Wayne Simmonds

Flyers open camp with what Jakub Voracek calls 'hardest' 1st day of his career

Flyers open camp with what Jakub Voracek calls 'hardest' 1st day of his career

VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol wanted to know right away who can hack it and who can’t. 

“It was the hardest day of a first day of camp in my 11 years,” said Jakub Voracek, whose first NHL training camp was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008. “A lot of skating, a lot of battles. On the other hand, it can make us better, so why not.”

“We had a little talk with the coaches and they said they want to do some things different,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “They want to make sure we’re skating, we’re up the ice, we’re always around the puck even as a defenseman in our offensive zone ... supporting the offense even more than we did last year.”

Ivan Provorov needed that first day of training camp as well.  

The Flyers' top defenseman comes into his second NHL season ready to go, but he needed a hard skate to get his legs back from the jet lag of a transatlantic flight from Russia this past Sunday. Provorov found himself falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon recently as his internal clock attempts to recalibrate. He didn’t exactly view this summer as the offseason, but merely a continuation of what was an impressive rookie season.  

“The offseason is always busy for me,” Provorov said. “I try to get into really good shape so I can go all season, playing lots of minutes without having any games off, or feeling not so great until after the games.” 

Provorov said he still felt fresh even after playing all 82 games in his rookie season, which carried over into the World Championships. While the experience of international competition was invaluable, Provorov and the rest of his teammates prefer a season that includes the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which have excluded the Flyers in three of the past five seasons. A week ago, general manager Ron Hextall stated the organization does not view this upcoming season as part of a rebuilding phase.

“I think if we were in a complete rebuild, [Claude Giroux], [Voracek] and I probably aren’t here,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “We've still got our older guys. I think we’re kind of transitioning, sliding in a couple young guys hoping their skill can help us out here.”

In the week leading up to camp, goalie Brian Elliott had already spent time working out with fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth and Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, and already, Elliott likes what he sees.

“People keep asking me, 'Is there any bad apples in the dressing room or someone you know you aren’t going to get along with?' But everybody’s been great,” Elliott said. “Everybody’s been excited. I think the expectations are high internally and that’s what you like to see.”

Friday’s opening day of camp consisted of 10 different forward lines and eight defensive pairings separated into a morning and afternoon group, with an interesting blend of youth mixed together with more established veterans. Hakstol placed a clear emphasis on drills, speed work and conditioning, and less on systems and structure.  

“I think our guys have worked real hard over the summer, I really believe that,” Hakstol said. “From all the feedback we’ve gotten and just from talking to the guys throughout the summertime. I just wanted to make sure that hard work transferred and translated onto the ice.”

Of the 57 players invited to training camp, 34 would qualify as first-year players in the league with a handful of rookies aiming for a spot on the opening night roster.

“It’s a fine balance because they want to be recognized and be noticed, but they’re all good hockey players,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “They have to realize that what got them here is playing the way they have. If they continue to do that and play steady, then it’s going to go a long way for them.”

The Flyers have one more morning/afternoon skate on Saturday before they open the preseason Sunday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Islanders, and Hakstol is already anticipating a sluggish effort as a result of the first day of camp.

“It was a hard day, there’s no question,” Hakstol said. “Playing a game on Day 3, there’s going to be tired legs. I don’t know what other teams are doing. I don’t care. We’re going to get the work in now. We’re going to have another hard, competitive day Saturday and I know our guys will go out and attack it just like they did today.”

News and notes
• Forward Pascal Laberge left the morning practice early and was being examined by doctors, according to Hextall.

• Defenseman Phil Myers was a full participant for Friday’s practice. Myers suffered a lower-body injury in the rookie game against the Islanders and was held out for precautionary reasons.

Morning group lines, pairings and goalies
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny (more on that here)
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier-Mikhail Vorobyev-Colin McDonald    
Ivan Kosorenkov-German Rubtsov-Pascal Laberge/Anthony Salinitri

Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim    
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald    
Will O’Neill-Mark Alt
Maxim Lamarche-Mark Friedman    

Brian Elliott    
Alex Lyon    
John Muse

Afternoon group lines, pairings and goalies
Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Connor Bunnaman-Phil Varone-Mike Vecchione
Carsen Twarynski/Tyrell Goulbourne-Radel Fazleev-Danick Martel

Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
T.J. Brennan-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Phil Myers
Frank Hora-Reece Wilcox/James de Haas

Michal Neuvirth
Carter Hart
Leland Irving

Flyers Notes: Estimating Wayne Simmonds' next contract; early edge for Brian Elliott?

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Flyers Notes: Estimating Wayne Simmonds' next contract; early edge for Brian Elliott?

The Boston Bruins and right winger David Pastrnak agreed on a six-year, $40 million contract Thursday that comes with an average annual value of $6.67 million. The 21-year-old just completed a career-best season that saw him score 34 goals with 36 assists for 70 points in 75 games. The Bruins are hoping the incredibly skilled Pastrnak, who was a restricted free agent, has only scratched the surface at the NHL level.

Following this season, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds will be eligible to sign a new pact with the organization prior to becoming a free agent in 2019. Teammates Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek both agreed to contract extensions in July heading into their respective contract years. 

Instead of evaluating Simmonds with analytics that don't cut to the core of his real value, let’s simply judge him as a consistent goal scorer. Judging Simmonds on a goal-per-game basis would disguise his real value, so let’s look at his production by minutes played since he doesn’t see the ice time of other wingers like Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane or Corey Perry. While he obviously doesn’t possess the skill set as the aforementioned superstars, you may be surprised how frequent Simmonds scores goals in relation to other players at his position. 

Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, Simmonds has amassed 163 goals in his six seasons in orange and black. For Simmonds, that’s one goal for every 46.60 minutes of ice time. How does that stack up to other right wingers in the league?

Goals per minute played among RW since 2011-12
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) - goal/40.29
Nikita Kucherov (TB) - goal/43.97
Corey Perry (ANH) - goal/45.55
Wayne Simmonds (PHL) - goal/46.60
Patrick Kane (CHI) - goal/47.02
Jeff Skinner (CAR) - goal/48.06
Phil Kessel (PIT) - goal/52.43
T.J. Oshie (WSH) - goal/61.77

Pastrnak’s $6.67 million AAV would be a nice target for Simmonds and his agent to aim for, but a more realistic starting point should be the eight-year, $46 million extension the 30-year-old Oshie received from the Washington Capitals this past summer. In choosing an eight-year term, the Caps were able to carry a lower cap number in relation to the AAV. Simmonds may not possess Oshie’s creativity, but he’s been a more steady contributor.

Working against Simmonds will be his age. He’ll be 31 when a new contract goes into effect and general manager Ron Hextall might have reservations with a max eight-year deal that would extend Simmonds to the age of 39. A more realistic scenario would be an extension in the five-to-six year range with an AAV of $6-6.5 million that would pay Simmonds market value as one of the more consistent goal scorers over the past six years.  

Early edge for Elliott?
Brian Elliott won’t be surprised if his new teammate and fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth rolls into practice or even a morning skate with bags under his eyes.

Neuvirth became a father for the first time Tuesday when his girlfriend Karolina — sister of Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas — gave birth to their first child, daughter Emilka. It was about this same time last season when Elliott and his wife Amanda were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son, Owen, who was born Oct. 2, just days prior to the start of the regular season. It was a whirlwind time for Elliott, who was adjusting to a new team in a new city with an entirely new lifestyle.

As one might expect, Elliott struggled with the Flames, starting the season off 3–9–1 with a 3.31 GAA and an .885 save percentage in his first 14 games. By mid-December, Elliott started to turn his season around and regained the starting job during the second half of the season, leading Calgary into the postseason.

“I don’t want to blame my month-old son for anything, but it’s a huge adjustment,” Elliott said. “You realize how actual selfish you are when you’re in this profession when you have to be your best. You do everything you can in your power to be prepared and when someone throws a wrench in the system, it’s definitely an adjustment. 

"Once we got some help from some family, feeding and sleeping got better. Your worries start to lessen where you can actually just focus on the task at hand. Leave work at work and leave family at home when you’re at work. It’s just hard to compartmentalize those things when it first starts.”  

Unlike Elliott, who is now on his third different team in the past 16 months, Neuvirth was fortunate he didn’t have to uproot after signing a two-year contract extension in March. For any expecting parents, finding a new doctor and moving into a new neighborhood just months before childbirth can create a “shock to the system.” With Owen Elliott now approaching his first birthday and on the verge of taking his first steps, Elliott has been quick to childproof his new home — a house they moved into sight unseen, just trusting the word of others and their real estate agent.  

Another advantage Neuvirth might have over Elliott is a family member to help out. Uncle Radko is right around the corner for diaper changing duties.

Roster moves
The Flyers made four cuts Thursday following Wednesday's rookie game against the Islanders. Forwards Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie), Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph), Matthew Strome (Hamilton) and Maksim Sushko (Owen Sound) have all been loaned back to their respective teams, putting the training camp roster at 57. Training camp opens Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey.

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.”