Sean Couturier

Will Flyers promising young forwards break out this season?

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It’s interesting to note that while Philadelphia Flyers forwards Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek took major steps forward last season to become team leaders, they weren’t the centerpieces of their respective trades in the summer of 2011.

Although Simmonds was an important part of his transaction, the seemingly big addition when the Philadelphia Flyers shipped Mike Richards to Los Angeles was top prospect Brayden Schenn. Similarly, Columbus sacrificed the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, along with Voracek, to get Jeff Carter. The Flyers used that pick to draft Sean Couturier.

While the more established players that Philadelphia got back have worked out nicely, the jury is still out on Couturier and Schenn. Both are promising and have the potential to turn the Flyers’ already strong offense into arguably the best in the NHL. At the same time, their first two campaigns with the Flyers have been a mixed bag.

Brayden Schenn, after being united older brother Luke Schenn, did show signs of improvement in 2013. The younger Schenn scored eight goals and 26 points in 47 games and might have been able to do even better with more playing time. As it is, he averaged a moderate 15:32 minutes per contest.

He’s a candidate to play a bigger role this season as a top-six forward. With 110 NHL games now under his belt and at the age of 22, this figures to be an important campaign for him.

Couturier is a bigger question mark after struggling last season with just four goals and 15 points in 46 contests. He was also minus-eight after being plus-18 in his 2011-12 rookie campaign.

“I think that a lot of times there’s always that expectation when players come in that first year and they’re contributing a certain way, there’ll be that jump to new heights in the second year, but it doesn’t always work that way,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told NHL.com. “Sean still played good games and played well defensively.”

Certainly, Couturier isn’t the first player to suffer from a sophomore slump and it similarly wouldn’t be shocking to see him bounce back in his third NHL season.

The other major young X-factor among Philadelphia’s group of forwards is Scott Laughton. He enjoyed a five-game stint with the Flyers in 2013 before he was returned to the OHL Oshawa Generals.

Laughton had his best season with the Generals to date, recording 56 points and 72 penalty minutes in 49 contests. The 19-year-old impressed Flyers director of player development Ian Laperriere with his attitude following the demotion, according to NHL.com.

The 19-year-old forward is going into this season with a chance of making the team and although he’s certainly not as big a breakout candidate in 2013-14 as Couturier and Schenn, all three have the potential to be important pieces with the Flyers for years to come.

WATCH LIVE: Canada-USA (IIHF World Hockey Championship)

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A huge tilt on day one of the World Hockey Championships, as Canada and the USA clash in Russia. You can watch the game online using the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Canada came away with a gold medal in last year’s tournament while the United States took home the bronze. Of course, each team’s roster changes significantly every year.

The USA’s next game is tomorrow against Belarus. Canada will play Sunday against Hungary.

PHT Morning Skate: Canucks prospect Brock Boeser is taking a girl with Down syndrome to prom

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Here’s a feel-good story. Canucks prospect Brock Boeser is taking a girl with Down syndrome to prom. (Sportsnet)

–NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire does a lot of traveling during the playoffs. (Sports Illustrated)

–It sounds like ESPN’s Mike Wilbon isn’t a fan of the Coyotes’ latest front office hire. (ESPN)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–Former referee Kerry Fraser wants the old charging rule to make a return. (TSN)

–Hockey is becoming more common in the North Carolina Sports Hall-of-Fame. (Charlotte Observer)

–Leafs prospect Mitch Marner’s family home caught fire prior to Game 1 of the OHL final. (Sportsnet)

Video: Predators even series with Sharks after franchise-record triple OT thriller

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The marathon is over. The Nashville Predators are back in the series.

The Predators have evened their best-of-seven second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at two-games apiece after Mike Fisher finally broke the deadlock with 8:48 remaining in the third overtime of an instant classic in these 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fisher buried a rebound in front of the San Jose net to give the Predators a massive 4-3 win on home ice.

The goal capped off a frenetic (and lengthy) overtime session that was nothing but utter chaos at times in the opening extra frame. By the end, Fisher was almost too exhausted to describe the winner. Can you blame him?

Twice, the Sharks, who could’ve put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win, thought they had scored the winner. Joel Ward couldn’t quite bury a wrap-around attempt before just about every player on the ice, it seemed, converged in the Nashville crease — some working to put the puck in the net, others working to keep the puck out.

The puck, somehow, never crossed the line, though some members of the Sharks raised their arms in celebration as if they had the decisive goal.

Later in the first OT period, the Sharks again thought they had won the game, only to have a lengthy and controversial review determine Joe Pavelski “…made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease,” according to the league.

Adding to it all, the Predators were unsuccessful on two OT power plays. That opened the door for the Sharks, who were awarded power plays on two Shea Weber penalties in overtime but also couldn’t capitalize.

The Predators were less than five minutes away from losing this game in regulation, and going down 3-1 in the series, before James Neal tied it with 4:21 remaining.

‘We earned it,’ says Spezza after Stars regroup to even series with Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) looks on as Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza, second from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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The Dallas Stars faced the possibility of going home facing elimination. That was the scenario Thursday, as the Stars battled the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

The previous game didn’t go well at all for the Stars. They were thumped 6-1, as things turned nasty between the two teams, and, most importantly, they fell behind in the series. There were serious questions surrounding their goalie duo that includes Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. And Tyler Seguin was ruled out for Game 4.

Yes, things weren’t working in favor of the Stars.

But after a poor start in the opening period Thursday, the Stars fought back with Cody Eakin playing the unlikely overtime hero in a crucial Game 4 win. And Lehtonen was able to settle in after allowing that Vladimir Tarasenko goal in the opening period, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

“You really do have to stay level,” Jason Spezza told the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s the best two-of-three now, it’s momentum swings. We survived some breakaways, and the last two periods we played right and we earned it.”