Even if the NHL’s regular season hadn’t been paused -- and later declared finished -- on March 12, Flyers rookie defenseman Phil Myers wouldn’t have played until the playoffs.
A fractured right kneecap, suffered when he blocked a shot taken by Buffalo’s Jack Eichel on March 7, took Myers out of the lineup. But the Flyers played only one more game before the coronavirus stopped the season.
At the time, little did anyone know that the games probably wouldn’t resume until about five months later -- that is, if they are played, probably starting in early August.
So the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Myers, who was expected to miss a month, is now healthy and ready to return if/when the Flyers play in a round-robin tournament against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington.
Myers, who drove 13 hours from the Canadian maritime province of New Brunswick to South Jersey to attend the volunteer workouts, began skating in small-group sessions with his teammates Monday and continued Wednesday.
“I’ve been rehabbing it while I was home and I’ve been working hard and working out,” he said after Wednesday’s workout at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “I just have to get back to skating now. I hadn’t skated much at home, so it’s good to be back in a routine. I never needed surgery, so it was a smooth recovery and it’s coming along good.”
Myers, 23, progressed nicely this season. In 50 games, he had four goals, 16 points, and a plus-17 rating -- tied for second among NHL rookies and second on the Flyers, behind Sean Couturier (plus 21).
“I thought it went well for the most part,” Myers said. “Obviously I had some ups and downs at the start, but after Christmas, I thought I was playing some consistent hockey and I earned some of the coaches’ trust. Overall, I’m pretty happy how the first season went, but there’s still lots of work left to do. I’m just going to keep working hard, stay humble, and go from there.”
Myers called it a “privilege” to be back at the Flyers’ practice facility. Ten players have been working out there, and their other teammates are skating near their homes in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
More players filter into the area each day as the NHL inches closer to July 10, the date training camps will start if the league and the players’ association agree on safety and healthy issues.
When/if play resumes, Myers figures to be on the second pairing with Travis Sanheim. The other projected pairings: Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, and Justin Braun and Robert Hagg. Barring an injury, Shayne Gostisbehere will probably be the extra defender.
Like Sanheim earlier in his career, Myers went through an adjustment period in the season’s first few months, then found his niche as he gained confidence.
Myers said the speed is a lot different in the NHL than it was when he played with the AHL’s Phantoms.
“For me, I just tried to do my job and not try to do too much,” he said. “That’s why I had a pretty good season. When I was keeping it simple, that’s when I was playing my best hockey, so I’m just going to keep doing that and hopefully things will go well for me.”
With Myers and Sanheim contributing a combined eight points and a plus-9 rating, the Flyers won nine straight shortly before the season was paused, helping the team allow just 1.89 goals per game during that span.