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.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.