Remember when Peter Laviolette, then the Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach, called center Claude Giroux “the best player in the world?”
That was after Giroux keyed the Flyers’ series-clinching playoff win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012.
Laviolette, now the head coach of the Washington Capitals, obviously knows what Giroux brings to the table. He saw him perform up close during the coach’s stint in Philadelphia, which lasted parts of five seasons.
Well, the Flyers have been scouting the Capitals and their AHL farm team in Hershey. That has started speculation that there is a connection between that and Giroux.
We shall see.
Washington could also be interested in Justin Braun, Rasmus Ristolainen, Derick Brassard, or Martin Jones. Or maybe the Caps think James van Riemsdyk can help their surprisingly weak power play, which is 25th in the 32-team NHL.
Giroux, 34, the All-Star tournament MVP, appears willing to waive his no-movement clause to go to a contender and have a chance to win his first Stanley Cup. Colorado, Florida, Carolina, St. Louis and Minnesota are among the other teams who have been scouting the Philadelphia Flyers.
The fact that the Flyers’ brass will have three members in Hershey on Tuesday to scout the Bears’ game against the Phantoms means something may be brewing between Philly and the Capitals.
Flyers front office to have 3 people at Lehigh Valley-Hershey AHL game tonight. As @JeffMarek mentioned over the weekend, Flyers had front office presence at AHL game vs. Charlotte; 6 members of Flyers org were at recent Hartford game, 4 Flyers staff at a recent Springfield game
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 8, 2022
If Giroux is dealt, “his presence in the locker room and with this group would be felt,” interim coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers will play Vegas tonight. “He’s a fantastic teammate, a fantastic person, and obviously a great player.”
Here is a look at the players who figure to be on the Flyers’ radar tonight in Hershey:
Alexei Protas, 6-6, 225 pounds, center: Protas, 21, has divided time between the Caps (3-6-9 in 33 games) and Hershey (4-7-11 in 20 games) this season and is considered one of Washington’s top prospects.
A third-round selection (91st overall) in 2019, Protas has the size and skill to be an NHL mainstay.
Alexander Alexeyev, 6-4, 213, defenseman: Alexeyev, 22, a lefthanded shooter, was a first-round selection (31st overall) in 2018. He has good speed and is strong on the puck. Russ Cohen, prospects expert for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and sportsology.com, views him as a third-pairing NHL player.
The Russian played one game with the Caps this season, and has played 46 with Hershey (one goal, 12 assists).
Lucas Johansen, 6-2, 176 defenseman: A first-round pick (28th overall) in 2016, he skates well, and is a quality passer. He shoots lefthanded and has 22 points (5-17) in 41 games with Hershey.
Down the road, Johansen, 24, could be a No. 4 defenseman in the NHL and has the potential to run a power play, per Cohen.
Here are some other players that should interest the Flyers:
Hendrix Lapierre, 6-0, 180, center: An elite, fast skater, he has 14 goals and 35 points in 23 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season. He played six games with the Caps, scoring one goal.
Lapierre, 20, was a first-round selection in 2020. Some scouts believe it would be difficult for the Flyers to get him.
Connor McMichael, 6-0, 180, center: It’s a long shot that the Caps would trade McMichael. It’s more likely they would deal their first-round pick this year.
McMichael has good speed, soft hands, and a great hockey IQ. A first-round selection (25th overall), he has seven goals and 15 points in 52 games with the Capitals this season.