Undrafted Philippe Myers on pace to make GMs regret passing him over

Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenceman Philippe Myers. (JUST SPORTS)

No one would confuse Philippe Myers for Martin St. Louis.

For starters, the 6-foot-5 Myers, currently plying his trade with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers), has about nine inches on the 2018 Hall of Famer. And St. Louis has 1,134 games, multiple trophies and a Stanley Cup on the young man yet to make his NHL debut.

But the two have something in common: They were both cut by the Calgary Flames.

The undrafted St. Louis was let go after the 1999–2000 NHL season, and Flames fans have regretted that call ever since. He famously got his comeuppance in the 2004 Western Conference Final by scoring an overtime goal in Game 6 to send the series back to Tampa, stopping the Flames’ run to the Stanley Cup short by one game.

Myers, meanwhile, went unselected in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The Flames invited him to development camp before letting him walk away unsigned.

Now, the lanky, right-shot defenceman is a prized piece in the Flyers’ talent pipeline. And he’s doing everything in his power to make Calgary — and every other team in the league — remember his name.

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At the time of the 2015 draft, Myers had just finished his second year of play with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, notching eight points in 60 games. When he got passed over, he wasn’t sure what the next step of his professional career would be.

“I had no idea,” says the product of Dieppe, N.B., where Rogers Hometown Hockey makes a stop this weekend. “I [went] to Calgary’s development camp and they told me they didn’t want to invite me to main camp.”

Enter Philadelphia, which reached out with an invitation to rookie camp, where he began a swift climb up the prospect rankings.

“The first day we had him in for a tryout, he popped out immediately,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said in 2016 of Myers’s camp performance. “We all were saying, ‘Wow.’

“You try to look for flaws, but there weren’t any that jumped out.”

Myers signed an entry-level deal that September. Then, whether it was the security that comes with an NHL contract, the motivation from going undrafted or simply another year of development, something clicked for Myers in his next season with Rouyn-Noranda. He broke out with 17 goals (tied with teammate Nikolas Brouillard for the QMJHL lead among defencemen) and 45 points.

“I just got a lot stronger and got a lot faster during the summer and was playing with a lot more confidence, and I think that helped me a lot,” says Myers.

Then he got an even bigger spotlight when he led his Huskies to the 2016 Memorial Cup final versus a London Knights outfit featuring Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner. They pushed it to overtime, but lost on a Tkachuk goal (that may or may not have hit Knights centre Christian Dvorak on the way in).

“We played good hockey and they just had the bounces that game I guess,” says Myers.

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As impressive as the year was for Myers – his performance had firmly established him as one of the game’s better rearguard prospects – it also introduced the blueliner to the cruel realities of being an athlete.

A pair of surgeries, hip and groin, were required after the Memorial Cup loss, eating into his off-season. He missed Philadelphia’s development camp, but recovered in time to earn his first taste of NHL pre-season action before being sent back to the Huskies.

A flying start in the Q earned him a spot on Canada’s world junior team, where he played alongside Thomas Chabot on the team’s first pair.

Then, another setback.

Myers suffered a concussion on a high hit from Team USA’s Luke Kunin during preliminary-round play.

The injury ended Myers’s tournament, and he had to watch as Canada blew a pair of two-goal leads to the Americans in the gold-medal game before falling in a shootout at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

Two straight crushing losses in just over seven months.

“They both stung a lot,” says Myers. “But probably the world juniors [hurt more] since I couldn’t participate in the game.”

He returned to Rouyn-Noranda – which finished first in the West Division before being upset in Round 2 of the President’s Cup playoffs – and tallied 35 points in 34 games in his last season before going pro with the Phantoms.

Today, his path to regular NHL ice time is still unclear.

Philadelphia as an organization is deep with young defencemen, making it tough to stand out and earn an opportunity. Young stars Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov lead the charge on the Flyers blue line, with 23-year-old Robert Hagg and 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim having also established themselves as NHL regulars. Sam Morin, a first-rounder in 2013, is out with a knee injury but will also challenge Myers on the organizational depth chart.

Not that Myers is sweating any of this, mind you.

“It’s just fun to be around such good talent,” he says. “It motivates me and helps me get better.”

A five-goal, 21-point performance in 50 games with the Phantoms as an AHL rookie last year might not have blown anyone away, but he showed enough promise and skill to be on the shortlist of call-up candidates should the Flyers need a body this season.

“I’m not really thinking about that stuff,” says Myers. “My time will come and I’m just going to keep working hard and if I do that and keep a positive attitude, things are going to go good for me.”

Until then, the 220-pound defenceman who grew up a big fan of Zdeno Chara will continue plying his trade in the AHL, where he already has four goals and 10 points in 16 games.

He’ll continue pushing to make all those teams that passed him over look foolish – including the one that passed him over twice.

“Obviously you have a little bit more motivation,” says Myers of going undrafted. “You want to prove to others that you’re a good hockey player.

“I think it gives me a little extra edge.”

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