Flyers Rookies Beat Capitals Rookies 3-0 (HIGHLIGHTS & PLAYER INTERVIEWS)


Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Travis Sanheim poses for a photo with team officials after being selected as the number seventeen overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Along with a crisp twinge in the air and corporations bending over backwards to try to find a way to ‘pumpkin spice-ify’ as many of their products as humanly possible, the arrival of Fall also means that the NHL season is nearly upon us. The Flyers 2013-2014 campaign was a veritable roller coaster that ended with a thud in the form of a game seven defeat at the hands of eventual the eventual Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers.

The offseason brought substantial change, but not the sort of turnover fans of the Black-and-Orange have grown accustomed to over the last 15-20 years. There was a changing of the guard at the General Manager position, as former fan-favorite and Los Angeles Kings front office member Ron Hextall took over for Paul Holmgren, who moved to the position of president.

The anointment of Hextall as the man in charge as far as personnel decisions was not associated with the sort of free-wheeling free agency splurge the Flyers have grown notable for in year’s past. The team did decide to trade Scott Hartnell in exchange for R.J. Umberger which was an eyebrow-raiser to say the least. Other than that, the news of Kimmo Timonen suffering from blood clots was perhaps the biggest news as far as the Flyers roster goes.

Instead, for the first time in this Flyers fan’s lifetime, the organization appears committed to building through the draft and within the organization rather than trying to buy their way to the third Stanley Cup that has eluded CEO Ed Snider for 40 years. Save for Vincent Lecavalier, 34, and Umberger, 32, the better part of the Flyers core group is still relatively young.

Where the Flyers are lacking, and recent champions have shown this to be one of the keys to postseason success, is dynamic talent along the blue line. Since Chris Pronger’s career-ending injury, the Flyers have been lacking a presence within their defensive group that could have been considered a ‘weapon’ when combatting opponents. Despite having one of the most expensive groups in the NHL, there is not one player in the current top-six who could come remotely close to be considered a franchise defenseman.

This is where the Flyers prospect system comes into play. Over the past few seasons, to their credit, it would appear as if the organization has done their due diligence in acquiring the type of talent that they have lacked, save for Pronger, for what seems like forever. Though the prospect pool in general appears to be strong at the position, there are four particular individuals that have garnered the most fanfare and are being touted as the type of group who, in a few years, could help the Flyers finally get over the hump. The quartet in question is 2012 3rd round pick and 2014 NCAA Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Shayne Gostisbehere, 2013 1st round pick Sam Morin, 2013 2nd round pick Robert Hagg, and 2014 1st round pick Travis Sanheim.

The four, for which there is still not a clever nickname to identify them by, each possess a unique talent and skillset that would appear to compliment one another masterfully. Gostisbehere, although somewhat slight in frame, is a tremendous offensive talent with skating ability and puckhandling/shooting prowess that some have compared to Hall of Famer Brian Leetch. Morin is as much in the mold of Chris Pronger as any defenseman within the Flyers organization in the past decade. He’s nasty, he hits, he has a blistering slap shot, and manages to move exceptionally well for a player 6’7″, 225 pounds (and possibly still growing). Hagg is perhaps the most NHL-ready of the group. The Swedish born prospect prides himself on playing a solid two-way game and demonstrating the necessary hockey IQ to compliment his physical talents. The newcomer to the group, Travis Sanheim, was selected with the 17th overall pick this past summer in the building he hopes to grace in the future. The Canadian defenseman was reportedly one of the fastest risers in the draft and his exceptional skating ability and instinct even drew comparisons to Rangers’ stalwart Ryan McDonagh.

If patience prevails like the Flyers front office has stated it will, these four represent the future of the Flyers organization along the back-end. For this reason, the Flyers rookie game against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday was reportedly attended by almost 1,000 people. As a fanbase burnt out on seeing their team handled by the Rangers, Bruins, and Devils of the world, the Flyers faithful are ready to see a champion grown from the bottom-up. Tuesday’s scrimmage was their first chance to see the team’s equivalent to seeing the hopeful Flyers of the future, most notably the aforementioned quartet of defenseman in action.

I was unable to watch the stream of the event, but most reports were optimistic in regards to each individual’s performance. The following analysis comes from Flyers writer (one of the best in the business) Bill Meltzer.

"Sanheim is the best skater of the group, although Gostisbehere isn’t too far behind. Sanheim retrieved pucks in a flash and showed quick recoveries when he turned over a couple of pucks. He narrowly missed a pair of goals, shooting just wide of the long side. Sanheim’s biggest individual highlight of the game was a first-period shift where he turned on the jets as he carried the puck himself, split the Capitals defense over the middle and forced Garrett Harr to take a hooking penalty.Gostisbehere is far and away has the most dynamic puck skills of the lot, which stood out throughout rookie camp and yesterday’s game. Yesterday, he sprang Straka on a breakaway with a picturesque stretch pass. Gostisbehere also had several sequences of fancy stickhandling — almost a little too fancy on one occasion –and unleashed several bombs from the point. He was not credited with a point in the game but was in the thick of at least four scoring chances for the Flyers.The 6-foot-7 Morin displayed the mean streak and physical game that are the hallmarks of his style of play. He engaged in a fight with former Rimouski Oceanic teammate Liam O’Brien and later went after Caps right winger Kevin Elgestal for hitting Straka from behind near the boards. Morin, who was paired with Gostisbehere, put his long reach to good use several times. He takes up so much space that, several times, he forced dump ins or simply shut down the rush.It wasn’t a perfect game for Morin — or the others — but hockey isn’t a game of perfection. Morin was turned inside out on one rush, got drilled heavily on a clean hit by Madison Bowey that sent the giant Morin sprawling to the ice, and twice made low percentage plays in the offensive zone. What’s more important was that none of these sequences led to opposing scoring chances and the mistakes didn’t snowball.Hägg was arguably the best of the Flyers’ defensemen in the first period of the game. He played virtually airtight defense in the early going and also snapped three of the Flyers’ 12 first period shots on goal. Thereafter, he had a fairly uneventful game but that is not a bad thing for a defenseman."

Here are highlights of the game, courtesy of CSN Philadelphia.

A few things stood out to me from this. First off, goaltending prospect and 2012 2nd round pick Anthony Stolartz made a couple of real nice saves. The Flyers have Steve Mason on a ‘bridge’ contract to see if the former Calder trophy winner can man the pipes as a franchise option. Should that not be the case, Stolarz is next-in-waiting.

Morin is a giant. He might still be rough around the edges, but he looks the part of an NHL player. He won’t be able to outmuscle his combatants in the NHL the way he did in the scrimmage, but to see that type of aggression and willingness to mix it up is a good sign.

2014 2nd round pick Nicolas Aube-Kubel seems to have a nose for the puck. Reports have been glowing over the Alberta native in rookie camp, and they appeared to translate well into games situations. It’s likely we won’t see him don the Orange-and-Black for some time, but it’s always good to see another forward prospect turning heads.

Scott Laughton, the team’s 2012 1st round pick and most likely prospect to join the Flyers at the start of the season, certainly has a presence on the ice. Laughton played well in five games with the big club following the end of the lockout prior to the 2012-2013 (technically just 2013) season. He has dominated at the junior level and it’s tough to see the organization keeping him down for too much longer.

The Flyers would win the game over the Capitals 3-0 with goals by Petr Straka, Aube-Kubel, and an empty netter by Kevin Goumas. posted some of the postgame interviews on their website.

Here’s Morin: