Good morning, folks. After you watched the Eagles’ latest debacle, there’s a good chance you are ready for some hockey, ready to see if the Flyers will grow into Stanley Cup contenders.
Patience is required.
We still don’t have a starting date for the NHL season — the coronavirus and labor issues have caused a delay — but many Flyers are rounding into shape and hoping training camp is around the proverbial corner.
Count Nic Aube-Kubel among those players. Aube-Kubel wants to build on a solid rookie season, which is one of the reasons the Flyers right winger has been working out in Voorhees for the last six weeks.
The list of players skating and lifting weights at the Flyers’ training facility is small but growing: Aube-Kubel, Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Carsen Twarynski, and Tanner Laczynski.
Other Flyers are staying with their families and working out at home until the league makes definitive plans on when training camps will start.
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Aube-Kubel and a handful of his teammates are skating and doing on-ice drills three days a week and hitting the weight room Monday through Friday. He said most of Montreal, his home city, has been shut down, so it’s easier and more productive for him to work out in Voorhees while living with his girlfriend in the Old City section of Philadelphia.
“In my head, I was thinking the season would start in early January, so that’s what I’m trying to get ready for,” Aube-Kubel said after a workout Monday. “If it keeps getting pushed out, I’ll keep getting ready for February or whenever the season starts.”
The pandemic aside, it has been an eventful year for the 24-year-old Aube-Kubel.
Recalled from the AHL’s Phantoms last December, he collected seven goals and 15 points in 36 games with the Flyers and was one of the team’s better forecheckers. He played with an edge and made life difficult for opponents with his physical play. He led the Flyers in hits (82) over the last 36 games, and he also led them in that department in the postseason (52).
“He figured out what it would take to play at this level,” said coach Alain Vigneault, one of Aube-Kubel’s biggest supporters.
After the season, Aube-Kubel avoided becoming a restricted free agent. In September, he signed a two-year contract extension that carries an annual $1.075 million cap hit.
He’s eager to keep showing he belongs in the NHL and “be stronger in my role.”
“It’s been a long offseason, and I’m excited to get going,” he said. “That’s why I came in earlier — to get ready for the season. It’s going to be exciting, and I can’t wait. I hope we get to play in front of fans and there aren’t any bubbles.”
The NHL is still working out details. It would like to play in teams’ arenas, but the coronavirus surge might make bubbles safer.
Wherever and whenever they play, Aube-Kubel thinks the Flyers have the potential to be better than last season, when they finished 41-21-7 and in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
“A lot of guys are coming back from injuries, so I think we’ll have a real competitive team, especially with our coaching staff,” he said. “Oskar [Lindblom] didn’t play much last year, and Nolan Patrick didn’t play. You add those two guys back to the lineup, and it’s going to be huge.”
The Flyers will miss retired defenseman Matt Niskanen. Overcoming his retirement might be their biggest challenge.
“I think we have a lot of young defensemen that can step up their game,” Aube-Kubel said.
Aube-Kubel says he will adapt to whatever the league decides, but acknowledged that being sequestered in a hotel for the playoffs and round-robin tournament was a “little depressing. I’d rather be home and with friends.”
He wasn’t complaining. He just wants to play hockey again, wants to get the season started as soon as possible.
Just like you.
Things to know
Flyers prospects Cam York and Bobby Brink have a shot to make the United States’ World Junior team.
With the coronavirus raging, the NHL should play a 48-game season in hub cities. My column.
Flyers loan versatile winger Michael Raffl to an Austrian pro team. Ed Barkowitz has the story.
With his mom sometimes working three jobs simultaneously to help him pursue his hockey dream, physical right winger Zayde Wisdom made a remarkable journey to become a Flyers prospect.
Season of giving
Flyers Charities announced Monday that it will award a $25,000 grant to a local nonprofit organization working to support patients and families battling cancer.
“This grant will help us continue in our efforts to improve the lives of patients and families living with the effects of cancer,” said Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for Comcast Spectacor. “We look forward to honoring the work of our selected organization as we build a long-lasting and impactful partnership.”
Interested organizations should visit FlyersCharities.com for rules and to submit applications.
From the mailbag
Question: The NBA is starting up very soon. How come the NHL isn’t? Is (Gary) Bettman the problem again? — Mikey Eichner (@MikeyEichner) via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Mikey. The NHL is being very deliberate because it doesn’t want to make a decision and then have to reverse course. One of the biggest decisions is whether to play at home arenas (like the NBA plans to do) or use a “bubble” for each division. With the coronavirus intensifying, the league might go to a bubble, which has not been its first choice.
In addition, the league and players’ association can’t agree on labor issues, which is also delaying a decision on when to start the season and how many games will be played.
Messy, messy, messy.
Question: What are the expectations for Nolan Patrick? Where does he fit in on the roster? What type of production is expected/realistic? — BJ Barretta (@bjbarretta) via Twitter
Answer: Appreciate the question, BJ. GM Chuck Fletcher says Patrick will play this season. How much? No one knows yet. Patrick, the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2017, has been working out near his home in Winnipeg and supposedly has been doing well in on-ice scrimmages. More will be known when Patrick arrives for training camp, which will start about two weeks before the season.
If 100% healthy, Patrick would be the No. 3 center, behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes. As for realistic production, Patrick is in a good spot — again, assuming he has fully recovered from a migraine disorder — because he will get more favorable matchups than he did two years ago, when he centered the second line. A 20-goal season is realistic.
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