When General Manager Ron Hextall signed Yevgeni Medvedev to a one-year, $3 million deal over the summer, it hardly registered on the Flyers' Richter scale. Little was known about the 33-year-old Russian defenseman who had spent his entire career in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The sampling size is obviously still minuscule, but he could be exactly what the Flyers need on the blue line. At 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, Medvedev adds size but without sacrificing speed. He is deceptively fast, covers the ice well in his own zone and has a quick outlet pass.
With Kimmo Timonen sidelined with blood clots last season, the Flyers sorely lacked a defenseman that could either carry or clear the puck and start a rush. Through the first two preseason games, Medvedev has shown he can aptly fill the role.
“I see a confident player,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who made his home debut in a 5-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday. “He is an intelligent player, he has excellent hockey sense, he’s got good play-making ability and has an escape-ability to him to elude forechecks. And he can push the puck up ice.”
In the preseason opener against the Islanders on Monday, he made an excellent first impression overall and assisted on Vinny Lecavalier’s power-play goal. He followed the performance up by scoring his first goal on the power play behind a missile from point against the Rangers.
“When the opportunity comes up to take a shot, I am going to take it,” Medvedev said through a translator.
He skated alongside Michael Del Zotto against the Islanders and had fellow Russian – and 2015 first-round draft pick - Ivan Provorov as his partner against the Rangers. He played 21:52, which only trailed Mark Streit for ice time.
In the early going, his biggest obstacles might be getting used to the smaller rinks in the NHL and learning to speak English. He is at least getting some help with the latter from Provorov, who speaks fluent English.
“He has helped,” Medvedev said. “I also meet with a tutor three times a week for an hour plus every day I spend time watching TV and on the internet.”
The Flyers got their first taste of the new 3-on-3 overtime format, which is designed to reduce games that are decided by a shootout, against the Rangers. All teams, regardless of the score at the end of regulation, are required to play three overtime games to use as a test. Flyers goalie noticed a big difference between the current setup and the previous 4-on-4 format.
“There is a lot of space out there,” Mason said. “We didn’t get a real for it because we had to kill a penalty, but I don’t think it’s going to take a long time for teams to create chances and potentially put a game away in overtime like that. Guys are so talented that when they have that time and space they can put goals in.”