Hextall Comments on Current Flyers: ‘I’m Happy for Those Guys’
As the Flyers were starting to pick up steam and hit a hot streak right as the season reached the stretch run, there was no question things were immensely different from the previous year. This was not a team just trying to break through the bubble and make the playoffs. This was a team in position to get in comfortably and challenge for a division title.
A lot of that has been credited to current GM Chuck Fletcher. His offseason decisions to bring in Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have proven to be quality additions. His decision from the previous season to give young prospects like Carter Hart and Nicolas Aube-Kubel auditions and continue it this season with Joel Farabee and Connor Bunnaman have helped to solidify the Flyers depth and fill positional needs, notably in goal.
That said, you can’t forget about the guy who helped the Flyers obtain all of those young players.
Ron Hextall was fired as Flyers GM over a year ago in late November of 2018 and yet his fingerprints remain all over this roster. From emerging stars like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, some of Hextall’s earliest first-round picks to the overall growth that others have showed from first-round picks like Travis Sanheim, to mid-round picks like Aube-Kubel, Bunnaman and Oskar Lindblom to undrafted free agents like Phil Myers.
In total, 15 prospects drafted by Hextall have played at the NHL level this season, even if only for a game or two. In an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark, Hextall expressed his feelings for the current team and the young players experiencing some success.
“I’m happy for the young players. I’m happy for [Claude] Giroux and [Jake] Voracek and [Sean Couturier],” Hextall said. “They’re now surrounded by the young players that we talked about for years. I’m happy for those guys.”
Hextall was always about patience when it came to his process. There were many young players in the system and some would emerge faster than others. The Flyers had an especially young team at the start of last season that still relied on the veterans to power the offense when things were moving slowly in development.
“I think last year, at the start of the year, we weren’t getting the production and the performance out of some of the kids that we thought we would get and we probably should have got,” Hextall said. “They got better as the year went on, but they really popped this year.
“It takes time with young players. It just does. To see a kid like Konecny really popping now. People forget how good Ivan was in his first two years. For a 19 and 20-year-old, I was looking going ‘oh my God, I knew he was good, but this is incredible.’ He stumbled a little bit the third year last year and he seems to be right back to where he was. They’ve got a good group there and I’m happy for all those kids. Does it sting a little? Yeah, of course it does.”
Hextall also specifically mentioned Lindblom, who was on his way to a career season with 11 goals and 18 points in just 30 games to start the season. That’s when everything got cut short. Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and his season was over. Instead, he was in a battle for his life.
Hextall was among the many in the hockey world offering support for the Flyers 23-year-old budding star.
“I can’t go on without mentioning Oskar,” Hextall said. “He’s a terrific young player and as good a player as he is -- I know it’s cliche -- but he’s a better human being and I’m glad to hear things are going well for him. When you start adding these kids to the mix of Jake and G and those guys, it’s a pretty good formula for success.”
With all of that in mind, the various players that have now started to establish their roles with the Flyers and achieve the success and potential that Hextall saw on various draft days, what will his feelings be if a team that he largely constructed all those years ago goes on to win the Stanley Cup?
“Probably mixed,” Hextall said. “I’ll be happy on one hand and I will say this, the people of Philadelphia: they’re great fans. They’re passionate and probably the first thing you think is that they deserve it. They waited a long time. They’ve had a lot of really good teams just not be able to get over the finish line. That market deserves a Stanley Cup. I hope they do and, obviously, from my perspective, I’ll have mixed emotions.”
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