Can both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier crack the Flyers lineup?

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When the Flyers sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles and Jeff Carter to Columbus in separate trades this summer, it shook the Flyers and their fans to the core. After all, both Carter and Richards were drafted in the first round in the same year back in 2003 and grew up together on the Flyers poised to be the center duo that would lead them to the Stanley Cup. While those two were able to take them to the finals in 2010, they couldn’t bring the big prize home. Seeing them both sent packing to new teams was a shock.

In their place came Brayden Schenn, acquired in the Mike Richards trade, and 2011 first round pick Sean Couturier, taken with the pick the Blue Jackets gave up to get Carter. Schenn was viewed as being one of the top prospects in all of hockey and Couturier was viewed before the draft as being one of the top five prospects in the 2011 draft.

The Flyers have both of their potential future stars on display during their rookies game in Philadelphia between the Flyers and Washington Capitals today at Wells Fargo Center. Could it be a preview of what’s to come as soon as this year? Some think it could be.

Brayden Schenn got a taste of NHL life last year with the Kings playing in eight games and getting to stick around with the team for a while as a healthy scratch. This time around, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has very high hopes for Schenn. Sam Carchidi of Philly.com gives his take.

Based on general manager Paul Holmgren’s comments earlier this summer, the hardworking Schenn is the leading candidate to start the season as the team’s third-line center. Scouts say Schenn, who turned 20 last month, is a budding star.

As for Couturier, being an 18 year-old going into his first professional camp is a daunting task. After being one of the top rated prospects in the 2011 draft, the thought was already around heading into draft weekend that he could be one of the few that makes it to the NHL right away. Joining Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily mean that though as the Flyers do have enough talent up the middle to make it work.

For Couturier, that might only serve to motivate him to force the issue in training camp and make a spot available for him on the Flyers roster right away. Sarah Baicker of CSNPhilly.com looks at Couturier’s chances of cracking the Flyers roster as an 18 year-old.

Couturier, one of the participants in rookie camp, which kicked off Monday, is sure to get a lot of good looks from Flyers coaches and management over the coming days. And they will extend well into next week; the team’s full training camp begins Saturday. Couturier has already earned an invite.

“My main goal is to make the team, but I’m taking it one day at a time, working hard every day,” Couturier said. “Just trying to get better every day. It’s going to be up to the staff to decide whether they keep me or not.”

“I’m just hoping to make a good first impression,” he added.

If he can make that impression today against the Capitals and throughout training camp, there’s a chance he can make the Flyers and not get a ticket back to junior hockey. At 6’3″ 200 pounds, he’s got NHL size but whether his skills can keep up at an NHL level is another question.

One thing is for sure, coach Peter Laviolette will have a lot to look out for in training camp as both Schenn and Couturier are part of the Flyers future and will be good players. If they can both bring it to the NHL now, however, the Flyers’ deals this summer will start to look like genius moves from Paul Holmgren. If they can’t cut it though… Look out.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.