By Kevin Fortier (@ksfortier)
In the final installment of examining the progression of the Flyers towering young defensemen we analyze the development of Canadian born Philippe Myers. He follows Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim in age and track to becoming a Flyer.
Myers is the youngest of the Flyers towering defense prospects. He turned 22 this past January. Myers grew up in Moncton, NB Canada. He played his junior hockey in the CHL on the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.
It was the Flyers good fortune that Myers suffered from nagging back and knee injuries during his draft season. Myers went under the radar resulting in him going undrafted.
In his rookie season, Myers only produced 4 assists in 46 games while going plus 10. In his draft season, he played 60 games contributing 2 goals and 6 assists and was minus 14.
He caught the eye of the Flyers though. Former GM Ron Hextall commented that they had been looking at him in the later rounds.
“He’s a guy we talked about late in the draft, but we didn’t draft him, just like everyone else,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “I guess your interest level is not peak, but we liked him.”
Myers was invited to Calgary’s development camp that summer. However, he was not invited to return to Calgary in the fall. The Flyers coaches and management were still watching him though and his performance earned him an invitation to the Flyers rookie camp in the fall. There he continued to impress the Flyers brass and earned himself an entry-level contract with the Flyers.
Returning to the CHL, with an entry-level contract in hand, Myers stepped up his play in a significant way. Going from 8 points and -14 in his 18-year-old season Myers turned in a dominant season with 17 goals, 45 points and a QMJHL best +52 rating.
Myers was paired with Jeremy Lauzon on defense and the tandem were the most dominant pairing in the league that season. Lauzon posted 50 points and a +40 rating. They were rated the best defense pairing in the QMJHL.
Myers was named a QMJHL first-team all-star for his dominant season.
Additionally, Myers helped lead the Huskies to winning the QMJHL championship and into the Memorial Cup tournament that post season. He injured his knee against London in the 5th game and missed the rest of the tournament. That injury also caused him to miss the Flyers development camp that summer.
Myers arrived at training camp in the fall healthy and he stood out from the first day. He looked completely comfortable in the Flyers uniform on the blueline. He was very good in drills and in pre-season games. His strong play was rewarded as he was kept in camp until the very end and was the last player returned to juniors.
Myers caught the eyes of the coaches and management of Team Canada for the upcoming WJC U20 tournament. He was invited to camp and not surprisingly made the team. He was playing on the top defensive pairing as the tournament kicked off and looked very good doing so. He had 3 assists in 4 games for Canada and was recognized as one of their stand out players.
He had several impressive plays. Canada played Russia in the preliminary round and in the 1st period Myers carried the puck up ice from the defensive zone, found a streaking Tyson Jost with a crisp cross-ice pass which Jost fired past the Russian goalie making it 1-0 Team Canada.
(Myers play at the 55 second mark of video in above link to game highlights)
Myers continued his strong play in the tournament until a savage hit to the head by Luke Kunin gave him a concussion and sent him home missing the remaining games.
It was Myers’s 2nd concussion of the 2016/17 season and caused him to miss several QMJHL games. He only played 34 games that season, but still managed to score at a point per game rate with 35 points 10G 25A and was a + 21. Myers also played in 13 playoff games scoring 3G and 9 points.
When he arrived at camp that fall, he did not stand out as he did the previous fall and was sent to the Phantoms fairly early. He then suffered several minor injuries that stalled his growth. It was not until Travis Sanheim was sent down from the Flyers and was paired with Myers that Myers’s level of play improved.
Myers shows off his skating with end to end rush up ice.
Oh man this Phil Myers end-to-end rush. Doesn't lead to a shot but it was great nonetheless. pic.twitter.com/nhgxRVDnrU
— Brad Keffer (@brad_keffer) December 31, 2017
Myers continued to suffer nagging injuries as the season went on and missed most of December. He managed to mostly stay in the lineup from January on and his level of play continued to improve.
The Phantoms made the playoffs and Myers went in on a strong footing. He played very well in the first two rounds of the playoffs including setting the AHL record for TOI in a single game in the 5 OT game against Charlotte playing an astounding 66 minutes.
Myers contributed 3 goals and 7 points in the 13 AHL playoff games that postseason. More importantly, he had found his game and continued to improve and was healthy going into development and training camp.
Unfortunately, Myers again seemed a little unsure of himself that fall and did not stand out as much as expected. He was returned to Lehigh Valley where he picked up his solid play from the previous season and playoffs. He put up 9 points in the first 12 games of the season and continued to stand out as the Phantoms best blueliner as the season progressed.
His play was garnering attention with the Flyers management and on February 9th he was called up to join the Flyers. He had played in all 48 Phantoms games to date amassing 9G 20A 29 points and a plus +5 rating. His 9 goals lead the Phantoms blueliners in scoring.
In total Myers has played in 98 games for the Phantoms. He contributed 14 goals, 36 assists for 50 points with a plus + 17 rating. Along with his 3 goals and 7 assists in 13 playoff games as a Phantom.
The night before his callup, Myers put on this display of skating and scored a highlight reel goal for the Phantoms.
Around the world with Phil Myers 🌎 pic.twitter.com/H3ogRR9oTs
— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) February 9, 2019
The Flyers had 7 healthy defensemen on the roster so Myers did not immediately get into the lineup. He watched and practiced getting used to the NHL, his new teammates and the Flyers systems.
Myers made his debut on February 17th in a 3-1 win against Detroit. He was paired with Shayne Gostisbehere on the backend. Flyers coach Scott Gordon was pleased with Myers’s play in the game.
“He was excellent,” Gordon said after the game. “Everybody saw tonight what we’ve been seeing for a while down at Lehigh (Valley). He certainly made a statement.”
Myers sat out the next game against Tampa, but was back in the lineup the following game against Montreal after Gudas was suspended for 2 games for a hit in the Tampa game. The Gudas suspension also gave Myers the opportunity to play in the outdoor game against Pittsburgh.
The national spotlight did not seem to faze him as he played well and was on the ice for 18:53 after playing nearly 20 minutes Thursday night against Montreal. He certainly seemed to have the confidence of the Flyers head coach Scott Gordon who had to trust Myers on ice play enough to give him so much ice time.
Gordon disputed the notion that Myers was only around to be an extra, saying, “I felt once Phil got into the lineup, he was going to show that he belonged.” Gordon continued, “He got eight minutes in his first game, I think that’s part of the process. He stepped in and his last three games he’s played really well.”
In total, Myers played in 21 NHL games he had 1 goal and 1 assist with a minus 5 rating. He seemed to try to keep his play simple and did not try to do too much on the ice. His skating was immediately noticeable as a real asset for him. He demonstrated a solid ability to use his stick to break up plays and was able to keep attacking forwards on the outside.
His positional play was mostly good. He got caught a few times, but was also able to use his speed to catch up with the play. Overall, he looked like he belonged in the NHL. He did seem to fade a bit in the last handful of games, but the management and coaches seemed pleased with his performance.
In a surprise move, in May, he was invited to the World Championships for Team Canada after they suffered some injuries on the backend. Head coach Alain Vigneault brought Myers up and he was inserted onto the 3rd pairing for the next game. Myers again kept things simple and impressed with his skating and positional play.
As the injured players returned, his ice time dropped, but he still looked solid out there and as they entered the medal rounds his TOI actually increased as he was rewarded for his strong play with more and more ice time and important shifts.
In the gold medal game, Myers played 3rd pair TOI and played crucial minutes in the loss to the Finns. Both Troy Stetcher and Dante Fabro saw diminished time in the championship game. Each played less than 8 minutes while Myers played over 14. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault showed confidence in his rookie defenseman having him on the ice late in the game.
Myers was surprised he got the call to join the team and was very happy about the opportunity to play at that level.
“”I hadn’t really trained or skated in a month,’’ Myers said from his home in Moncton, New Brunswick. “I had no idea. I was as surprised as anybody. I had to think about it.”
“[Hextall] said, `We really need you up here’ and I was sold after that. It was nice to meet Alain and start our relationship up there. And it was also nice to meet some of the guys from around the league. A real positive experience for me.’’
Now his focus is on making the Flyers out of training camp and not looking back.
“Obviously I have a lot more confidence now,’’ he said. “I’m bigger. Stronger. I learned a lot over the last couple of years. Nothing’s given. Everything is earned. I want to have a bigger role next year. And to do that, I’ve got to show up ready to play at camp.’’
GM Chuck Fletcher has indicated he expects Myers to be on the 3rd pair with the season begins. Who he will be paired with is still an open question?
“Going forward, we feel we have an in-house player in Philippe Myers that can come in and take on some of that role. He’s only played  games in the NHL, so there could be an adjustment period, but having the ability to maybe slot Philippe into that third slot on the right side, we feel is a real proper place for him to potentially start his NHL career.” Fletcher said.
Myers played some with Shayne Gostisbehere after being called up. Many have speculated that the pairing could be the Flyers 3rd pair coming out of training camp. Fletcher went out and got two veteran right shooting defensemen via trades. Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. This gives the Flyers defense corps right/left balance on all pairs if they choose that format.
The defense pairings could easily be Provorov/Niskanen, Sanheim/Braun and Gostisbehere/Myers. Of course, this all depends on how each performs in camp. Both Provorov and Gostisbehere had down seasons and are expected to bounce back.
If Ghost resembles his old form, him playing on the 3rd pair could be leap too far given his previous 60+ point season. Braun is also the stay at home defenseman that could compliment Ghost’s more aggressive style on the 2nd pair.
However, Travis Sanheim had a very good season and especially performed well in the second half of the season. Putting him on the 3rd with Myers could also be a difficult decision for Flyers management.
Going into training camp with 6 solid defensemen, and struggling to decide what the pairs will be, reflects positively on the Flyers acquisition and development of young players
Regardless, Phil Myers has earned the confidence of the Flyers and expects to be on the roster when the season opens. His progression followed closely Travis Sanheim and most likely would have been the same with Sam Morin had he not suffered injuries at the beginning of the 2017/2018 season.
Myers will become a restricted free agent after the upcoming season and will be playing for his first official NHL contract. He and the Flyers expect big things from him this upcoming season.
(Feature photo courtesy of Philly.com)