There’s no question the Flyers have acquired some promising talent through the NHL Entry Draft over the past few years.
The problem is, a number of these young players have been unable to stay healthy.
To be fair to general manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant GM Brent Flahr and the team’s scouting staff, the trouble actually began during the last couple years of former GM Ron Hextall’s regime.
One player after another seems to have been hampered by injuries – some mishaps, like blocking a shot, are unavoidable. Others, however, could be classified as a product of questionable training and/or treatment.
As a matter of fact, the Flyers have been dealing with injuries at an unsually high rate across the board, from players in their early 20s to ones 10 years older.
Fletcher addressed the situation the other day during his end-of-year press conference at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey.
Clearly, the Flyers’ way of doing business in the medical field has been under scrutiny for years, well before Fletcher arrived.
The questions about how the Flyers go about their medical business were fair, seeing as how the team just set a franchise record for man-games lost due to injury.
Headlining the situation was the loss of veteran players such as Ryan Ellis and Derick Brassard. Both players were dealing with significant injuries, tried to come back “too early’’ and wound up on the injury list for lengthy periods (in Ellis’ case nearly the entire season).
“I am going to sit down with our doctors, strength staff, and strength and conditioning coach in the next couple weeks,’’ Fletcher said. “Just a lot of questions: what we do well, not doing well, is there something we need to do more of, and things we can do from an injury prevention standpoint. We are going to look at our entire structure in terms of our medical side, analytics, amateur scouting, pro-scouting. We are certainly going to look into ways we can invest and improve that entire area. Questions have already been asked. We will get together and dig down. See what is preventable, what is bad luck and where do we need to add.’’
If it’s just bad luck, the Flyers have had more than their fair share.
Notice Fletcher mentioned amateur scouting. Could it be the Flyers need to dig a little deeper when selecting young talent, making sure there are no red flags on a kid’s resume?
Fletcher said he recently already made upgrades in his development department. These are the guys that help to select and build the team’s youth. The changes might have been overdue.
As writer Lance Green of Flyers Nitty Gritty pointed out in an article early this past season, the Flyers really haven’t drafted a franchise-type star player that has panned out since Claude Giroux back in 2006.
The list of injuries to young players practically extends from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to the Flyers Training Center.
Start with 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, who struggled through two uneventful seasons before a head injury knocked him out for an entire season. Eventually he was traded away.
Other notables: Morgan Frost (shoulder surgery, missed nearly an entire season), Tanner Laczynski (hip), Tyson Foerster (shoulder), Zayde Wisdom (shoulder) and Wade Allison (an assortment of injured parts).
It’s great that prospects such as Cam York, Noah Cates, Ronnie Attard and Bobby Brink made good first impressions once the Flyers were out of the playoffs.
But the key for the 2022-23 season is to keep these players healthy and on the ice for an entire 82-game slate. Whether the Flyers can break from a undesirable tradition remains to be seen.
>Kapanen back in the fold
Sami Kapanen was always known as a smart, shrewd player during his stay with the Flyers in the early 2000s.
Now he’s bringing some of that expertise back to his former team as a new European scout and contributor to player development.
Kapanen finished his playing career in Europe, then got into different roles as a player-agent, broadcaster, coach and general manager. The Flyers are looking to tap into the knowledge the Finn has accrued along the way.
“I have learned a lot over the years,’’ Kapanen said during a Friday media Zoom call. “Whatever I’ve done as a player, a coach should help me in player development. I’m real excited about that. I feel I have a lot to give for the young players.’’
One project Kapanen will be working on is the development of forward Samu Tuomaala (second-round pick, 46th overall, 2021 draft), who has struggled in the Finnish League ranks.
“He’s a talented player,’’ Kapanen said of the right wing. “The ceiling is high but at the same time there’s a lot of work to do, no matter how talented you are at (age) 18, 19. He had a rough year. There’s no doubt about it. As an offensive player, he had a tough time putting up the numbers that the team was expecting. That’s something we will focus on – getting the confidence back. I think the main thing is getting better in the conditioning, being stronger to take the steps to playing in the NHL.’’