Youthful newcomers excited to join Flyers

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Much of the attention over the last few days has focused on Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and their exodus from the City of Brotherly love. But as time passes, a storyline that will gradually become just as important as the players lost will be the young NHLers coming back to the Flyers in the trade. There’s the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft (Sean Couturier), the 7th overall pick in 2007 (Jakub Voracek), and the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft (Brayden Schenn). The three lottery picks will certainly have their hands full trying to replace two of the best players on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. No pressure guys.

Their development within their new organization and ability to handle the pressure of Philadelphia will be the determining factors when people look back at these trades. If they blossom into the players the Flyers envision, the trades will help the team’s success for the next 5-10 years. If they wilt under the pressure, then GM Paul Holmgren may need a helicopter and personal bodyguard to survive the lynch mob in South Philly.

Each of the former top 10 draft picks sounds like they’re excited for their newfound opportunity with the Flyers. Even though Couturier and Schenn want to make the big club next season, Holmgren has reiterated that he’s going to do what’s right for their long-term development.

“I think with both of these young men we’re going to be patient,” Holmgren said. “We believe [Schenn is] ready, but again, those players, ultimately, answer the questions [if they are ready].”

(snip)

“My main goal is to make the NHL next year,” Couturier said. “Once I get to camp I’ll be prepared.”

For his part, Brayden Schenn is saying all the right things about the trade as well:

“It’s pretty crazy. It’s a big deal. Myself and Wayne Simmonds got traded for a great player.

“It’s a thrill, a little bit shocking to be here … I’m thrilled to be part of the organization and history there. I’m going into a great organization that’s close to winning [the Stanley Cup] and that’s what I’m excited for.”

The Kings had been patient with Schenn’s development over the last two seasons, but all indications point towards a player who’s ready to show his stuff at the NHL level. Last season he bounced all over North America as the Kings organization tried to decide what they wanted to do with him. He got into 8 NHL games (2 assists) with the Kings, 7 AHL games with the Manchester Monarchs (3 goals, 4 assists), a couple of games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, and finally 27 more games with the Saskatoon Blades where he had 21 goals and 53 points. Sandwiched in between his stints in three separate leagues, he also had a spectacular showing at the World Junior Championships with Team Canada. The younger Schenn managed to tie a Team Canada record by netting 18 points in only seven games.

By all accounts, he was one of the most promising hockey players in the world outside in the NHL last year.

Finally, the 21-year-old Jakub Voracek is the veteran of the first round trifecta. Voracek already has three NHL seasons under his belt; he has 39 goals and 95 assists in 241 career games. Whether it was the way Columbus handled his development, the lack of high-end linemates, or an overrated skill set, the young Czech has been a bit of a disappointment thus far. He’s looking forward to his opportunity with the Flyers:

“There’s going to be a lot of expectations from me as well and that’s why I’m working hard in the summer; I’m in Montreal right now and trying to get ready as much as possible, and I hope everything is going to work out well.”

“When I’m on my game I like to play along the boards. I’m an up-and-down, up-and-down, up-and-down winger and I try to play the best I can on both ends and obviously I have to work on my shot a little bit more in this off-season, but I would say that I’m more of a play-maker than a shooter or scorer.”

 

Up next for all three promising players is the opportunity to jump into Philadelphia’s lineup next season. Voracek will clearly get a chance to show his stuff on the wing, but both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier will be battling to fill the void at center left by Richards’ and Carter’s departure. There are question marks behind Claude Giroux and Danny Briere—so there’s a chance they both could make the NHL at bottom-six centers. Either way, the Flyers should be happy with the newfound, high-end talent they have in the organization.

It certainly sounds like the players are just as excited.

The Buzzer: Kopitar keeps Kings rolling; O’Reilly gives Sabres OT win

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Player of the night: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings. The Los Angeles Kings continued their impressive start on Saturday night with a 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, improving their record to a league-best 6-0-1 through their first seven games.

Anze Kopitar was the star of the night as he finished with two goals, an assist, three shots on goal, a plus-five rating while also winning 68 percent of his faceoffs.

His second goal of the game, which came with less than three minutes to play in regulation, proved to be the game-winner for the Kings.

Dustin Brown added an empty net goal (he finished with four points in the win) a minute later.

Kopitar is coming off of a down year offensively in 2016-17 but already has 11 points (six goals, five assists) so far this season for a Kings team that looks to be vastly improved under new coach John Stevens.

Highlight of the night. 

For most of Saturday night it looked like the Buffalo Sabres were on their way to another ugly loss, continuing what has been a miserable start to the season. At one point in the second period they found themselves trailing by a 4-1 margin. But they slowly started to chip away then after Evander Kane scored a late third period goal to tie the game, Ryan O'Reilly ended up winning it in overtime on this beauty of a play to give the Sabres their second win of the season.

Factoid of the Night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have two superstars at forward. They are playing like it. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are the first pair of teammates in more than 15 years to start a season with matching nine-game point streaks. [NHL]

Misc.

— Three more assists for Erik Karlsson on Saturday night giving him six on the season. He has played in two games. After major ankle surgery. He is not human.

Clayton Keller added to his rookie leading goal total with his sixth of the season. He is the one bright spot for the Arizona Coyotes this season as they remain winless after their 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

— With the first two-goal game of his NHL career Tyler Pitlick was the difference for the Dallas Stars in their 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are both off to tremendous starts for the Boston Bruins. Both players scored a pair of goals for the Bruins on Saturday night in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Both players already have six goals on the season.

James Reimer was great for the Florida Panthers, stopping 41 shots in their 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals. With Roberto Luongo on injured reserve the Panthers are going to need a couple of big games from Reimer over the next week.

Mikhail Sergachev looks fantastic for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is now up to eight points on the season.

Wayne Simmonds was the hero for the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday with a late goal to help lift them to a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. He is now up to six goals on the season. Claude Giroux scored his fifth goal in the win.

Logan Couture‘s hat trick was not enough to help the San Jose Sharks in New York on Saturday night against the Islanders. John Tavares had a goal, two assists in the win.

Scores and recaps

New York Rangers 4, Nashville Predators 2

Philadelphia Flyers 2, Edmonton Oilers 1

Buffalo Sabres 5, Boston Bruins 4

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

Ottawa Senators 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

New York Islanders 5, San Jose Sharks 3

Los Angeles Kings 6, Columbus Blue Jackest 4

Florida Panthers 4, Washington Capitals 1

Dallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Arizona Coyotes 2

Minnesota Wild 4, Calgary Flames 2

Vegas Golden Knights 3, St. Louis Blues 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Jaromir Jagr leaves game with lower body injury

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Calgary Flames forward Jaromir Jagr played just four shifts on Saturday night before exiting their game against the Minnesota Wild in the first period.

The Flames later announced that Jagr would not return with what the team is calling a lower body injury.

They had no other update.

After going through the entire summer unsigned as a free agent, Jagr finally landed a one-year deal with the Flames just before the start of the season. So far he has appeared in five games for the team recording a pair of assists.

He recorded 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) while playing in all 82 games for the Florida Panthers a year ago.

Even though he appeared in every game a year ago he still showed some signs of finally starting to slow down, and you have to assume that there is going to be some sort of an injury concern for a player that is turning 46 years old in February.

Senators top Maple Leafs but lose Bobby Ryan for a month

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The Ottawa Senators’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night came with a price.

After the game coach Guy Boucher confirmed that veteran forward Bobby Ryan broke his right index finger during the game and is expected to miss at least the next month.

Ryan has yet to score a goal for the Senators in eight games this season but has recorded five assists.

He fought through an injury plagued season in 2016-17 that ended with one of the worst individual stat lines of his career. He was able to salvage the season however with a tremendous postseason performance that saw him finish with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 games as the Senators went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals where they would lose in double overtime.

The Senators are off to a great start this season earning at least a point in seven of their first eight games (4-1-3).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Penguins seem to have a backup goalie problem

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The Penguins worked to address one area of concern on Saturday when they acquired forward Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings.

Now they need to start working on another major area of concern — their backup goalie.

The Penguins had to know Antti Niemi was never going to step into Pittsburgh and replace what Marc-Andre Fleury gave them on the ice, but they had to be expecting a little more than what they have received thus far.

After giving up seven goals in the Penguins’ 7-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, Niemi has now given up 16 goals in 128 minutes of hockey this season. His save percentage is a brutal .797.

In games Niemi starts the Penguins are 0-3 and have been outscored 22-6, losing games by margins of 10-1 and 7-1.

In the games he hasn’t started they are 5-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 24-17.

It would be unfair to put all of the blame on Niemi, because even with regular starter Matt Murray in net they have also had stretches where they have struggled defensively and not quite played at the level they showed the past two seasons.

Niemi has also made all of his starts in the second half of back-to-back situations against teams that were not only rested the night before, but also teams that should be among the best in the league this season (the Chicago Blackhawks, two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning).

But none of that can excuse the way Niemi himself has played thus far, either. At some point you  need your goalie to make a save no matter who your team is playing or what is happening around him. His rebound control has been shaky, he looks uncomfortable when he is making saves and it is not like he is coming off of a great performance a year ago. In 42 appearances with the Dallas Stars he finished with an .892 save percentage, one of the worst marks in the league, and was at .905 the year before. He is 34 years old and has not performed at a better than league average level (or even at a league average level) in several years.

It has to be an area of concern for the Penguins because if Murray has a flaw early in his young career it is that he has missed some time due to injury. In the past they have had Fleury there to step in. They do not have that luxury now.

Niemi is only signed for one year at $700,000 so it is not like they have a huge investment in him.

If they decide to go in another direction already (they will probably give Niemi a little bit of a longer leash, I am sure) they have Tristan Jarry in the American Hockey League, or perhaps explore a trade if they are uncomfortable with such a young duo and inexperienced backup behind Murray.

Either way, it is really difficult to see them sticking around with this sort of performance from their backup for much longer.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.