By Mary Cunningham
While most of the questions this Flyers preseason revolve around whether or not new coach Dave Hakstol can make the transition from college to the NHL, there are also some other issues:
Brayden Schenn (above) has played all three forward spots in his four-year Flyer career.
He had an NHL career-best 20 goals in 2013-14 and last season had 18 goals and 47 points, a personal best. But three times in the past two seasons he’s gone at least six straight games without a point, and 11 times he’s gone at least six straight games without a goal, including a 15-game slump last season.
Schenn found his most success at right wing on a line with center Sean Couturier and left wing Matt Read late last season; in eight games together, Schenn had four goals and four assists.
However, there’s no guarantee that line will be reunited this season.
“He might have played his best hockey on the right side,” GM Ron Hextall said. “Dave’s aware of that, Brayden’s aware of it, [but] I don’t know if you can take an eight- or 10-game segment and say he’s a right winger because he played a good eight or 10 games there. … I’m not going to stake Brayden’s future on eight games, but it certainly looked like that was a possibility.”
Schenn, unsigned beyond this season, said all he’s worrying about is getting off to a solid start.
“Just looking forward to a big year and trying to get better each year,” he said.
Goalie Steve Mason won 18 games last season, but some of that can be blamed on the defense in front of him; 14 times he allowed two goals or fewer and lost, and he also had overtime losses in two of his three shutouts. He also missed time with injuries to his right knee but said after a long summer that he’s feeling 100 percent.
He’s also building a rapport with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, who was hired July 3.
Hextall worked with Dillabaugh when they were with the Los Angeles Kings and has no doubt the relationship will work well for both.
“Kim has a real good way of handling people,” Hextall said. “… Kim is the type of person that will feel [Mason] out and see what he likes to do, go with that, and if he can add something to it, he’ll add something. I don’t see that being a huge transition for either guy.”
The Flyers’ top five prospects are defensemen; finding room for one of them will be tough since they started training camp with eight defensemen on one-way contracts. However, most of those players were part of a group that struggled last season against speedy forwards and in transition.
Ivan Provorov (No. 7) and Travis Sanheim (No. 17), their first-round picks at the 2015 and 2014 drafts, respectively, were returned to their junior teams Wednesday. Hextall had said he isn’t a fan of the rule that allows teams to keep junior-age players for nine games; if they weren’t making the team out of camp, they were being sent back
“If they come in, they’re going to have to prove to us and the staff that they’re going to make us a better team for 82 games,” Hextall said prior to the start of camp.
Samuel Morin (2013, No. 11) was sent to the American Hockey League. Shayne Gostisbehere (2012, No. 78) remains in camp.