OTTAWA, Ontario - Rookie Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is learning the league, learning how to use his lines and timeouts most effectively, and learning that his college-honed system doesn't translate into wins - at least not yet - in the NHL.

But in a way, his maturation as an NHL coach was expedited when the Flyers promoted defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and left winger Taylor Leier from the AHL's Phantoms eight days ago.

Hakstol's strength is the way he has developed young players. You could see it in his success at North Dakota, which had seven Frozen Four appearances in his 11 seasons as its head coach. You could see it in the numerous college players he developed who turned into pros.

Hakstol wasn't brought here to get the most out of guys like Nick Schultz, Mark Streit, Evgeny Medvedev, R.J. Umberger, or Vinny Lecavalier - 30-somethings who are in the latter stages of their careers.

He was brought here to mold young players like Gostisbehere and Leier, who were recalled only because Streit went on the long-term injured list, opening some cap space for the two speedy prospects.

He also was brought here to mold players like Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Konecny, all of whom are inching closer to the big-league team.

Keep an eye on the development of Gostisbehere and Leier - and young players like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Scott Laughton - because it should be a clue as to the success Hakstol will have while working with the other prospects.

Hakstol, a demanding no-nonsense type who is much more serious with his players than his predecessor, Craig Berube, said he has tried not to change his personality from his successful college-coaching days.

"I don't know if there's any drastic difference in my approach here versus there," he said.

The biggest change is that a college coach is more of a teacher because he has more time to work with his players - four weekday practices followed by two weekend games. A pro coach has a much more crowded game schedule, and he has to be a motivator and an X's and O's expert, someone who can find the right system to fit his talent.

The Flyers have yet to develop an identity under Hakstol, primarily because cap problems have prevented general manager Ron Hextall from supplying the type of fast players that his coach craves.

Slowly, the speed is improving. Gostisbehere and Leier are two pieces. Winger Konecny will probably be here next year, and swift defensemen Sanheim and Provorov may not be too far behind.

Hakstol became just the third coach to ever go directly from the NCAA to his first NHL head-coaching job. The biggest adjustment he's had to make?

"That's a hard question for me to answer," he said. "There are a lot of differences - travel, schedule, media - but for me, everything's been a little bit new. I just try to kind of make sure I stay within myself and stay within my philosophies, yet make sure I'm adjusting to what needs to happen here and how I need to conduct my days to be effective here. It's a different routine, different players in terms of the level of the players. Those are all good things. Challenges, but great opportunities."

Hakstol's system is similar to Craig Berube's, with some tweaks in the neutral zone.

Center Sean Couturier, in his fifth season with the Flyers, has already played under three coaches: Peter Laviolette, Berube, and Hakstol.

"Lavy was all offense - we all know that. Chief was more of a defensive guy who wanted to take care of your own end," Couturier said, referring to Berube by his nickname. "I think Hak is kind of similar. He takes pride in defense. He wants us to pay attention to details, which make a difference in the long run. He focuses a lot on small things - good position, a good stick, a smart forecheck - and it makes a difference in the game."

Couturier said Hakstol is "fair with everyone and guys respect that. They know if you want to play, you have to play the game the right way and respect the game."

Under Hakstol, the Flyers have gotten off to a lackluster start. Their scoring is at the bottom of the league, and their special-teams play has been weak.

All of which shows it wasn't Berube's fault last year. The problem was created by a bad cap situation - preventing skilled scorers from being added - that was mostly the doing of former GM Paul Holmgren. Hextall is slowly digging out of it.

Only then will it be fair to judge the coach trying to make the gargantuan leap from the college ranks.

scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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