Brayden Schenn

Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

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Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

TORONTO — Heading into his seventh season with the Flyers, and 10th overall, Wayne Simmonds is looking forward to building off a second consecutive 30-plus-goal season while helping lead a young group back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With everyone from second overall pick Nolan Patrick to blueliners Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim all vying for roster spots, Simmonds, 28, is seeing the game change before his eyes.

“I think I’m kind of getting up there. This year is my 10th year, right? So I see some names, I’m not just saying on our team alone, but in the whole league, game is changing a little bit,” Simmonds said Wednesday at the annual BioSteel Camp in Toronto. “All I can do is lead by example. I’m going to go in there and play the game the way I play and hopefully those guys will follow.”

Following the 2016-17 season, which saw the Flyers go 39-33-10 while finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, Simmonds represented Canada at the IIHF World Championships, registering two assists in 10 games while helping the Canadians win a silver medal.

Prior to getting into his offseason workout program, Simmonds and his fiancee Crystal Corey took a much-needed vacation.

“I got a chance to go to Jamaica with my fiancee, so we did that at the beginning of the summer after we came back from world championship,” Simmonds said. “We just went to Montego Bay, kept it close, we didn’t want to drive too far from the airport.

“Saw a lot of the island, took a drive to Negril, spent a day in Negril, which was actually beautiful white sand beaches and great restaurants and stuff like that, so it was pretty cool.”

The summer also saw Simmonds lose a few close teammates as the Flyers parted ways with goaltender Steve Mason and forward Brayden Schenn, among others.

“Very sad to see him go, I have a really good relationship with Steve,” Simmonds said. “We played together for a long time going all the way back to world juniors, winning a gold medal with him, so it’s sad to see him go, but it’s just part of the business. Guys change teams here and there and you’ve just got to accept it.”

Despite not playing with Brian Elliott, who was brought in to replace Mason, Simmonds already has a relationship with the goaltender, who spent last season in Calgary.

“I got a chance to talk to [Elliott] a little bit through text,” Simmonds said. “I actually know him and his wife a little bit. His wife is actually the godmother of one of my best friend’s kids, so we’ve got a connection there.”

Simmonds also sees Schenn’s departure as an opening for second-year forward Travis Konecny.

“I think that’s going to give T.K. an unbelievable opportunity,” Simmonds said. “The way he plays the game, the way he thinks the game, the speed he plays it at and the confidence level he was building towards last year — you could see it at the end of last year and at the world championship when he kind of broke out.

“He played unbelievable. He’s probably top three or four in our team in scoring — he’s a great player and I think the more ice time you give him, the better he’s going to get.”

The Flyers saw an eight-point drop-off last season compared to 2015-16, when they made the playoffs, and with an influx of young players expected, expectations aren’t high. The Hockey News predicted the Flyers to once again finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division in its annual yearbook issue. Despite the outlook, Simmonds believes there’s room for his club to build off last season.

“This year we’re going to have a lot of young defensemen coming in and I think it’s going to make our team better,” he said. “With a good mix of youth and veterans, I think the youth can spark the veterans a little bit and the veterans will help bring the younger guys [along].”

The Flyers head into the 2017-18 season looking to avoid missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since going five straight seasons without playoff hockey from 1990-94.

The weight of trying to qualify for the playoffs in a tough Metropolitan Division is no added pressure on the leadership group, according to Simmonds. 

“Go out there, play my game and lead the way I lead,” he said. “There’s no pressure for us. We’ve got to go in there and just play hockey. We didn’t fulfill what we wanted to do last year, so it’s up to us, I think, as leaders of the group to lead the way for the young guys and have everyone pulling the rope in the same direction.”

It sure sounds like Dave Hakstol expects a much larger role for Travis Konecny in Year 2

It sure sounds like Dave Hakstol expects a much larger role for Travis Konecny in Year 2

We know Nolan Patrick will get every chance to make the Flyers come September.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol reaffirmed that Monday (see story).

The Brayden Schenn trade last Friday opened up an opportunity for Patrick to make the Flyers in his rookie season and, given all the signs, it would be a disappointment if he didn't.

But the biggest beneficiary of the Schenn trade may not be Patrick. Instead, it sure does sound like Hakstol is ready to anoint a 20-year-old to a much larger role in 2017-18.

"The obvious one that comes to mind is Travis Konecny," Hakstol told Zach Gelb of FOX Sports 920 The Jersey on Wednesday when asked who he expects to replace Schenn's production. "There are extra minutes available. I know that Travis is going to do the work over the summer. I know he's going to have himself at a high level of readiness and I know he's going to be hungry to assume a little bit more of those minutes and a little larger role.

"He's a guy who will step in and provide some of that as well."

Konecny cracked the Flyers' roster as a 19-year-old last season and found himself a victim of three benchings as well as being bounced around the lineup.

He began the year on a line with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek but that eventually broke up. He played mostly with Voracek (374:38) and Couturier (302:40) at 5-on-5 but also played a decent amount with Wayne Simmonds (277:20) and Schenn (250:20). He found himself on the fourth line at times and played very little during 3-on-3 overtime.

Despite the benchings, Konecny kept a positive attitude, something general manager Ron Hextall continually praised. After a benching during a game in New Jersey in April, he called it a "humbling" experience and said his teammates had helped him through the process.

"I would look at it a lot different," Konecny said April 4. "It's just that I have a lot to learn. I am a young player. Guys who are taking penalties and not getting benched have earned a lot of respect throughout the league. They earned their place on the team and that right to get second and third chances."

Konecny ended up with 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games last season. How Hakstol handled him last year was often a topic of debate among fans and the media, and a fair criticism.

It's still June and we're still a long way from training camp. A lot can change from now until then but by all early indications, it appears Hakstol and the Flyers are expecting a big jump from Konecny in Year 2.

To hear more from Hakstol on Patrick, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jordan Weal and more, you can listen to the full interview here.

Brayden Schenn 'shocked' by trade, leaving Flyers with 'mixed emotions'

Brayden Schenn 'shocked' by trade, leaving Flyers with 'mixed emotions'

After six seasons with the Flyers, Brayden Schenn was dealt away on draft night.

Schenn said on Friday night he was “shocked” at being traded to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera and multiple draft picks. His agent texted him in the first round, saying he might be traded.

“I wasn’t really paying attention to picks 10 to 20, and then I got a text from my agent saying St. Louis was involved [in talks with the Flyers], but really nothing was imminent,” Schenn said on Sunday. “And after he said that, 30 seconds later, Hexy called and, boom, it happened.”

He said he leaves Philadelphia with “mixed emotions.”

“I spent six years in Philly and had an awesome time there,” he said. “Great teammates and a great organization. But I’m excited to go to St. Louis and get a great opportunity.”

Ironically, No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick was looking forward to seeing his friend at Flyers training camp. Patrick played for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, as did Schenn years earlier. They met in 2014 when the Wheat Kings initially drafted Patrick.

Kelly McCrimmon was the owner, coach and GM at Brandon and connected Schenn with Patrick. He’s now the assistant GM for the Vegas Golden Knights.

“Kelly asked if I would talk to him and I did that,” Schenn said. “Ever since then, I had contact with him, texting back and forth and stuff like that. Philly got a great player there. He did good things for the Wheat Kings organization, and he’s a big, skilled right-handed centerman and a good guy.”

Schenn is looking toward a big role in St. Louis. Lehtera centered Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, at times, and the Blues are likely going to give Schenn a similar opportunity.

“They told me they’ll give me an opportunity at center there, so I’m excited,” Schenn said. “They have a lot of skilled forwards there.

“They obviously have a great team and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity. I’ve been looking forward to playing center for the past little while, and if I get a chance to do that in St. Louis, I’m going to take it and run with it.”