Philadelphia Flyers

Nolan Patrick begins push to make Flyers as rookie camp gets underway

Nolan Patrick begins push to make Flyers as rookie camp gets underway

VOORHEES, N.J. — Five days ago, Nolan Patrick was in rural Canada shooting ducks. Now, the future Flyers center is focused entirely on shooting pucks following a rather eventful offseason that included the draft and offseason surgery.

“It was exciting,” Patrick said Monday following his first practice in a Flyers sweater. “My first time skating with some of the guys here. I got in a good amount of time and training this summer so I’m feeling confident in my game and it went well.”

Patrick has begun his push at making the Flyers' opening night roster. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft was one of 25 prospects on the ice for the first day of Flyers rookie camp after arriving in Philadelphia over the weekend.

“I thought he had a good day, looked strong,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think we’ll able to see his progression as he goes through camp. Sometimes, as young players, there’s different points in camp where you see young guys hit a wall. ... He’s just got to go out and continue building his game and, as you go to main camp, it’s going to get tougher.”  

Patrick said he finally felt 100 percent around three weeks ago when he regained his conditioning skating three times a week before increasing his workload to four times a week in the days leading up to camp. Part of his offseason regimen included off-ice work in a remote location near the Manitoba/Ontario border with a group of NHL veterans that included three-time Stanley Cup champion and fellow Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews.

“He’s a really intelligent guy. One of the best guys I’ve ever met,” Patrick said about Toews. “I’d be here all day if I listed the things he taught me. ... He knows a lot about different kinds of training, nutrition and stuff like that.”  

Patrick’s offseason skating program in Philadelphia was delayed because of an abscessed boil that formed on his face.

“I was hiding with a hood up for a bit there,” Patrick said regarding the condition, which lasted about five days.

Once Patrick got past that unexpected obstacle, his regimen included what he referred to as “a lot of mobility stuff” and “getting his hips back to where they needed to be” as he looks to make the jump from the Western Hockey League straight to the NHL.

“That’s my goal coming in," Patrick said. "Just going to compete as hard as I can, and do everything I can to earn a spot. The main thing for me is competing every day and playing as hard as I can.”  

Rookie line combos
For an organization with one of the deepest talent pools of prospects in the NHL, there’s a real possibility that as many as four rookies could start the season on the Flyers' opening night roster, with two on defense to go along with Patrick and winger Oskar Lindblom. Last season, defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny, the Flyers' two first-round picks in the 2015 draft, made the big club out of camp.

“I think the sense of opportunity has been made very clear over the summertime,” Hakstol said. “There’s opportunity for veterans and there’s opportunity for young guys. Guys should be excited. There’s guys in position hopefully to have good camps and to take advantage of some of those opportunities.”

Line combinations for Day 1 of camp:

Radel Fazleev — Mike Vecchione — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Connor Bunnaman — Nolan Patrick — Anthony Salinitri

Carsen Twarynski — Mikhail Vorobyev — Ivan Kosorenkov

Oskar Lindblom — German Rubtsov — Pascal Laberge

Isaac Ratcliffe — Morgan Frost — Matthew Strome/Maksim Sushko

News and notes
• Defenseman Robert Hagg is not part of the rookie camp even if 2017-18 will serve as his rookie season. With three full professional seasons at the AHL level (over 200 games played) and seven defensemen on the rookie roster, general manager Ron Hextall allowed Hagg to join the veterans for the beginning of camp on Sept. 15.

• Hakstol will evaluate Wednesday’s rookie game against the Islanders from the press box of the Wells Fargo Center with Flyers assistant coach Gord Murphy and Phantoms assistant Kerry Huffman behind the bench.  

• Shayne Gostisbehere had planned originally to fly his family out of Florida by way of charter to avoid Hurricane Irma, but after further deliberations, the Gostisbeheres elected to fuel up and hit the road. His sister drove from the Tampa area to Nashville while Gostisbehere's parents made the drive safely from Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina. Aside from some leakage at his sister’s residence, it appears their homes remained intact.

Preseason TV schedule
The Flyers' preseason broadcast schedule was announced on Monday.

Of the seven preseason games the Flyers will play, three will be broadcasted on TCN — Sept. 26 vs. the New York Rangers (7 p.m.), Sept. 28 vs. Boston (7 p.m.), Oct. 1 vs. the New York Islanders (5 p.m.).

Flyers GM Ron Hextall: 'We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good'

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Flyers GM Ron Hextall: 'We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good'

VOORHEES, N.J. — With 26 players still competing to make the Flyers' 23-man opening day roster, the competition over the final few spots is heating up.

"We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good for us," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday after practice.

The Flyers already trimmed 18 players from their roster Thursday, but the most difficult decisions lie ahead. The tightest battle appears to be developing at defenseman, where Brandon Manning and rookies Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg are all vying for two spots. Travis Sanheim is still in the mix, but will likely start the season at Lehigh Valley.

So far, there is no clear winner in sight.

"We're going to monitor the situation as we go along here," Hextall said. "We'll see what we have with injuries and whatnot, and we'll make decisions at the appropriate time."

"They've all played well. They're all here for a reason still. We could've sent one of them down if they didn't deserve to be here, but at this point, they all deserve to be here."

Both Morin and Hagg have impressed this training camp and preseason. Manning has experience but is also working his way back from offseason back surgery — though Hextall does not sound concerned.

"There's nothing that tells me or certain information that I have from our staff that he's not ready to go," Hextall said, "so as far I'm concerned, he's 100 percent ready to go."

Some cuts will be easier than others. As expected, Alex Lyon was demoted to Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Between Lyon and one of the blueliners, the roster will eventually get down to 25. That means two forwards will eventually wind up out of the equation, and the three players on the fringe fighting over that one spot are running out of time.

"We have four (preseason games) left," Hextall said. "Our big guys have to play, so we're getting ready for the season now. There's still players in the mix, but you get down as quick as you can and go from there."

Hextall acknowledged spots are "hard to come by" for prospects such Mike Vecchione, who has only appeared in two preseason games thus far. However, the Flyers are not viewing a demotion as a disappointment for any of their young talent.

"We'll see what Vechs, what he does," Hextall said, "and if he has to start out down below, or a couple other guys have to start out down below, that's the way it is."

In addition to the 18 cuts the Flyers made, two players will wind up on injured reserve to begin the season. Winger Colin McDonald and center Cole Bardreau are finished for the remainder of camp and preseason.

Bardreau is out for three-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury. McDonald is down for an undisclosed number of weeks with a lower-body injury.

Barring any additional major injuries, the Flyers intend to carry a full 23-man roster in the regular season, which is set to open Oct. 4 at San Jose.

"You plan certain things in injuries and performance," Hextall said. "You have to adjust on the fly."

"Right now, I'd say we plan 23, but see who gets injured — if a guy is injured, how long is he gonna be — all that kind of stuff. We'll adjust as we go along here, but right now, I'd say we plan on 23."

Roster cuts
The Flyers on Saturday continued to trim their roster. Forwards Greg Carey, Corban Knight and Phil Varone and defensemen Mark Alt, T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill were assigned to Lehigh Valley after clearing waivers as well as Lyon.

Rating 5 changes the NHL made to its rulebook

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Rating 5 changes the NHL made to its rulebook

If you have witnessed preseason hockey this past week, you are well aware that the NHL is buckling down on its rulebook and even revising it. An excess of penalties and power plays have occurred as a result of these changes. Are they good for the game? I examine each of the five new rules or changes to the existing rulebook. 

Rule 78.7 (b) — A coach's challenge on an offside play — If the result of the challenge is that the play was “onside,” the goal shall count and the team that issued the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

In 2015, the NHL granted each coach a challenge they could utilize in the event of overturning an incorrect call on the ice. If the challenge failed and the original call stood, then the challenging coach would forfeit the team’s timeout. Starting this season, a failed challenge on an onsides call in which there’s a goal will result in a two-minute minor penalty.   

By doing so, the NHL instituted a method to help maintain the game’s integrity in the event of a missed call by a linesman, as many coaches hold onto their challenge at a critical juncture — typically during the third period. Now with a two-minute penalty, it’s a way of reversing course without actually taking away the challenge. It's as if the league is saying we want you to have a challenge, but not really. The league is now discouraging teams from using it. As we’ve seen over the past few years, offsides calls can be measured in millimeters — that’s how arbitrary it’s become. But to penalize an entire team for a coaching staff’s misjudgment is excessive, and as we’ll see this season, it will sway the outcomes of a few games. Forfeiting a timeout for losing a challenge is acceptable, but killing a two-minute power play? Absurd, and for that I give it …

Two thumbs down   

Rule 61.1 — Slashing — Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the referee is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.

Flyers fans can call out Sidney Crosby for emphasizing this rule, which is not a rule change but simply the enforcement of an existing rule. Crosby violated this in the worst way when he performed a machete slice over the hands of Senators defenseman Mark Methot late in the season. The result was a broken finger, nearly severed from the tip and the loss of one of Ottawa’s top defensemen for weeks. Watch the video and you can hear Methot scream in pain as Crosby took his whack.

In the preseason, we have seen more slashing than department store prices during Black Friday. It’s out of control, not the slashing itself, but the slashing calls. As the rule states, it’s a "forceful or powerful chop," which usually requires a two-handed grip. However, the referees have resorted to blowing the whistle for a one-handed love tap. As Shayne Gostisbehere said Wednesday, “When they blow the whistle and everyone’s like, ‘What just happened?’ That’s not a penalty.”  

I suspect come October when the regular season begins, the officials will ease up on their slashing calls, but it definitely creates a gray area, much like the interference call. Over the course of the season, some refs will whistle everything, while others will let stuff go. If it protects the league from injury, especially serious injury in cases like Methot and even Johnny Gaudreau, it can be beneficial, but I see some inconsistency from game-to-game and for that I give it ...

One thumb up ... my good, non-slashed thumb

Rule 76.4 — Faceoff positioning and procedure — The players taking part shall take their position so that they will stand squarely facing their opponent’s end of the rink and clear of the ice markings (where applicable).

Like the slashing penalty previously discussed, this is another enforcement of an existing rule. In other words, the league wants to cut down on cheating during faceoffs. You know when players began cheating on faceoffs? Since the inception of the faceoff. In fact, I can recall producing a three-minute story when I was working at a Nashville TV station on how players gain advantages and bend the rules on faceoffs. Three minutes. On cheating! 

Now, those L-shaped lines are no longer suggestions or recommendations, but strict guidelines of where the players should stand prior to a faceoff. If a team is caught twice during the same faceoff (and it doesn’t have to be the same player), the result is a two-minute minor penalty. The Islanders' Josh Ho-Sang was a guilty offender twice during Wednesday’s game in Allentown and the Flyers benefited with a power play in each instance. The league’s explanation states they want to protect players from banging heads, and more importantly, protect the linesman dropping the puck. 

Like the slashing penalty, I’m curious to see which linesmen strictly enforce this rule and which ones will be a little laxer. This is another one of those penalties (like the challenge call) that you certainly don’t want to impact the outcome of a game. The league has good intentions for enforcing Rule 76.4, but will they have consistent enforcement? And for that I give it …

One thumb up

Rule 87.1 — No timeout shall be granted to the defensive team following an icing.

Once again, here’s another example of a moment when a coach would intervene during a critical point of a hockey game (usually late during the third period). An attacking team is applying pressure in the offensive zone of a close game and the defensive team, obviously gassed, flips the puck out of the zone for an icing. That coach proceeds to call a timeout to allow his team to catch its breath and grab some water before the ensuing faceoff.

My take on the new rule: Love it! This rule should have been implemented years ago. You can penalize a team for icing without actually calling a penalty. Allowing a timeout does exactly the opposite and circumvents any drawbacks of icing. By forcing a tired group of guys to line up and take a faceoff right away is precisely the way it should be handled, and for that, I give this new rule …

Two big thumbs up

Eliminating Rule 80.4 — Numerical advantage on faceoffs — When a team on the power play high sticks the puck, the ensuing faceoff will be conducted at one of the two faceoff spots in their defending zone.

This is the abridged version of the rule that was roughly half a page long. Playing the puck with a high stick is instinctual and when the game is played at warp speed, a player’s natural inclination is to raise their stick in an attempt to knock the puck out of the air. When a player is guilty of a high stick, the whistle is blown and a faceoff occurs. Now that this rule has been eliminated entirely from the rulebook, the ensuing faceoff will take place in the zone in which the infraction was committed.

No team should be given a territorial advantage as a result of a high stick. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to acknowledge the absurdity of Rule 80.4, and for finally acknowledging this, I give the elimination of this rule …

Two thumbs up