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American Made

Flyers add JVR, but dive deeper into USA-born pool of prospects

by @NHLFlyers

If nothing else, the 2018 NHL Draft will go down in Flyers annals as the "Year of the American." Five of the organization's selections in the draft were players from the USA (the other three were from Sweden). While this was not by design, the Flyers selections reflected the coast-to-coast growth of American youth hockey and the pre-eminence of the US National Development Team Program (USNTDP) in producing candidates for the NHL Draft.

Even so, it was not lost on Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, a Manitoba native and proud alum of the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings, that there no Canadians and only one CHL player (Everett, Washington native defenseman Wyatte Wylie of WHL's Everett Silvertips) among the Flyers' selections this year.

"For sure. U.S. hockey is growing. I think in terms of Canada, the Western League this year was really weak. That's where I take my pride from because that's where I'm from so that's the debate at the table, but it was a tough year for the West. Next year looks like a good year for the West. There's some cycles that go on, but the U.S. is doing a real good job producing players," Hextall said.

Sheepishly, the Flyers GM admitted that he took some ribbing at the Flyers Draft table over the distinct red, white and blue nature of the Flyers' Draft. 

The Flyers will have 10 prospects in NCAA collegiate hockey next season: Wade Allison (Western Michigan junior), Tanner Laczynski (Ohio State junior), Joel Farabee (Boston University freshman), Jay O'Brien (Providence College freshman), Noah Cates (Minnesota-Duluth freshman), Gavin Hain (North Dakota freshman), Brendan Warren (University of Michigan senior), Wyatt Kalynuk (Wisconsin sophomore), Jack St. Ivany (Yale University freshman) and Matej Tomek (University of Nebraska-Omaha junior). Of these players, eight are American. Allison is Canadian, while Tomek hails from Slovakia.

Cicero, NY native Farabee is a product of USNTDP, where he was teammates this past season with Hain. O'Brien, a standout for Thayer Academy in his native Massachusetts, spent a seven-game stint with the USNTDP this past season. 

"The NTDP has been everything. I'd do it a heartbeat. The players I got to play with, the coaching staff is A-plus. They're all out there giving 100 percent every day, helping you to get better. If you are an American, the NTDP is the place to play," Farabee said.

Another USNTDP graduate is left winger James van Riemsdyk. Originally selected by the Flyers with the second overall pick of the 2007 NHL, van Riemdsyk spent the first three seasons of his NHL career with Philadelphia before a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. On July 1, 2018, JVR returned to the Flyers as an unrestricted free agent when the New Jersey native signed a five-year contract. 

"JVR" is one of two Americans on the Flyers' NHL roster. The other is Florida native defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championships and an NCAA national championship at Union College before turning pro. 

Note: Sean Couturier was born in Arizona but raised in New Brunswick and has always represented Team Canada internationally.

Historically speaking, a virtual Who's Who of American hockey could be made among the names on the Flyers all-time roster. The ranks include Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe, and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Derian Hatcher, Tony Amonte and John Vanbiesbrouck. Other notables include players such as Mike Knuble, Joel Otto, Eric Weinrich, Brian Boucher and Shjon Podein as well as head coach Peter Laviolette. 

There have also been a host of Flyers-tied Lester Patrick Award winners for service to hockey in the United States, including Ed Snider, Howe, and Paul Holmgren.

On an all-time basis, 80 American-born players have played at least one game for the Flyers. Goaltender Alex Lyon, who could again see time with the NHL club in 2018-19, became the most recent to add to the ranks. After holding his own in 11 NHL games with the Flyers last season, Lyon subsequently backstopped the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Among Lyon's Phantoms teammates last season, there were numerous Americans on the roster, including fellow goaltender Anthony Stolarz, center Mike Vecchione, energy line winger Cole Bardreau, veteran team captain Colin McDonald, veteran defensemen T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill and scoring winger Greg Carey. Vecchione and Bardreau will compete for NHL spots in training camp while Stolarz will continue to work his way back from a pair of serious knee injuries. 

In the years to come, as prospects such as Farabee, O'Brien and others work their way up to the NHL, the ranks of American Flyers will only continue to expand.

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