Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr was in Saskatchewan the other day. Or wait, was it Sioux Falls? No, no. It was Minnesota. Definitely Minnesota.
“I’m watching high school and USHL hockey,” he said. “I have to see these guys while they are still playing.”
The coronavirus shutdown has crippled major sports leagues throughout North America, but it has killed a lot of the minor ones. A part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had to shut down. The Ontario Hockey League, where Flyers first-round pick Tyson Foerster plays for Barrie, is hoping to start in December. The Western Hockey League is looking at January.
ESPN reported last week that the AHL is hoping to start Dec. 4, which sounds optimistic.
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Elliot Desnoyers, an 18-year-old team leader
While the rest of us were wondering how Penn State and the Dodgers managed to epically cough up their games Saturday, Flyers prospect Elliot Desnoyers was having a magical evening in one of the few leagues that are rolling.
There’s not a lot of hockey happening on this side of the Atlantic, but Desnoyers put up four goals in Halifax’s 10-2 win over Cape Breton in a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League contest. He had two assists the night before and was the QMJHL player of the week.
Two of his goals were set up by sweetheart passes from 16-year-old linemate Jordan Dumais. Desnoyers figures he was 12 years old in Bantam the last time he had four in a game.
Desnoyers is tied for third in the Quebec league with six goals in eight games. He had 11 in 61 contests for Moncton last season. As much as he’s flourishing early, he’s just as thankful to be out there at all. At 18, he is ready to get going on his professional career.
“We’re lucky to be back on the ice and to be playing,” Desnoyers said. “I know not everywhere has the same chance. It’s a privilege, and we’ve got to keep being responsible with it. At any time, there can be a [COVID-19] case on a team and things could fall apart.
“The leaders were asked at the beginning of the year whenever we see someone not wearing his mask properly to just tell him,” Desnoyers said. “I think we’re pretty good with it. We understand we don’t have a choice with it, because we still want to play. This is the sacrifice we have to make.”
The Flyers traded up to get Desnoyers (pronounced dan-OY-yay) in the fifth round after his coach last season, John Torchetti, put a little bug in Flahr’s ear.
“He was a younger player in a lesser role," said Flahr. "Early on in the season when he didn’t have much of a role, [Torchetti] said, ‘Watch this kid. He’s really detailed. He’s going to get stronger. There’s lots to [like about] his game.’”
“This year in Halifax, he’s on the big line. Plays in all situations and is getting rewarded with some points. That’s good. But at the same time, his game is a 200-foot game. He’s in a good spot.”
Desnoyers seems mature for his age, sharing some refreshing things after the Flyers took him with the 135th pick overall.
One, he’s a big fan of the Rocky movies and thus was pleased to end up being selected by Philadelphia. Two, he knew he had to improve his skating. Three, he was comfortable being a team player.
“I’m the kind of guy that’s not going to be the most flashy and on the first line,” said Desnoyers (5-foot-11, 172 pounds). “I’ll help everywhere else.”
So maybe he’s a Scott Laughton type. In addition to his four goals the other night, Desnoyers won 16 of 30 face-offs.
“He is going to project out to a guy who can kill penalties, bring energy,” Flahr said. “He’s got some greasiness to him. He’s around the net, and he’s going to get his chances, too.”
Desnoyers is playing at Halifax under coach J.J. Daigneault, the former Flyers defenseman who scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Final. It’s arguably the franchise’s biggest goal since it last won the Stanley Cup in 1975.
“We’ve discussed it a little bit.” Desnoyers said. “He told me [Philadelphia] was such a great organization, and that he still knew some people there. I’m sure it’s a goal he’ll remember the rest of his life. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to do the same thing for the Flyers.”
J.J. Daigneault on YouTube: ‘Whenever Gretzky came on the ice, I had to come off.’
Gettin’ Eggy with it
One of the Flyers youngsters who could really use some seasoning in the AHL is defenseman Egor Zamula.
Zamula, a 6-3, 177-pounder, was a surprise inclusion on the Flyers postseason roster. At 20, he was only there in case of emergency, but Flahr said that the experience was good for his development.
“He still has some work to do off the ice to get stronger,” Flahr said. "He’s already a good skater. He already plays the game with a lot of poise and maturity. Just getting him stronger [is the next step].
“Realistically, if he can play games this year, great. But at the same time, I think we need to get him to the American League and get him some pro experience against bigger, stronger guys and see how it goes. It’s going to be a little bit of a process getting some weight on him and getting him stronger.”
From the mailbag
Question: What is the outlook for Morgan Frost this upcoming season? — @andre9elton via Twitter
Answer: Given the flat cap and the departure of veteran centers Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, there is an opening-day roster spot to be won for Frost and others. He’ll be 22 in May, and the Flyers 3C is up for grabs.
Frost obviously needed to add some strength after playing 20 games last season, some in which he was just overwhelmed. Hard not to feel bad for all the guys whose developments have been stunted by the interruption in play, but everybody’s in the same position. Thanks for the question.