Grading Hak & Hex: First Week of Preseason

Updated: September 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm by Wes Herrmann

The first few days of training camp are done for the Philadelphia Flyers and with them, a few games, a couple cuts and one huge trade that involved two different organizations. Here’s how everything grades out for GM Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol.

Vorobyev, Myers, Aube-Kubel Getting the Best Chances

There were only four players that participated in the first two Flyers preseason games and unsurprisingly three of them are Phantoms on the bubble. Forwards Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and defenseman Philippe Myers, all players competing for depth spots, skated in both back-to-back games against the New York Islanders. Robert Hagg also played, but is a lock for the main roster.

Given how much Hextall cares about players ability to compete under an NHL-similar schedule, it’s obvious how the organization is testing the trio — and setting them up for success.

In Game 2 vs the Islanders, Vorobyev centered James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek and played on the power play in both games, Aube-Kubel played on the first line with Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal, and Myers was paired with Ivan Provorov. However, things were also looking bright before the games.

Vorobyev played with Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny, two locks on the roster, in the first couple days of camp. Myers was paired with fellow bubble blueliner T.J. Brennan and Aube-Kubel skated with Jori Lehtera and Oskar Lindblom.

It’s still early in camp and things can change of course, but you can get the sense of how things are falling with a number of prospects.

For the players that had somewhat of a shot at making the team, Morgan Frost, Cole Bardreau, Danick Martel and Reece Willcox played in just the first game. Meanwhile, Mike Vecchione and Corban Knight played in the second game only.

I’ll wait to comment on these decisions when there’s something more concrete, but for now, Flyers fans should easily be content.

Flyers Cut Four

On Monday, the Flyers made the first cuts in training camp, returning Matthew Strome, Maksim Sushko and Wyatte Wylie to their respective junior clubs and releasing goalie Liam Hughes from his ATO.

There’s really not much to say here. The three prospects under team control weren’t going to make the Flyers roster and Hughes faced an uphill battle with the goalie depth in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley.

In the coming week or two, we’ll have some roster cuts that cause discussion.

Oskar Lindblom in Rookie Game

Having Lindblom play in the rookie game or attend rookie camp wasn’t a decision. Just the team following its own guidelines that state a player with less than two years of professional experience and rookie NHL status is eligible for rookie camp.

But nobody would have questioned if the Flyers had pushed Lindblom through to regular training camp. In fact, most would have taken it as a sign that the team saw the Swede as an NHL player.

That wasn’t the case and Lindblom expectantly showed he was a step above the mostly prospect rosters in the rookie game against the New York Islanders last Wednesday.

After a couple mediocre rookie camp days, Lindblom led the Flyers with three goals and two assists in Philly’s 6-3 win over the Isles.

The score doesn’t look close, but at one point the Flyers trailed 3-2 and dealt with two different ties. Lindblom helped the team through the tight times, with all five of his points coming on the first five goals.

Had Lindblom struggled or was invisible, most would say it was just one game and a small sample size that could easily be made up. But the 22 year old proved his talent was a notch above the rookie rosters and headed into training camp with plenty to be confident about.

Not Acquiring Erik Karlsson

Last Thursday, one of the best players in the NHL was traded — and the return was minimal. In the biggest and most anticipated trade of the offseason, the Ottawa Senators dealt Erik Karlsson and prospect Francis Perron to the San Jose Sharks for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, prospects Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris, plus a 2020 first round pick and a 2019 second round pick. There are also two conditional picks in the deal heading to the Senators.

Flyers fans probably would have been lamenting the fact Hextall didn’t make the deal even if it wasn’t favorable for the Sharks, but it’s easy to see why they’re so earnest this time. To put it in Philadelphia perspective, San Jose gave a package of players that would have equalled something like Scott Laughton, Robert Hagg, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and German Rubtsov.

But there’s a huge condition on the deal that most fans are overlooking: the Senators were not trading Karlsson within the Eastern Conference.

Exhibit A is the condition on the second conditional pick. Ottawa receives another first round pick if Karlsson spends one game on an Eastern Conference opponent’s roster. That would have cost the Flyers another first round pick as a bare minimum.

And Exhibit B? Sens GM Pierre Dorion was instructed not to trade Mike Hoffman within the Atlantic Division earlier this summer. Imagine the rules he was given when it came to arguably the best defensemen in the league.

So to criticize Hextall on not acquiring Karlsson isn’t fair; he was never in the game to begin with. And we’ll probably never know if he tried to work himself inside of it.

Hextall & Hakstol Grade: A-

With a lot of these moves, it’s tough to tell what was Hextall and what was Hakstol. For now, I’ll keep them lumped together and say they’re doing a good job by giving the kids plenty of chances. The lack of a Karlsson trade goes under the “N/A” category.

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