

Wiseman has built a relationship with Flyers development coach John Riley, the Wolverines' primary contact during a busy season. Michigan understands the importance of preparing its student-athletes for competition presently, as well as in the future.

"Like other teams and organizations, the director of player development usually goes to us," Wiseman said. "So John Riley and I, we speak often to develop Cooper within the last two years since being drafted, some of the things that they see and acknowledge in conversations, and we have the same thing. We're around the kids more on a daily basis, so we just want to make sure we're all on the same page in this development path — that's the goal."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (Michigan Athletics/CSNPhilly.com)

Warren's first contact with the Flyers came as he was processing the news on the night of the trade. He heard from Riley and general manager Ron Hextall — a quick introduction and run-through of the protocol, and then back to work for Warren.

"Right after I got the call from Arizona that night, Mr. Hextall called me and said welcome, we're excited to have you," Warren said. "He then told me when camp was and what to expect a little bit. And then I got a call from John Riley, the player development coach, and he just kind of went over the same stuff. He said he's going to be my resource throughout the year and then said see you at camp."

So Warren scratched his Fourth of July plans and instead trained through the holiday and right up to the new date of his summer development camp.

"That's hockey, though," Marody said. "It's no problem."

"Absolutely," Warren said.

Wiseman expressed the same message. As an assistant coach at the Division I level, his players are student-athletes, but also NHL prospects. Wiseman is involved for guidance and support in situations such as Warren's this summer.

"I wanted to let him process it, so I reached out to him the next day just to explain, 'Hey, this is what pro hockey is about — some of these things do happen,'" Wiseman said. "Because I know that he's been dialed in with the Arizona Coyotes since he was 18. This is the aspect of pro hockey that sometimes we may not like but it's reality. But he was excited about the opportunity.

"I didn't sense any disappointment or have to pick and cheer up the kid. He understood that this is what it is and he was ready to go forward."

Did Marody give Warren a Flyers introduction?

"Not really," Marody said. "I think a lot of it speaks for itself. It's obviously a huge, big-time organization with tons of history. We both know it's a tremendous honor to be prospects here and we're just looking forward to the future."

At development camp, Warren and Marody made for obvious roommates, which was actually somewhat fresh because they don't live together at Michigan.

"We see plenty of each other, we don't need to room together," Marody said with a laugh.

The "Go Blue" boys enjoyed the experience together — and hope it's the first of more to come.

"It's like you grow together with these experiences," Warren said, "and hopefully one day we're both here playing for the Flyers."

"That's the main goal."

Taking the road from Ann Arbor to Philadelphia.

"Being here, it's very inspiring for both of us I think," Marody said. "We both believe that we can do it and that we'll be up here someday."

Wiseman sees the potential behind it all.

"There's still some growth in these two kids, but they have a tremendous foundation to be really good players," Wiseman said. "And not only for us, but I think to make the Philly people, the Flyers' organization and some of your fan support really interested in the prospects."

End to End: Expectations for Scott Laughton in 2017-18

End to End: Expectations for Scott Laughton in 2017-18

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: What are your expectations for Scott Laughton?

Boruk
Ron Hextall certainly raised a few eyebrows when Laughton was one of seven forwards the Flyers protected in the Vegas expansion draft despite playing just two NHL games last season. Struggling to find his place with the Flyers during Year 1 of the Dave Hakstol era, Laughton spent 2016-17 in Lehigh Valley refining his game, his mental approach and learning how to contribute without necessarily putting up numbers.

At the NHL draft in Chicago, Hextall said, “This kid took a step in terms of his dedication, his attachment to the game, his passion for the game, the way he plays the game. … Last year I think he figured it out.” Translation: He developed more into the type of defensive-minded player required on a Hextall-constructed team. A couple of weeks later, the Flyers and Laughton agreed on a two-year contract worth $1.925 million.

I think Laughton will have a strong training camp and will begin the season sliding into the fourth-line center role left by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (selected by Vegas). Laughton should also pick up some of Bellemare’s penalty-killing role, an area he worked on and improved during his time with the Phantoms. If Laughton can chip in with 15-20 points playing primarily on the Flyers' checking line, he’ll prove to be a nice upgrade over Bellemare.

Dougherty
We can connect the dots. The Flyers expect Laughton to make the team when training camp breaks in October. Hextall protected Laughton over Bellemare in the expansion draft.

Makes sense, right? Protect the 23-year-old over the 32-year-old. Easy decision. Hextall didn't draft Laughton, but by protecting him, it shows they still believe in Laughton. Earlier this summer, Hextall said Laughton grew up a lot in Lehigh Valley last season.

Laughton signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. He is no longer waiver exempt. That's important to note. They no longer have the option to send him to the AHL without subjecting him to waivers first. I don't see any scenario he passes through.

So, Laughton will be with the Flyers on Oct. 4 in San Jose. Has to be. The Flyers respected Bellemare way too much to protect Laughton in the expansion draft and then risk losing the Oakville, Ontario, native on waivers. The question is will he be a regular?

The Flyers lost the dynamic duo of Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde this summer. All three spots on the fourth line are open for business. Laughton will be in consideration.

We can count seven players competing for three spots in the lineup: Laughton, Dale Weise, Jori Lehtera, Mike Vecchione, Michael Raffl, Valtteri Filppula and Taylor Leier. I expect Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom to have top-nine roles. Filppula probably also has a top-nine role as well, but he's also a candidate for the fourth line.

That means six players for three spots. Then there will be one or two extra forwards. The other guy isn't here. Laughton will be here. In what capacity, I just don't know.

Hall
Following 2015-16, Laughton's first full NHL season in which he played mainly on the third line, the 2012 first-round pick said he had goals of being a top-six forward.

I think that's where he could actually show his true colors, but wouldn't everyone love top-six minutes?

Of course, but more often than not, you have to earn them and Laughton has not shown enough to climb the ladder with the Flyers. So what does he have to do? Be ready to capitalize on a fourth-line job, a role with not as much glamor and more dirty work in shorter minutes. He first needs to prove he can be such a player, especially now given the Flyers have an overcrowded group of forwards.

If Laughton can find his niche there, then maybe he sees more opportunity. The Flyers are smart, though, to not totally give up on Laughton. Think about it? He's only 23 years old and has had some bad luck with injuries to go along with just 109 games on his NHL résumé. He needs more time — and with it, he could turn out to be a nice scoring threat in a depth position, something the Flyers have needed.

Considering he was protected in the expansion draft and is now on a new two-year deal, it's likely Laughton makes the roster out of training camp. As for playing time, he'll have to earn it and then keep it if he does.

Paone
This upcoming Flyers training camp, in so many ways, is about opportunity. It will be abound for Patrick, Lindblom and the rest of the team's prospects … including Laughton.

It feels weird to still call Laughton a prospect, but he still just turned 23 in May and he spent basically all of last season reinventing himself in the AHL so he can become a better NHL player than he was before, no matter what the role may be.

That year of hard work last season obviously left an impression on Hextall and the Flyers' brass, who ultimately decided to protect Laughton from Vegas in the expansion draft despite the fact he played just two NHL games last season and has just 27 points in his NHL career. He impressed them so much so that he even got that two-year extension a few weeks ago.

So what does the immediate future hold for Laughton? Well, there is now a renewed sense of trust there that didn't exist before between player and organization. If there wasn't, the Flyers wouldn't have protected him and handed him that extension.

That makes me believe the organization prefers a defensively rounded Laughton in a bottom-six NHL role and that's where I believe he'll start the season. From there, it's up to him where things go and how he uses that year in the AHL to prove he really is a better NHL player. I see him starting on the fourth line and being a guy who could be a candidate to move up the lineup if the situation calls for it. The Flyers will need a solid defensive game from Laughton and if he can chip in points-wise, too, that's even better, obviously.

But Laughton now has something many thought he might not get again in Philadelphia — an opportunity. It's up to him on how he takes advantage of it.