Archive for the ‘AHL’ Category

All around the NHL, teams will have to make decisions on their rosters before Wednesday’s deadline.  In particular, the transformed Flyers are going to have to make some tough roster choices.

Right now there are 15 locks for spots (8 forwards, 5 defensemen, 2 goalies) on the current team ( Briere, Giroux, Hartnell, Jagr, Simmonds, Talbot, van Riemsdyk, Voracek, Carle, Coburn, Meszaros, Pronger, Timonen, Bobrovsky, Bryzgalov).  Blair Betts is a pretty safe bet. This leaves 6 or 7 spots open with about $7.7 million cap space.

Does first round pick Sean Couturier make the Flyers?

There are six forwards fighting for four jobs.  Two veterans, Andreas Nodl and Jody Shelley, along with four rookies, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn.  Shelley counts towards the cap while he serves his five game suspension, and could possibly be relegated to the 13th forward once his punishment is up.  Schenn has been hampered by an upper body injury, which may have opened the door for first round pick Couturier.  If he’s sent to the Phantoms, Schenn will get a chance to heal up and will get plenty of ice time to continue his development. Couturier has impressed enough to be considered among the final cuts, and it sounds like he will make the opening night roster.  Whether he’s on the roster for nine games, or the entire season remains to be seen.  If he plays 10 games, the first year of Couturier’s contract is used up and if he plays 11 games, his contract counts against the organization’s 50 (the Flyers are at the max).  So it’s possible he will be on the roster for the first nine games and sent back to junior.   (more…)

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The Flyers’ prospects met the Capitals for the fifth season in a row, the first of the series at a major arena.  The game, especially in the third, was intense as the youngsters from both clubs battled to leave their impressions in front of the big bosses.  However, at times, it looked like a typical rookie game with some sloppy passing and bad positioning.

Brayden Schenn battles for a loose puck during a faceoff.

Of course the eyes were two big names of the night were Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.  Schenn got a large ovation during introductions from the estimated 11,000 fans. While he wasn’t spectacular on offense, he was defensively responsible, including helping kill a Capitals 2 man advantage in the first period.  Couturier got an assist on Blake Kessel’s power play goal and also played some penalty kill. However, showed he needs to work on his skating and will have to gain some strength before making the jump to the NHL.  Both will get a longer look when they join the Flyers when training camp opens Saturday.

Newly signed Blake Kessel left his mark on the game, assisting on the Flyers’ first goal and scoring the team’s second, on the powerplay.  Kessel impressed the fans in attendance, earning third star of the game.  He easily stood out the most of all defensemen and showed why he was an Hockey East all-star last season with New Hampshire.

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Yesterday, I spent the day at Flyers Development Camp, where Flyers prospects and invitees worked on drills to hone their skills with the Flyers’ development team, including Derian Hatcher, Ian Laperriere and Riley Cote.  Obviously at these camps, you won’t learn a whole lot about a player, especially doing repetitive drills.  Many of the drills were set up to see what the players could do, with the Flyers brass (including Paul Holmgren) watching.  The day was split into two sessions, defensemen early and forwards later.

Most of the fans’ eyes were on both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.  Schenn seemed to struggle in some of the early drills, but the team will probably take a deeper look at the young center during Flyers’ training camp in September.  Couturier showed some nice hands throughout the session.  His goal this year is to make the NHL, but between the Flyers’ lack of roster space and no need to rush him, he will likely find himself back with Drummondville of the QMJHL.

Zac Rinaldo is a curious case.  Not drafted by the Flyers for his scoring prowess, Rinaldo’s three years in the OHL got him 27 goals, 69 points and 669 PIM.  If you include postseason, he has yet to have a season under 200 PIM.  He had 331 PIM with the Phantoms in the AHL last year, and collected more suspensions (4) than goals (3).  So why is he even worth watching?  Well, it’s just development camp, but he looked impressive yesterday.  While some of his counterparts coasted through the drills, Rinaldo seemed to give his all throughout the morning.  If he can tone down his antics, maybe he can develop into solid role player.  That’s a big if though at this point.

Some other quick thoughts:

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The Philadelphia Flyers acquired the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov Tuesday night, trading AHL prospect Matt Clackson and a 2012 3rd round choice, along with another conditional draft pick to Phoenix.

The Coyotes won’t resign the free agent Clackson, as the Flyers had to throw a currently contracted player in the deal so they would not go over the NHL’s 50 contract limit.

Bryzgalov went 36-20-10 with a 2.48 GAA and a 92.1 save percentage in 2010-11.  He also posted 7 shutouts, compared to the Flyers 0 this season.  For his career, split between the Ducks and Coyotes, he is 156-116-35, with a career GAA of 2.53.  Bryzgalov has 23 career shutouts and a 91.6 save percentage.  In 27 career playoff games, he has gone 12-13, winning a Stanley Cup as the Ducks’ backup in 2007.  He has three playoff shutouts, all with the Ducks in their improbable 2006 run to the Western Conference Finals.  Bryzgalov failed to win a playoff series with Phoenix, losing back to back years against Detroit.

Will Bryzgalov be the answer?  The Flyers have to sign him first.  No numbers are official, but it seems he is looking for a deal for $5m to $6m.  Can the Flyers afford that type of money with their current roster? With a quick estimate at Capgeek, if Bryzgalov signs for $5.5m, and Ian Laperriere is put on LTIR, the team will have about $650,000 to fill three to five roster spots.  That won’t happen.  So someone will be the odd man out, whether that is Jeff Carter ($5.3m), Matt Carle ($3.4m), Kris Versteeg ($3.1m), another player, or a combination, remains to be seen.  It would also mean that free agent Ville Leino would not be resigned.  On Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch hinted that the Flyers and Blue Jackets could be trade partners for Columbus’ #8 pick.  Could the Flyers trade a high priced player for the pick? Possibly. GM Paul Holmgren has two weeks before the NHL Draft to see what he can do with Bryzgalov before making his next move.

If signed, the Flyers would have three goalies battling for two NHL spots next year.  Bryzgalov would surely have the #1 job, while Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton battle for the backup job.  Bobrovsky would benefit from being the starter in  Adirondack, as compared to playing only 20 games with the Flyers.  In addition, Bobrovsky’s cap hit ($1.75m) is slightly larger than Leighton’s ($1.55m), so the team could save some money there.

What happens if the Flyers can’t get a deal done with Bryzgalov? Perhaps they trade his rights to another team, like they did with Dan Hamhuis last year.  And what does this mean for the Coyotes?  They’ll have to add a goaltender, as Jason Labarbera is their only signed goaltender, and he surely won’t carry the load.

Now that the Winnipeg NHL team has reached their goal of 13,000 season tickets sold, True North Sports and Entertainment is expected to announce the team name between now and the draft.

What will the name be? Here are some possible choices:

Jets– The name of the original WHA/NHL franchise in Winnipeg until they left for Phoenix in 1996.  The Jets seem like the most popular choice among fans.  Gary Bettman also told TNSE that the league would allow them to use the name and logo if the group decides to.

Thrashers– When Calgary left Atlanta in 1980, they took the name (Flames) with them.  Winnipeg could too, but I don’t know if there are any Thrashers in Winnipeg. Highly unlikely the name travels with the team.

Moose– The Manitoba Moose, formerly of the AHL, have been in Winnipeg since the Jets left. The Moose have been popular, and it’s quite possible the NHL team could just take the name and continue the Moose tradition.

Falcons– The Winnipeg Falcons were an senior amateur team, who won the Allan Cup in 1920 and went on to represent Canada in the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, winning Gold.  Could be a nice homage to the past, like Ottawa did for the original Senators in 1992.

Chufugaboos– Thanks to a 3rd grader in Winnipeg named Joey, this name has circulated around the internet.  The Chufugaboos, with a logo of a monkey, might be a million-to-one shot, but it is still an awesome name regardless.

Phoenix– Rising from the ashes of the Jets to live again, and gives a connection to the former Winnipeg team.  Not sure about this one, as it might cause confusion (the Phoenix @ Phoenix).

Flashes (or Flash)– The city’s first team was named after Hall of Famer Bobby Hull (the Golden Jet), why can’t the new team be named after one of the best players in the past twenty years (and former Jet), Teemu Selanne.  Who knows, maybe Teemu decides one last year where his career began?

Slurpees– Winnipeg is the Slurpee Capital of the World.  No kidding.  Plus, it’d give easy corporate sponsorship with 7-11.

Which name do I like? I liked the Jets name growing up, but feel the new team should establish it’s own identity.  But I wouldn’t be mad if the Jets returned.

Another hockey season is upon us, and yet another season where the Philadelphia Flyers have questions in goal.  The tandem of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher are back for another year after going to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Throughout the system, the Flyers have some promising prospects who may be the future in net.

After being picked up on waivers last season, Michael Leighton got the starting job after Ray Emery and Brian Boucher went down with injuries.  Unfortunately, Leighton was injured in March, and watched Boucher start during the stretch run until he too got hurt in the second round and Leighton started from then all the way through the Cup Finals.  After questions about who the 10-11 Flyers goalies would be, Leighton resigned for a modest 2 year, $3.1 million dollar deal.  Combined with the returning Boucher, it seems that the 1-2 punch would be cemented.  But now with an injury to Leighton in a preseason game with Toronto, more questions arise.  GM Paul Holmgren and Coach Peter Laviolette aren’t too concerned at all, but there is a little doubt in fans’ minds.

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