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.

Stanley Cup Final odds: Penguins open as favorites over Predators

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The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is set with the Pittsburgh Penguins, continuing their quest to repeat as champions, facing the Nashville Predators.

Both teams come in missing some key players (Kris Letang, Pittsburgh; Ryan Johansen, Nashville) but both still have plenty of star player with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and the rest of Nashville’s defense headlining the series.

According to the folks at Bovada, the Penguins open the series as favorites to win it over the Predators.

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Series Price
Nashville Predators +135 (27/20)
Pittsburgh Penguins -155 (20/31)

The series begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Related

2017 Stanley Cup Final Schedule: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators

Canucks sign free agent defenseman Philip Holm to one-year deal

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The Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that they have signed free agent defenseman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Before signing with the Canucks Holm had been rumored to be on the verge of joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that obviously did not come together.

“Philip is a mobile, two-way defenseman who adds depth to our blue line,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships We’re pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization.”

The 25-year-old Holm has spent the past seven seasons playing professionally in Sweden for Vaxjo HC and Djurgardens IF.

He is regarded as a smooth skating, puck-moving defenseman and had a pretty strong season for Vaxjo this past year, scoring four goals and adding 17 assists in 52 games. He was the top-scoring defenseman on the team.

He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships. Sweden won the Gold Medal at the tournament by defeating Canada in the championship game.

The Canucks already have six defensemen under contract for 2017-18 (and they do not seem to be in a hurry to trade any of them) but it was a unit that clearly needs an upgrade, so Holm should be an opportunity to make an impact next season.

Sabres fire AHL coach Dan Lambert

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The Buffalo Sabres continued to overhaul their organization under new general manager Jason Botterill on Friday when they announced that Dan Lambert, the coach of the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate, has been relieved of his duties.

“I would like to thank Dan for his hard work and contributions to our organization during the last two seasons and I wish him the best in the future,” said Botterill in a statement released by the team.

“I felt this was the right move for both the Sabres and Amerks and we will begin the process of searching for a new head coach immediately.”

The 2016-17 season was Lambert’s only season as the head coach. The team ended up finishing with a 32-41-3 mark.

When he was hired by the Sabres Botterill talked about wanting to improve the team in Rochester and this appears to be the first step in that process. The entire Sabres organization took a pretty significant step backwards this season with the NHL team finishing with a worse record than it did a year ago. That resulted in general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma all being replaced.

The Sabres have yet to hire a replacement for Bylsma.

Now both of the top teams in the organization are in need of a new head coach.

Report: KHL team in talks with Capitals’ Orlov

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After losing in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs again and entering an offseason where they have several free agents, it is expected that the Washington Capitals roster is going to be look very, very different next season.

One of those upcoming free agents already seems to be drawing some interest, and not from an NHL team.

According to a report from Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko, the KHL’s CSKA Moscow is in talks with defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Orlov, who turns 26 in July, is slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason. He has played in every game for the Capitals the past two seasons and has emerged as a solid defenseman on the team’s blue line. He has posted pretty dominant possession numbers the past two seasons and has tallied 29 and 33 points during that stretch. He played nearly 20 minutes per game for the Capitals this season and should be in line for a pretty significant pay raise.

Along with the Orlov news, the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan mentioned on Twitter that another KHL team may also be in talks with restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, though she downplayed the possibility of him leaving. Given that Kuznetsov is one of the top offensive players in the league that would certainly be a shocking move, but it still seems like a long-shot to think that he would leave the NHL.