The Philadelphia Flyers have made several changes to their hockey operations staff, the team announced on Monday. General manager Chuck Fletcher hinted at these changes a few weeks ago, and now we finally know what they are.
“Yeah, we’ve made a lot of personnel moves that we’ll announce in short order. We’ve spent two months doing this stuff, so we will have a lot of changes to announce here in the new in the near future,” Fletcher said last month. “We’ve worked pretty hard to that. I think we’re in pretty good position going forward.”
Ian Laperriere being hired as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach was the first of many changes to the staff. There are changes up and down the organization, including a Senior Advisor to the General Manager, a few scouts, and both NHL & AHL coaches.
Here are the additions and promotions to the Flyers’ hockey operations staff, via the team.
Flyers Front Office & Scouting
The Flyers made a handful of changes to their front office and scouting staff.
Mike O’Connell – Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Player Development
O’Connell joins the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings where he was a Pro Scout, Player Development Consultant, and Senior Advisor to the General Manager for the past 15 years (2006-21). He has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup for his role in helping build the roster for the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup Championships.
Prior to joining the Kings, O’Connell was the Vice President and General Manager of the Boston Bruins from 2000-06, where he built a team that won two Division titles and posted a record of 179-130-78-39 (ties).
He posted a career-high 60 points (18g-42a) in 1983-84 when he was named to the NHL All-Star Game with the Bruins, which was also a part of four seasons in which he posted 50 or more points. He continues to hold the Bruins record for the longest goal streak by a defenseman with seven games.
O’Connell is also a veteran of 82 Stanley Cup Playoff games where he has recorded 32 points (8g-24a).
Nick Beverley – Pro Scout
Beverley joins the Flyers staff after spending the last 16 years as a scout for the Nashville Predators since July of 2005.
Prior to joining the Predators, he served as the assistant general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks from 2000-01 to 2002-03. He also spent time in the front office of the Toronto Maple Leafs in several roles from 1994-2000 such as director of pro scouting, director of player personnel, and as interim head coach during the 1995-96 season (9-6-2).
Following his retirement as a player in 1980, he served the Kings organization in several roles for 14 seasons from 1980-94, including the assistant coach (1981-82), head coach of their AHL affiliate, New Haven Nighthawks (1982-85), scout and director of player personnel (1985-90), assistant general manager (1990-92) and general manager of the Kings for two seasons (1992-93 to 1993-94) which included a trip to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
Beverley played 11 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL where he appeared in 502 games and recording 112 points (18g-94a) with the Boston Bruins (1966-67 to 1973-74), Pittsburgh Penguins (1973-74), New York Rangers (1974-75 to 1976-77), Minnesota North Stars (1976-77 to 1977-78), Los Angeles Kings (1978-79) and Colorado Rockies (1978-79 to 1979-80).
Joakim Grundberg – Director of European Scouting
Grundberg has spent the last eight seasons with the Flyers after he joined the scouting staff in 2013-14 as a European Scout. In his role, he will oversee the scouts and scouting process across the European Leagues.
A native of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, he spent five years as a scout for MODO Hockey in the Swedish Hockey League before joining the Flyers. He played several seasons as a forward across Swedish Hockey Leagues, including J20 SuperElit, Allsvenskan, and Division 1, 2, and 3.
Matt Bardsley – Amateur Scout
Bardsley joins the Flyers after spending the last 14 years in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks (1999 to 2018) and Kamloops Blazers (2018-21).
Most recently, Bardsley served as the general manager of the Blazers since the 2018-19 season. He built a team that won two consecutive division titles in 2020 and 2021.
During his tenure with Portland, he served various roles including scout, director of player personnel, director of hockey operations, and assistant general manager. The club captured four straight WHL conference championships from 2011-14 which included the 2013 WHL Championship.
Jacob Hurlbut – Assistant Director of Hockey Analytics
Hurlbut enters his sixth season with the Flyers, having previously worked as the Lead Developer in the Flyers Hockey Analytics department.
Prior to joining the Flyers, Hurlbut worked with St. Lawrence University’s NCAA Division-I Men’s Ice Hockey program as a Special Assistant, in addition to working as an independent hockey analytics consultant for teams in the NHL and NCAA. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2015, where he worked in an analytics role with the men’s hockey program and was part of a research fellowship that looked to develop analytical ratings of NHL players.
He will continue to report to Ian Anderson, the club’s Director of Hockey Analytics.
Flyers Strength & Conditioning Coaches
Fletcher and the rest of the Flyers brass weren’t happy with how things went last season. A part of that may have been due to how players trained in the summer, as Alain Vigneault hinted at, and the Flyers now have a revamped strength & conditioning staff.
Dan Warnke – Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Flyers
Warnke enters his third season with the Flyers after serving his previous two seasons as the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach in June 2019. Prior to joining the Flyers, he spent three seasons as the strength and conditioning coach for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and served as an assistant director of strength and conditioning at the University of Minnesota. He has worked with professionals from the NHL, NBA, MLB, and a number of professional soccer leagues and is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
DeRick O’Connell – Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach, Flyers
O’Connell has served in many leadership roles as a Regional Director of Sports Performance, Head Strength Coach, Sport Scientist, and Senior Strength Coach in collegiate, private and corporate settings. He has worked with athletes on over 35 professional teams and 60 Division 1 teams.
He was a contributing member of the Medical Advisory Board in a joint venture between Hackensack University Medical Center and the New York Giants. He was also previously the Performance Manager for Team Gomez, a professional fight team, and Director of Sports Performance at Breck School. DeRick has made multiple stops with the Strength and Conditioning Department at the University of Minnesota, spending over 5 1/2 years serving as a sports scientist and strength coach with the Men’s and Women’s Gopher Hockey programs.
Phantoms Coaching Staff
Ian Laperriere will have a few new (yet familiar) faces by his side.
Joining the Lehigh Valley Phantoms under head coach Ian Laperriere’s staff as assistant coaches are Jason Smith and Riley Armstrong. Jacob Rogers has been added to the Phantoms staff as assistant equipment manager.
Jason Smith – Assistant Coach, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Smith, 47 (11/2/1973), joins the Phantoms after he spent parts of four seasons in the Western Hockey League. He was an associate coach of the Prince George Cougars from 2019-21 and was the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets for parts of three seasons from 2016-17 to the start of the 2018-19 season.
Prior to his time in the WHL, Smith was with the Ottawa Senators organization from 2012 to 2016. He was named scouting and development consultant for Ottawa prior to the 2012-13 season and served as assistant coach of the Senators prior to the 2014-15 season.
Smith retired as a player following a 15-year NHL career in which he played over 1,000 regular-season games with the New Jersey Devils (1993-97), Toronto Maple Leafs (1997-99), Edmonton Oilers (1999-2007), Philadelphia Flyers (2007-08) and Ottawa Senators (2008-09).
He recorded 41 goals and 128 assists for 169 points in 1,008 regular-season games and appeared in 68 Stanley Cup Playoff games where he posted 11 points (1g-10a) and included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 with the Oilers.
Smith played one season with the Flyers in 2007-08, where he served as the team’s 16th captain, and helped lead them to the Eastern Conference Final. He was originally drafted in the first round (18th overall) by the New Jersey Devils in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft.
Riley Armstrong – Assistant Coach, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Armstrong, 36 (11/8/1984), joins the Phantoms staff after spending the last two seasons of play as head coach of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He was named the first head coach in Mariners team history on Feb. 17, 2018, and was promoted to assistant general manager of the team prior to the 2019-20 season. He led the Mariners to a 69-58-7 record in 134 regular-season games.
Prior to joining the Mariners, Armstrong served as an assistant coach for the Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Armstrong played 12 years of professional hockey with his first five seasons in the San Jose Sharks organization, including three with the Worcester Sharks, with whom he made several trips to Portland as a visiting player, and made his NHL debut in 2008-09 for San Jose.
Armstrong made stops in some of Europe’s top professional leagues, playing in Russia, Finland, Germany, and Sweden. He also had additional stints in the AHL and ECHL during that time before concluding his career with the ECHL’s Reading Royals. He played a total of 610 professional games, including 404 in the AHL, 75 in the ECHL, and 129 in Europe, and recorded a total of 156 goals and 180 assists for 336 points.
Jacob Rogers – Assistant Equipment Manager, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Rogers joins the Phantoms staff after spending the last three years with the ECHL’s Maine Mariners, including the last two as head equipment manager. He has been involved with Portland professional hockey since 2009. He served as a locker room attendant for the Portland Pirates in the 2009-10 season was promoted to Assistant Equipment Manager the following season. He also spent time with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators in 2011-12 but rejoined the Pirates soon afterward.
Photo: Heather Barry Images