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Quick Hits: Niskanen, Hartnell, Fletcher, Fantasy Tourney and Much More

April 4, 2020, 10:42 AM ET [61 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
QUICK HITS: APRIL 4, 2020

1) On Thursday, Flyers center Kevin Hayes spoke via conference call with the local media, covering a wide array of topics. One his most interesting comments pertained to the chemistry the team has developed and the fact that there are no guarantees of picking up where they left off when or if the 2019-20 season is able to be completed.

"I felt as if our team had come together in a great way and we were really playing for each other and everyone was really playing into the system that (head coach Alain Vigneault) put together and now there's a possibility that we could never see the outcome of that," Hayes said.

"I mean, I assume we're gonna be this good all the time, but who knows if we're ever going have this feeling again? It's kind of sad that you can't go to the rink every day but everyone's dealing with this. It's not just us."

Through it all, Hayes has maintained his sense of perspective. He realizes that, as an NHL player who will be paid in full for this season, he is much more secure and fortunate than a distressingly large number of people across the country.

"I know my worst days are definitely not comparable to everyone else's worst day," he said.

For the full synopsis, click here.

2) One group of hockey players that is hurting financially during the pandemic is players in the ECHL who are not under NHL entry-level contracts. The ECHL canceled the remainder of the regular season and playoffs a couple weeks ago. In a league where the average salary is $600 per week and $16,940 per Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, every little bit extra earned (such as playoff shares) helps and any checks missed hurt.

The ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) have announced the creation of a Player Relief Fund designed to assist ECHL players and their families who are suffering financial hardship following the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PHPA Executive Committee has approved an initial $200,000 contribution by the PHPA towards the fund, while the ECHL and sponsors are expected to host various auctions and make additional contributions in the coming weeks. For more information, click here.

3) The player profile series continues today on the Flyers' official website with an in-depth look at Matt Niskanen's 2019-20 season. Both in terms of on-ice effectiveness and veteran leadership presence, Niskanen has been outstanding this year for Philly.

4) The new "Therien's Take" is available on the Flyers' website. This week, Bundy discusses his belief that a late-summer Stanley Cup playoffs in the NHL could be a springboard for a return to NHL participation in the Olympics, as long as the ice hockey even is moved from the Winter Games to the Summer Games in order to accomodate the concerns over the in-season interruption of the NHL schedule in Olympic years when the league has sent its players.

For more, click here.


5) During the pandemic, Snider Hockey has begun online virtual workout sessions with their travel teams, 5-15 students at a time. The young student-athletes participate in workouts and skill sessions led by a coach on Zoom or Google Hangouts. The workouts allows students to not only exercise and improve their skills, but also socialize with their teammates. Additionally, Snider Hockey coaches have developed two different online workout booklets (12U and 13+) that include body-weight exercises and skill work for students to use on-demand.

Flyers alum Scott Hartnell recorded a short hype video for the Snider Hockey kids who participate in the new program.



6) Today in Flyers History: April 4, 1968

Winners of the new NHL Western Division in their inaugural season, the Philadelphia Flyers opened the 1968 Stanley Cup playoffs against the St. Louis Blues on April 4, 1968. The game was played at the recently re-opened Spectrum, which had been closed for a month after sustaining roof damage.

While the game (and, ultimately, the series) did not have the desired outcome for the Flyers, it was nevertheless an historic game that featured a matchup of two Hall of Fame goaltenders: Bernie Parent for the Flyers and veteran Glenn Hall for the Flyers.

Despite getting outshot by a margin of 33-14 for the game, Parent managed to hold the match scoreless for 53:13. Finally, offensive-minded defenseman Jim Roberts scored the game's only goal after he was denied two previous times by Parent.

With the Flyers pressing the attack in the St. Louis end, Philadelphia turned the puck over. Frank St. Marseille gained control and passed to Gary Sabourin, who found Roberts open with a half-step on defender Joe Watson. From 20 feet away, Roberts rifled a shot past Parent's outstretched glove and into the right corner of the net.

Flyers coach Keith Allen was more alarmed by the team's lack of offensive pressure for most of the game than the goal the Blues scored. "Our offense has been non-existent for the last four or five games," he said to the Delaware County Daily Times. "Bernie played a helluva game. He had the tougher saves."

Hall earned a 14-save shutout for the Blues. The Blues benefited from a puck that Simon Nolet chipped wide of the net as it hopped on its edge but scoring chances were otherwise few and far between. A crowd of 10,649 Flyers partisans witnessed the game at the Spectrum.

7) April 4 Flyers Alumni birthdays: Blake Dunlop (1953), Dale Hawerchuk (1963), Steve Smith (1963).


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FLETCHER ON DRAFT PREP DURING THE PANDEMIC

During my one-on-one interview with Chuck Fletcher this past Monday, the discussion turned to the challenges involved -- leaguewide, not just for the Flyers -- in preparing for the 2020 NHL Draft. Here is portion of the discussion related to the scouts working around the pandemic to prepare for the Draft.

Q: When there have been past NHL stoppages, it did not affect the operation of other leagues. Amateur scouts were able to go about their regular business in ranking players and preparing for the Entry Draft. The pandemic, of course, is a different situation with all of the cancellations in other leagues. There's no CHL stretch drives, no Memorial Cup, no NCAA regionals or Frozen Four, no USHL, no European league playoffs, and no Under-18 World Championships. Also, the NHL has had to postpone the Draft Combine and move the Draft itself back to an undetermined date. I know that [assistant general manager] Brent Flahr and the scouts are working daily, and as normally as possible under the circumstances, but is there concern about filling in some of the blanks that are left in getting as complete of a picture as they can on players heading into the Draft?

A. I would say there's a pretty high degree of comfort. It's only been a few weeks at this point since our amateur scouts were live scouting. At least most of the seasons were played, and we got our normal volume of viewings and cross-over work done up to that point. Our process really hasn't changed much -- actually, it's pretty similar to how Hexy and Sarge [Chris Pryor] operated before Brent and I got here -- with the exception right now that our scouts have an opportunity to watch some more video and compare notes. But they've been doing their homework all along, talking to coaches, and staying in communication. It's done all season long because, once you get two, three months out from a particular game or conversation, it inevitably fades in your mind. So you, more or less, creating a running notebook. In terms of the playoffs and tournaments that have been canceled, we're all in the same boat there, too. There's normally some fine-tuning by this stage of the year, and Brent and the scouts are in regular communication. I talk to Brent every day. In terms of the Combine, one of the main values of it from my standpoint, is the medical information that we get, apart from the physical testing and interview aspects. That's still one of the blanks to be filled in -- the medical side -- but I anticipate that we'll have some additional information to work with.

Q: You said that it's still a relatively normal process at this point. Typically, as you well know, the decisions made in the early rounds of the Draft itself are based largely on seeking consensus among the scouts on the best available players. Later on, there's more reliance on the expertise of individual regional scouts. This year, without the opportunities to view playoffs and the Under-18, do you think the stage where it's more regional scout recommendations that start to drive decisions will kick in a little earlier in the Draft than a normal year?

A: Not really, no. I think you described the end game of the process pretty accurately. In the early rounds, we try to incorporate as many viewpoints and observations as possible within our staff. Later on, it's often about which guy bangs his fist on the table the loudest and makes the most passionate argument to take a certain player. I don't think that's going to change. The regional scouts do tend to push for players from their area, simply because they see them play more often than the other guys. So, for example, Rick Pracey will know the Ontario League players the best, and Mark Greig will know the Western League players a little more, and Nick Pryor will know the USHL and collegiate players, etc. In the earlier rounds of the Draft -- round 1 and 2, and maybe round 3 -- it's more of a broad-based assessment.

Q: How would you rate this year's Draft crop in terms of depth?

A: That's probably a better question for Brent [Flahr] than for me. Generally speaking, what goes into determining the depth of a Draft class is where the breaks are. For example, maybe there's a group of 12 guys beyond the likely first, second, or third overall picks. Then there might be a talent drop off after the top group. Then the next break might be after the next group of 15 or 20 or 25. When you get beyond a certain break point, most Drafts are rather similar from year to year. I rely on Brent to tell me where those break points are. That tells me if I might need to trade up to get within a certain ranking group of candidates or if I can afford to trade back, acquire an extra asset, and still be within the group of player that we feel are at a certain tier. In terms of the specific breakdown this year, Brent could give you better information on how the depth is shaping up.

For the full interview, click here.

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FLYERS ALL-PROVINCE, ALL-NATIONS TOURNEY UPDATE

We have added two new fantasy Flyers teams to the all-provinces, all-nations fantasy tournament, bringing the total number of teams to 14. The two new teams are Team Slovakia and Team Europe (consisting of Flyers players from all European countries other than Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, or Slovakia). We will start with reader voting on pool play round robin games tomorrow. The teams are as follows:

POOL A (CANADA): Team Ontario, Team Quebec, Team Manitoba, Team Saskatchewan, Team Alberta, Team British Columbia, Team Martimes (NS, NB, PEI).

POOL B (WORLD): Team USA, Team Sweden, Team Finland, Team Czech Republic, Team Russia, Team Slovakia, Team Europe.

GROUP A ROSTERS

Team Ontario
LW: Bill Barber -- Callendar, ONT (1975-76 season)
C: Eric Lindros -- London, ONT (1994-95 season)
RW: Tim Kerr -- Windsor, ONT (1986-87 season)
D: Chris Pronger -- Dryden, ONT (2009-10 season)
D: Bob Dailey -- Kingston, ONT (1977-78 season)
G: Bob Froese -- St. Catherines, ONT (1985-86 season)
Coach: Mike Keenan -- Bowmanville, ONT

Team Quebec
LW: Simon Gagne -- Sainte-Foy, PQ (2005-06 season)
C: Claude Giroux -- Hearst, ONT (2017-18 season)
RW: Danny Briere -- Gatineau, PQ (2010-11 season)
D: Andre "Moose" Dupont -- Trois-Rivieres, PQ (1974-75 season)
D: Eric Desjardins -- Rouyn-Noranda, PQ (1996-97 season)
G: Bernie Parent -- Montreal, PQ (1973-74 season)
Coach: Terry Murray -- Shawville, PQ

Team Manitoba
LW: Pat Falloon -- Foxwarren, MAN (1995-96 season)
C: Bobby Clarke -- Flin Flon, MAN (1975-76 season)
RW: Reggie Leach -- Riverton, MAN (1975-76 season)
D: Travis Sanheim -- Elkhorn, MAN (2019-20 season)
D: Ted Harris -- Winnipeg, MAN (1974-75 season)
G: Ron Hextall -- Winnipeg, MAN (1986-87 season)
Coach: Fred Shero -- Winnipeg, MAN

Team Saskatchewan
LW: Scott Hartnell -- Regina, SASK (2011-12 season)
C: Brayden Schenn -- Saskatoon, SASK (2015-16 season)
RW: Brian Propp -- Neudorf, SASK (1984-85 season)
D: Ed Van Impe -- Saskatoon, SASK (1973-74 season)
D: Brad McCrimmon -- Plenty, SASK (1985-86 season)
G: Glenn "Chico" Resch -- Moose Jaw, SASK (1986-87 season)
Coach: Keith Allen -- Saskatoon, SASK

Team Alberta
LW: Murray Craven -- Medicine Hat, ALTA (1987-88 season)
C: Ron Sutter -- Viking, ALTA (1988-89 season)
RW: "Cowboy" Bill Flett -- Vermillion, ALTA (1972-73 season)
D: Braydon Coburn -- Calgary, ALTA (2007-08 season)
D: Tom Bladon -- Edmonton, ALTA (1975-76 season)
G: Carter Hart -- Sherwood Park, ALTA (2019-20 season)
Coach: Vic Stasiuk -- Lethbridge, ALTA

Team British Columbia
LW: Ron Flockhart -- Smithers, BC (1981-82 season)
C: Rod Brind'Amour - raised in BC (1993-94 season)
RW: Mark Recchi -- Kamloops, BC (1992-93 season)
D: Jimmy Watson -- Smithers, BC (1975-76 season)
D: Joe Watson -- Smithers, BC (1974-75 season)
G: Darren Jensen -- Creston, BC (1985-86 season)
Coach: Pat Quinn (longtime Vancouver resident when he coached the Canucks)

Team Maritimes (NB, NS, PEI)
LW: Al MacAdam -- PEI (1973-74 season)
C: Sean Couturier -- raised in Bathurst, NB (2017-18 season)
RW: Forbes Kenney -- born in NB, raised in PEI (1967-68 season)
D: Randy Jones -- Quispamsis, NB (2007-08 season)
D: John Stevens -- Campbellton, NB (1986-87 season)
G: Wendell Young -- Halifax, NS (1987-88 season)
Player/Coach: John Stevens (Campbellton, NB)


GROUP B ROSTERS

Team USA
LW: John LeClair -- St. Albans, VT ( 1996-97 season)
C: Jeremy Roenick -- Boston, MA (2001-02 season)
RW: Paul Holmgren -- St. Paul, MN (1979-80 season)
D: Mark Howe -- Detroit, MI (1985-86 season)
D: Shayne Gostisbehere -- Pembroke Pines, FL (2017-18 season)
G: Brian Boucher -- Woonsocket, RI (1999-2000 season)
Coach: Peter Laviolette -- Frankin, MA

Team Sweden
LW: Pelle Eklund -- Stockholm (1989-90 season)
C: Peter Forsberg -- Örnsköldsvik (2005-06 season)
RW: Mikael Renberg -- Piteå (1994-95 season)
D: Kim Johnsson -- Malmö (2003-04 season)
D: Kjell Samuelsson -- Tyngsryd (1987-88 season)
G: Pelle Lindbergh -- Stockholm (1984-85 season)
Coach: Ulf Samuelsson -- Fagersta (NHL assistant coach, AHL and SHL head coach)

Team Finland
LW: Ilkka Sinisalo -- Valkeakoski (1984-85 season)
C: Ville Leino -- Savonlinna (2010-11 season)
RW: Sami Kapanen -- Kuopio (2003-04 season)
D: Joni Pitkänen -- Oulu (2005-06 season)
D: Kimmo Timonen -- Kuopio (2007-08 season)
G: Antero Niittymäki -- Turku (2008-09 season)
Coach: Tomi Kallio -- Turku (coach/scout after playing days)

Team Russia
LW: Andrei Lomakin -- Voskresensk (1991-92 season)
C: Alexei Zhamnov -- Moscow (2003-04 season)
RW: Valeri Zelepukin -- Voskresensk (1998-99 season)
D: Ivan Provorov -- Yaroslavl (2019-20 season)
D: Dmitri Yushkevich -- Chrepovets (1992-93 season)
G: Ilya Bryzgalov -- Togliatti (2011-12 season)
Coach: Slava Butsayev -- Moscow (CSKA Moscow head coach)

Team Czech Republic
LW: Jakub Voraccek -- Kladno, CZE (2014-15 season)
C: Vaclav Prospal -- Ceske Budejovice, CZE (1996-97 season)
RW: Jaromir Jagr -- Kladno, CZE (2011-12 season)
D: Petr Svoboda -- Most, CZE (1995-96 season)
D: Miroslav Dvorak -- Hluboka, CZE (1982-83 season)
G: Roman Cechmanek -- Gottwaldov, CZE (2000-01 season)
Coach: Milos Holan -- Bilovec, CZE (head coach in Extraliga, including Sparta Prague)

Team Europe
LW: Michael Raffl -- Austria -- 2014-15
C: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- France -- 2015-16
RW: Ruslan Fedotenko -- Ukraine -- 2001-02
D: Dennis Seidenberg -- Germany -- 2002-03
D: Mark Streit -- Switzerland -- 2013-14
G: Rob Zepp --represented Germany -- 2014-15
Coach: John Miszuk (born in Poland)

Team Slovakia
LW: Radovan Somik -- 2002-03
C: Michal Handzus -- 2003-04
RW: Branko Radivojevic -- 2005-06
D: Andrej Meszaros -- 2010-11
D: Rudy Tajcnar -- 1977-78 Maine Mariners (AHL)
G: Matej Tomek -- 2019-20 Dukla Trencin (Slovak Extraliga)
Coach: Radovan Somik (now HK Martin assistant coach)
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