Friday, March 22, 2013

Zapp Flanagan 3/22

The Adirondack Phantoms practiced at Glens Falls Civic Center for the first time in a week Friday morning, and they had a couple of new faces with them. St. Lawrence product Kyle Flanagan took part in his first pro practice, while Derek Mathers saw the Civic Center ice for the first time this year.

Flanagan is Philadelphia's newest prospect, having signed a one-year NHL deal with the Flyers earlier this week, while Mathers was the club's seventh-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. This is actually his second tour of duty with the Phantoms, as he played nine AHL games at the end of last season. I had the chance to catch up with both of them at practice today, and I have some notes below.

FLANAGAN
  • This wasn't Flanagan's first visit to the Capital District, and you can read more about that in the print story that is in tomorrow's paper. One of his best friends lives in Saratoga, and Flanagan would drive down from his hometown, Canton, to go to concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center -- specifically, a country festival featuring Eric Church a couple of years ago. He's also fairly certain he had played some youth hockey games in the Glens Falls-area, but couldn't say that with any certainty. So Flanagan is not really a guy that you would ask for directions, but he's at least a little bit familiar with his new surroundings.
  • Flanagan said he never had a chance to turn professional before his senior season, but said that was just "one of those things that just kind of fuels the fire and keeps you driving." He seemed like an ultra-competitive guy, which should make him an interesting player to watch.
  • Here's how he described himself, for those that have not seen him before: “If I don’t have the puck, I go and get it. I don’t like to wait for it and I don’t care if it’s someone who’s bigger than me or stronger than me or taller. That’s why I like the way Philly plays. They have their hard-nosed style of hockey and everyone knows that. For me, I’m a skilled guy, but at the same time hard work can’t replace skill.”
  • Flanagan was named one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey after posting 15-32-47 in his senior season. He found out when his coach called him as he was driving down to Glens Falls on Thursday night. Not only did he go to school with one of the other finalists, Greg Carey, but they were line mates for three seasons. Flanagan said Carey was planning to stick around another year at college, for what that is worth.
  • He said he treated the four or five professional contract offers he received after his senior season much like he treated selecting a college. Ultimately, Philadelphia's front office said all the right things. “I just got excited about going to St. Lawrence and when I thought about going to school there, more than other schools. That’s how I thought about going to Philly. I got excited when I thought about it.” I think that's a pretty significant thing for him to say, since he was playing in his hometown at St. Lawrence, and played with his brother for two years.
  • Flanagan is a bit undersized at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and acknowledged that's probably the first thing people are going to see when they look at him. That's fine, he said, because he likes proving people wrong. That quote about his style of play says a lot about his approach to the game, but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the professional game.
MATHERS
  • Mathers, a 6-foot-3 giant for his 19-year-old age, projects as Philadelphia's enforcer of the future. He played 64 OHL junior games between his nine-game stint with Adirondack last year and Tuesday, when he joined the Phantoms again. It was a bit of a tumultuous season for Peterborough, they started 8-23-0-4 before firing coach Mike Pelino. They traded some of their top-end prospects like Slater Koekkoek and Francis Menard. Mathers took over the captaincy later in the season. His thoughts on the season as a whole: "It's definitely improved my game. Hopefully I can contribute a little more than just the fighting part of the game this year." 
  • His reputation as a pugilist proceeds him a little bit, and that's part of the reason why Philadelphia drafted him. But he believes the powers that be are trying to take fighting out of the game at the NHL level -- the OHL has a new rule where you get suspended if you pick up too many fighting majors -- so he's trying to add some other aspects to his game. He upped his point production to 29 this year after recording 17 last season, but part of that can be attributed to him having another year of juniors under his belt. He also knows that his physical play is probably his ticket to a NHL job. "(The Flyers) definitely like that part. Every time I talk to them, they say they wanted me to play like (Zac) Rinaldo -- that gritty game and put some points up here or there too. We'll see what happens."
  •  He said the nine games he played last season helped ease the transition this time around.
In other news, Brian Boucher missed Friday's practice with soreness and is probably out this weekend, Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. Cal Heeter, up from Trenton, and Scott Munroe will handle the goaltending duties when the Phantoms visit Connecticut and host Portland.

I had the chance to speak to Jason Akeson and Erik Gustafsson, who are both within two points of the Adirondack Phantoms' all-time scoring record. Look for that blog post tomorrow before the game.

The lines, as Tweeted earlier:

McGinn-Roe-Akeson
Sim-Noebels-Flanagan
Mathers-Bordson-Wellwood
Brown-Wahl-Laliberte
FitzGerald-Slater-Mangene

Manning-Gustafsson
Konan-Lilja
Lauridsen-Syvret
Eddy-Dimmen

Brandon Manning, who missed the Norfolk games with a minor injury, could play Saturday, Murray said, but he will make a decision tomorrow at morning skate. If Manning can't go, expect Cullen Eddy or Jeff Dimmen to play. My guess would be Eddy, but Murray could always surprise us.

Until next time,
MC

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