With most of the Flyers lineup set, who’s staying and who’s going?

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When it comes to the Flyers, you already know that guys like Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Maxime Talbot are sticking around to start the season. Hell,  the first six of those guys will make up who plays on the top two scoring lines for Philly.

What about the rest, though? Jody Shelley is sitting out to start the season thanks to being Shana-banned, but the competition for other spots on the bottom two lines is tight. With Simmonds and Talbot assuming two of those starting spots in the bottom six, the race to win a job is tight. Guys like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Andreas Nodl, Blair Betts, and Zac Rinaldo are all in the mix.

Coach Peter Laviolette has his work cut out for him but Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi thinks he’s got an inside line on who has the edge to start the year in Philly. Apparently youth will lead the charge in Philadelphia.

Barring a trade, it’s likely two of the following three forwards will make the team: Schenn, Couturier and Matt Read.

This trio is interesting because Schenn has virtually been anointed the third line center job already. Couturier and Read are curious because Couturier will get nine games to show if he’s NHL ready now. If he shows rookie worries and a lack of poise, he can go back to the QMJHL and junior hockey. Read is a college free agent out of Bemidji State in Minnesota. He impressed in his run through the AHL briefly last season and has been doing the same again this year. Conceivably, if Couturier gets sent back to juniors, Read can come back from the AHL to take his spot.

Giving Couturier a shot in the kind of atmosphere surrounding the Flyers with sky high expectations means they think a lot of the kid, even more so if he stays. As for guys like Rinaldo, Betts, and Nodl you’d have to think that Betts will be the fourth line center while Nodl is essentially competing with Read. Rinaldo would be assuming Shelley’s role as an enforcer/agitator if he makes the team.

The Flyers’ forward lines look pretty simple when broken down:

van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Jagr

Hartnell – Briere – Voracek

Talbot – Schenn – Simmonds

Couturier/Rinaldo/Shelley – Betts – Nodl/Read

From this perspective, it would seem unwise to put an 18 year-old rookie on the fourth line where he’s just not going to get a lot of minutes, but then again we’re not coaching the Flyers either. It would be possible that Couturier gets to run on the third line, but having two rookies along with Simmonds would be an awful lot of fun to see work out there.

The choices aren’t going to be easy for Laviolette as he’s got some solid young talent here, but developing them into being better NHL players might take precedence here. Guys like Nodl and Betts are fine as role players and defenders and could be better served doing just that.

Canucks could use Patrick or Hischier

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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

“I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

Gabe Vilardi and Casey Mittelstadt are two centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

As for, Hischier it’s his speed that really stands out.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

 

Draft lottery odds

Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
Dallas Stars 5.8%
Florida Panthers 5.4%
Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%

Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

“We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

“Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.

Sabres granted permission to speak with Futa

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Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Kings promoted Mike Futa to assistant general manager.

But Futa received that promotion before the Sabres cleaned house last week, and that timing is important to note.

Because it’s now being reported, via a Kings spokesman, that the Sabres have been granted permission to speak with Futa about their GM vacancy.

It’s no surprise that Buffalo has asked to interview Futa. He was a candidate for the Sabres’ GM job in 2013 — a job that eventually went to Tim Murray.

Futa was once thought to be heir apparent to Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. But when Lombardi was fired, the Kings went with Rob Blake instead.

Some background on Futa, courtesy the Kings:

Futa most recently served as Kings Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. This upcoming season will be Futa’s 11th season with the Kings.

Futa recently concluded his 10th full season with the Kings, and third in his most recent position. He was named VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel in May of 2014 after serving as Director of Amateur Scouting, a position he assumed on June 5, 2007, when he originally joined the Kings.

Futa came to the Kings when he was appointed Co-Director of Amateur Scouting along with Mark Yannetti. Together, Futa and Yannetti rebuilt and retooled the entire Kings Amateur Scouting staff.

Related: Darryl Sutter wants to keep coaching

Habs sign Quebec League sniper Waked

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On Friday, Montreal agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal with QMHJL Rouyn-Noranda forward Antoine Waked.

Waked, 20, is coming off a strong season in which he racked up 80 points in 67 games. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals, with 39, in what was something of a surprise. Previously, the Quebec native had never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign, suggesting Waked could be the prototypical late bloomer.

An undrafted free agent, Waked had been tied to the Habs earlier this season, with reports he’d receive an ELC at the end of his junior campaign.