Quick Hits: May 8, 2019
1) Amid the announcements on Monday of the Flyers coaching staff for 2019-20, the organization also announced that Scott Gordon, who served as Philly's interim NHL coach for the rest of the 2018-19 season after the late-December dismissal of Dave Hakstol, would be returning to the post of head coach of the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Kerry Huffman, who assumed Phantoms interim head coaching duties when "Gordo" moved up to the NHL team, will return to the assistant coaching role in Lehigh Valley.
Gordon has a season remaining on the contract extension he agreed to in March 2018. Come next season, he will be tasked with bringing along the development of an impressive group of incoming forwards that could include (assuming they do not make the Flyers' opening night NHL roster) the likes of Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe. Also incoming for 2019-20 are Swedish goaltender Felix Sandström and forwards Matthew Strome and Maxim Sushko.
Assuming he does not make the Flyers' opening night roster out of camp (which seems to be a longshot right now), 2017 first-round puck Frost will be an especially interesting player to watch. The Flyers organization wants to see the playmaking center push the pace more consistently -- he is a fast skater but has a tendency to stop moving his feet at the OHL level -- and to show he can handle the tighter checking that is found in the pro game compared to junior hockey. Gordon will, no doubt, provide Frost with a lot of feedback and info
Second-year Phantoms next season include German Rubtsov (who was off to a very strong start to his first pro season before being lost for the rest of the campaign following a shoulder injury that required surgery), David Kase (who missed much of the 2018-19 season due to a suspected concussion but returned and had some good games late in the season after a strong start as well), Connor Bunnaman (19 goals in 62 games as a rookie), Pascal Laberge (limited to 15 games by pre-season surgery and a late-season injury), and Carsen Twarynski (10 goals, 24 points in 69 games as a rookie).
Third-year Phantoms on the periphery of the Flyers' NHL roster include center Mikhail Vorobyev (15 NHL games in 2018-19, and defenseman Mark Friedman (NHL debut in Flyers season finale). Nicolas Aube-Kubel, a restricted free agent this summer, is certain to receive a qualifying offer from the Flyers. However, he'll be a fourth-season pro next year, and is no longer waiver exempt if he does not make the Flyers' NHL roster.
Young veteran NHL bubble forward Justin Bailey is also an RFA this summer. Center Mike Vecchione an energy forwards Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Bardreau are group 6 UFAs.
It remains to been over the summer how much of the veteran mix on the Phantoms will be changed. There's not much room for vet forwards but the blueline doesn't have any incoming rookie additions for 2019-20.
Among vet forwards, 2017-18 American Hockey League MVP winner Phil Varone, who spent the majority of this past season in the NHL with the Flyers but is a longshot to be part of general manager Chuck Fletcher and new head coach Alain Vigneault's plans for next season, is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ditto Corban Knight. Other veteran UFAs this summer include forwards Greg Carey and Byron Froese.
Veteran Phantoms captain Colin McDonald played on an AHL deal this past season in order to remain with the team, but will turn 35 in September. Veteran goaltender Mike McKenna, 36, unofficially plans to retire as an active player. Chris Conner, 35, has one season remaining on the two-year AHL contract extension he signed in 2017. Veteran defenseman Philip Samuelsson' signed a one-year contract last October, and will become a UFA on July 1.
This should almost go without saying, but is being included for the sake of completeness: impending unrestricted free agent forward Jori Lehterä, who was officially assigned to the Phantoms in the latter part of the 2018-19 season but only dressed in five games and was not around thereafter, will not be back in the organization next season.
Acquired in the Dale Weise trade with Montreal, David Schlemko and his $2.1 million cap hit are something the Flyers/Phantoms need to figure out over the summer. If veteran Andrew MacDonald ($5 million cap hit) stays with the NHL club for the final year of his contract as one of the seven defensemen on the Flyers roster, Schlemko could return to the Phantoms.
Veteran defenseman T.J. Brennan and younger vet Reece Willcox each have one season remaining on their Flyers contracts. Both figure to back with the Phantoms next season.
ECHL defenseman Jacob Graves, whom the Flyers acquired from Arizona in the Jordan Weal trade specifically in order for Arizona to stay within the NHL contract limit, will have his entry-level NHL contract expire on July 1. While it is possible he could be signed to an AHL deal for depth if the Phantoms need a callup from Reading, it's unlikely that he gets a qualifying offer from the Flyers to retain his NHL rights.
2) Game 4 of the OHL Finals is on Wednesday night in Guelph (7 p.m. EDT) start. Team captain Isaac Ratcliffe's Storm need a win to even up their series with the powerhouse Ottawa 67's (14-1 in the playoffs) at two games apiece. Although Guelph pulled off comebacks from three games zero in the second round and three games to one in the Western Conference Final, falling into a 3-1 deficit against Ottawa would be a cavernous hole.
3) The championship games of both divisions (U15 and U16) of the 2019 World Selects Invitational
tournament will take place on Wednesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. Updates will be available on the event's Twitter page, @WSIPhiladelphia
4) Congratulations go out to former Flyers player, assistant and head coach Craig Berube for steering the St. Louis Blues to the 2019 Western Conference Final. A double-OT goal by former Flyers draftee and farmhand Patrick Maroon lifted the Blues over former Flyers/Phantoms player Jim Montgomery's Dallas Stars in Game 7 on Tuesday night. They will take on the winner of Game 7 of the San Jose vs. Colorado series. Over in the East, Flyers Hall of Fame member Rod Brind'Amour's Carolina Hurricanes will oppose the Boston Bruins.
5) Today in Flyers History: On May 8, 1980, the Flyers clinched the fourth trip to the Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, earning a 7-3 blowout win over the Minnesota North Stars at the Spectrum in Game Five of the semifinals on May 8, 1980.
The holdover players from the Broad Street Bullies' heyday led the way. Bill Barber (10th and 11th goals of the playoffs) and Reggie Leach scored twice apiece, while Bobby Clarke collected three points (one goal, two assists). Rick MacLeish notched a goal and assist.
In the meantime, defenseman Bob "the Count" Dailey continued his torrid playoff run with a goal and a helper of his own. Winning netminder Phil Myre made 22 saves. For more, click here