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Finally given a chance, Flyers’ Gerry Mayhew seizes the opportunity

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Gerry Mayhew, Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers are having one of their worst seasons in franchise history, so it’s difficult finding many positives.

Unless, that is, you look at the little guy who has a funny-looking patch of skin around his left eye, which is healing and turning different colors after an ugly collision with the boards Saturday in Detroit.

Say hello to Gerry Mayhew.

A speedy and tenacious winger, Mayhew more than overpaid his dues in the AHL, and, at 29, has played so well for the Flyers that he was moved from the third line to the top unit over the last two periods in Thursday’s excruciating 5-3 loss to visiting Washington.

“He works; it’s a big thing. He works and he skates,” interim coach Mike Yeo said, explaining why he moved Mayhew to the top line, trading places with another hard-working player, Oskar Lindblom, over the last two periods. “You can have success in this league if you do those two things.  He’s got skill to make plays, and you can’t just put anybody up there that’s gonna work and skate, but he’s got the ability to make plays and is very confident as well right now. … I thought he provided a good spark.”

Mayhew had the first two-goal performance in the NHL Thursday, and he was, by far, the Flyers’ best player. But his eye-opening play was overshadowed by a late collapse in which the Flyers allowed three late goals in 2:08, turning a 3-2 victory into a “did that really happen?” defeat.

“Just have to keep doing what I do best,” Mayhew said after the team’s stunning collapse. “Just work hard and do the little things. Getting pucks behind their D; that is one thing we have to seize on. Tonight was a good game for all of us, I think, until that lapse.”

Mayhew, who missed the previous game after getting 12 stitches around his left eye, continued to look like he belongs in the NHL, and he has the rest of the season to show the Flyers he should be part of next year’s plans.

 

Why has a player who has looked so good – Mayhew has five goals in his last nine games – never landed a permanent spot in the NHL?

“I’m surprised,” Yeo said. “What Gerry has going for him is that he sees we have 10 guys over him in the lineup and he sees an opportunity.”

He was referring to the Flyers having 10 injured players.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for him, so I don’t want to take that away by letting him feel comfortable right now, but at the same time I am really happy for him because of his work ethic, because of seeing what he’s been through his whole career to get here,” Yeo said.

Mayhew, listed as 5-foot-9, 161 pounds, went undrafted and spent most of his career in the Minnesota Wild’s system while Chuck Fletcher was the general manager. Fletcher, of course, is now the Flyers’ GM, and he signed Mayhew as a free agent in July.

A Michigan native who was once named that state’s best player, Mayhew has the most goals in Iowa’s AHL history. He has had a cup of coffee with the Minnesota Wild, playing 13 games in 2019-20, and four games the next season.

Mayhew was thriving with the Philadelphia Flyers’ top farm team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (nine goals in 24 games), this season. When the injuries mounted, he got the call to the Flyers.

Asked why he had never secured a permanent NHL spot, Mayhew said it was because he was never at the right place at the right time.

“It’s tough that we have so many guys injured, but I’ve never had an opportunity like this,” said Mayhew, the AHL’s  MVP in 2019-20, when he had 39 goals in 49 games for the Iowa Wild. “I’m just trying to make the most of it, trying to stick.”

Yeo said Mayhew proved he has talent in the AHL, “and he’s doing it (for the Flyers), so I hope he can continue doing it because it’s a great story.”

The Flyers could use more of them.

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