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Simon Gagné... the latest news
Excerpts from: Weakened by virus, Lindros sits one out
By By Tim Panaccio, Philadelphia Inquirer-- October 29, 1999

Get a house. It went nearly unnoticed, but rookie Simon Gagne played his 10th NHL game in Sunday's win over Florida. Since he remained on the Flyers' roster, he is now considered as having played one year of pro hockey. Gagne can still be sent back to juniors at any time. However, if he is sent back, he can't return to the Flyers until his junior club's season ends. Gagne said Neilson told him to find a permanent place because he is staying with the club.

"I feel more comfortable," Gagne said. "I have to work all the time and prove I can play. It's good that I can move out of the hotel now."


Excerpt from:NHL pre-season wonders
By Bob McKenzie, Associate Editor, The Hockey News-- October 4, 1999

7. Simon Gagne, Philadelphia (19, 6-0, 175, C, Quebec/QMJHL, 61-50-70-120). One of 13 underage juniors who will start the season on an NHL roster, the Flyers have teamed the talented center with veteran Mark Recchi on the No. 2 line. A star at last year's World Junior Championship, the Flyers' 1998 first-rounder will be given every opportunity to flourish, but could be returned to junior before his 10th game. "Is he ready?" said Flyers' GM Bob Clarke. "I don't know, it may be a stretch, but he can really pass and see the ice. He's really smooth, he's so slick. He's not your typical Flyer. He'll get a chance."


He's got staying power
Years after his dad's release, Gagne earns spot on Flyers

By Dana Pennett, Daily News Sports Writer -- September 30,1999

Twenty-five years ago, a kid by the name of Gagne headed to training camp with a Flyers affiliate in the hopes of making the big team.

He tried twice, in back-to-back years. Twice, he didn't make it, and that pretty much was the end of his NHL dreams.

That was Pierre Gagne.

Simon Gagne is a different story altogether. Simon Gagne, son of Pierre, needed just one shot to impress the Flyers' front office and, at 19, carve a spot on the NHL roster.

"It's funny when you think my father tried to make this team 25 years ago," Simon said as he sat at a Flyers locker finally bearing the Gagne name. "Now, it's my turn."

The question now: Does this Gagne, who makes his NHL debut on Saturday night when the Flyers open their season against visiting Ottawa, have what it takes to stick around?

Marcel Patenaude thinks he does. Patenaude is the director of hockey operations and chief scout for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where Gagne played the last three seasons.

"How good can he be?" Patenaude said. "It always depends on the way they use him, the players they put him with, but he can be an NHL star. I have no doubt he will be."

There is always a fear that bringing along young talent too quickly can backfire (see the Dainius Zubrus file) for the short term and prove out-and-out detrimental to a player's career. So often, young players are overwhelmed, both mentally and physically, when they make the jump to the NHL. The stronger, faster game swallows them up and spits them back down to the juniors.

Gagne, a center, won't be 20 until February. Last year, he was a superstar in the QMJHL, with 50 goals and 70 assists, but that was the juniors.

"It's risky, but for Simon, psychologically he's aware of that," Patenaude said. "He's mature and he knows exactly what he wants. I've been watching him all of his career and he's never stopped improving his skills and his knowledge. It's rare that after a game you say, 'Simon wasn't good on the ice today.' He always plays as if he has something to prove."

Indeed, the consensus is that Gagne is a rare find, a baby-faced kid who is not at all childlike once he hits the ice. His skills, far more advanced than his years, amaze his teammates, and even more impressive is his poise.

When he scored two goals in a benefit game against the Phantoms, most pooh-poohed the accomplishment, saying he was just going up against AHLers and it wasn't a true test of his NHL abilities. So Gagne went out and scored two more against the Devils.

"He's a guy with a lot of talent, but he has both feet on the ground," said Flyers winger Mikael Renberg. "He's going to do great in this league. I think when you're in your first year, everything you do, every game is a bonus, and that seems to be his attitude."

When Gagne was drafted 22nd overall a year ago, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke believed he was two years away from the NHL. Even Gagne didn't think he'd be ready so quickly.

"When I started, I thought, 'I'm 19 years old, I'll go back to juniors,' " he said. "I knew I had a chance, but it wasn't really a chance. I didn't think so, at least."

Instead, the Flyers were ready to move Rod Brind'Amour to the wing just to make room for Gagne.

Now, with Brind'Amour out because of a foot injury, Clarke has a surprising peace of mind about his second line. Gagne was the perfect complement to Renberg and Mark Recchi during the preseason. The trio has been an effective scoring line with the speed to hogtie indecisive defenders.

"He does things a 19-year-old really shouldn't be able to do," Recchi said, shaking his head in wonder at his linemate. "He's very intelligent on the ice, he skates very well. He gives and goes very well. A lot of times you'll find your younger kids, your juniors who dominate, tend to hold onto the puck too long. He's very, very good at knowing when to pass it, when to hold onto it. He fits right in."

Well, sort of. Gagne is technically a kid among men. He is still a little wide-eyed at this whole NHL thing, and marvels that he's now sharing ice time with Eric Lindros and John LeClair, two guys who last year were nothing more than television images to him.

And while most of his teammates head home to their wives and children, Gagne goes back to the suburban New Jersey hotel room that he shares with Phantoms defenseman Francis Lessard.

Sure, he could look for housing. He has, after all, made the Flyers' roster, but Gagne isn't about to jinx himself.

"I don't know how long I'll stay [at the hotel]," he said. "Until the team tells me I should go find a place, I guess."

So he and Lessard sit in their hotel room with a heavy dose of television. They don't have a car, so exploring is out. They aren't 21, so nightclubs are a no-no. They're just beginning to improve their English, so movies would be a bit tough.

That leaves hockey.

And that's just fine for Gagne. He's in no rush to cloud his life with anything else right now. His family - mom, dad, grandmother, girlfriend, girlfriend's family - will be on hand for his NHL debut on Saturday night. After that, it's back to his one-dimensional world. Practice and games, games and practice.

Which might just be the best way to bring along a young superstar-to-be.

"I know the game is harder when the season starts," Gagne said, "but I think I can play here.*"


Excerpts from:QUEBEC REMPARTS, MILLENNIUM MASTERS
By Gordie Sutherland, The Hockey News, VOL. 53 No. 3-- September 24, 1999

Speedy centre Simon Gagne wants to play in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers this season, but he wouldn't mind returning to the Quebec Remparts, either.

" I won't be disappointed if I come back to junior because I think we can have a good team with the Quebec Remparts," said the 19-year-old, who is from Quebec City. " We have a good chance to go to the Memorial Cup and to win too."

Gagne isn't alone in his assesment

THN's [The Hockey News] panel of major junior experts-including senior editor Brain Costello and correspondents Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post. Jim Creesman of the London Free Press and Gordie Sutherland of the Halifax Chornicle-Herald, rated the Remparts the No. 1 team in the Canadian Hockey League heading into the 1999-2000 season...

...Gagne is among the five first round NHL picks expected to be in Quebec's lineup, including goalie Maxime Ouellet and returning centre Eric Chouinard

Ouellet, hwo posted a 2.70 goals-against aberage last season, was the first QMJHL player selected in June's draft, going 22nd overall to Philadelphia.

Gagne led the Remparts lsat season with 120 points while Chouinard, a first round pick of the Montréal Canadiens in 1998, collected 109 points. Both players fired 50 goals.

The biggest concern for Quebec GM Raymond Bolduc is his stars may be good enough to stick in the NHL.

"We hope everyone is back," he said." It's going to be a little longer (wait) for Gagne and Chouinard, but I expect everyone will be back by the end of September."

Gagne is rated No. 5 centre on Philadelphia's depth chart behind Eric Lindros, Rod Brind'Amour, Daymond Langkow and Marc Bureau. There's a good chance he may start the season in Philadelphia, play a handful of games, then return to Quebec for his final year of junior eligibility.

That might be a similar scenario for Chouinard, who's rated No. 6 centre on Montréal's depth chart.

Bolduc hasn't made it a secret his team is aiming to win May's Memorial Cup in Halifax. When the Remparts lost their bid to host the 2000 tournament, Bolduc went to work to assemble a team capable of winning this year's league championship.

The trade that best signified Quebec's intentions came in June when Bolduc traded highly regarded prospect Antoin Vermette, a 17-year-old centre, to the Victoriaville Tigers for proven scorer Patrick Ganrdmaitre, a 20-year-old forward.

Then came July's European draft when Bolduc nabbed a pair of hulking defensemen in Slovakian Kristian Kudroc, 6-foot-6 and 229 pounds, and Russian Kiril Safronov, 6-f00t-2 and 196 pounds. The Phoenix Coyotes selected Safronov 19th overall while the New York Islanders took Kudroc 28th overall at the entry drafte in June. It's unlikely that either can make the immediate jump to the NHL at 18.

With those two joining Colorado Avalanche prospect Martin Grenier, who is 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Quebec surely boasts the biggest blueline brigade in the CHL.

And they're skilled too.

"We have the best defense in our league and probably the best offense," Boldoc said.

"We want to win our league first and our goal is the Memorial Cup. We'll trade another couple of players for two good wingers to have the best team in Canada."


Brind'Amour shuffled to wing again
The Center has been asked to shift while the Flyers try to decide whether to keep Simon Gagne this season.
By Tim Panaccio, Philadelphia Inquirer-- September 23, 1999

Terry Murray did it.

Wayne Cashman did it.

Even Roger Neilson has done it.

Each Flyer coach has moved Rod Brind'Amour from center to wing when a need arose.

"I could name 15 players they brought in and kind of pushed me over and it ends up me going back," Brind'Amour laughed yesterday.

This time, he might not end up back at center quite so quickly.

Yesterday, Neilson asked the Flyers' No. 2 center if he wouldn't mind staying on wing for the forseeable future until the team decides whether junior phenom Simon Gagne is ready for the NHL.

This experiment could last a while, too, because it is now expected that Gagne will remain with the Flyers for at least the beginning of the regular season before Bob Clarke and Neilson decide if he returns to his junior club, the Quebec Remparts.

Gagne had two goals and four points in the Flyers' game against the Phantoms on Tuesday. His play with Mark Recchi seems to improve every game; the chemistry between them has sometimes been explosive.

"We told him [Brind'Amour] the kid looked pretty good so far and if he were to make the team, it might be better for us to have him on wing," Neilson said, advising Brind'Amour that this could last into the regular season.

With Keith Jones still nursing an injury to his left quad muscle and left knee, Brind'Amour has been the right wing on Eric Lindros' line with John LeClair. Gagne is centering Recchi and Mikael Renberg.

Brind'Amour said he had no problem if the move benefits the team. He said he used to get upset about being moved off center, but he's now used to these occasional positional switches.

"It seem this is the way it always is," Brind'Amour said. "I have never really had a line more than a couple of weeks it seems, for whatever reason. Now it is easier to accept because it's happened so many times, whereas in the past, it's all new and you want to be left alone as opposed to be moving around."

In the first week of training camp in Peterborough, Ontario, Clarke said that if Gagne were to make the team his talents would be wasted unless he played on a scoring line, meaning the first or second unit. And Gagne won't bump Lindros.

"It's pretty obvious, if they say first or second, who's it going to be?" Brind'Amour said, laughing. "It's been like that every year."

Brind'Amour said it was more important to him that he get significant ice time than what position he was playing.

Neilson said this week that the Flyers will take a different approach to line combinations this season. There will be more "pairs" than trios. Lindros and LeClair are the first pair, Gagne and Recchi are the second pair, and Daymond Langkow and Valeri Zelepukin are the third pair.

"I think we'll find out this year that our lines will be more in twos," Neilson said. "Roddy can switch anywhere depending upon the situation."

Lindros said playing with Brind'Amour gives the Flyers an advantage on certain faceoffs.

"He can take faceoff and the way they got it structured with the markings on the ice, with having to pull back on your forehand, it's a serious advantage to do it on your backhand," Lindros said. "Having a lefthanded shot in there to take those draws in key situations in the game when our line is out there, it's a big factor."

As a lefthanded shot, Brind'Amour prefers playing left wing. For now, however, he's on the right side.

"The left side is a little more natural," Brind'Amour said, noting that with practice he'll get more comfortable on right wing.

Brind'Amour isn't the only odd man out. Jones says he'll be ready by next week. All indications are he won't be on Lindros' top line.

"If you're thinking that you should be somewhere that you're not, then you're not going to be able to perform as well as you can," Jones said. "I'm in a situation in my career that I want to do what is best for the team. If that means a lesser role on the ice, then so be it.&qupt;

"I always seem to head back up to one of the top two lines eventually, so I have been in that situation before and it always seems to work out."

Gagne's eligibility. League spokesman Gary Meagher said that at age 19, Gagne has four years or 160 NHL games during which he is exempt from the waiver draft and doesn't have to be protected. If he plays 10 games and returns to juniors, he still has a four-year exemption. If he plays 11 or more games this season, Gagne automatically loses one year of waiver draft exemption, giving him just three years of protection. Regardless of how many games Gagne plays, if the Flyers send him back, Gagne can't be recalled from juniors until his team has been eliminated from the playoffs.


Gagne steps forward as Flyers crush Phantoms
By Tim Panaccio, Philadelphia Inquirer-- September 22, 1999

They came to honor a fallen teammate.

They left with perhaps the sense that a new teammate could be among their ranks this season.

For the Flyers, the much-anticipated return of the formerly injured Eric Lindros and John LeClair was overshadowed last night by a stellar performance by junior center Simon Gagne and his linemates, Mikael Renberg and Mark Recchi. They were simply unstoppable with 10 points and figured in four goals, two by Gagne, in a 6-1 win over the Phantoms, their AHL affiliate, at the First Union Spectrum.

OK, the Phantoms are the Flyers' farm club, but there is simply no denying that this is a dynamic line with Gagne at center. With each game, it's becoming harder for the Flyers to think about sending the 19-year-old back to junior hockey.

"Even though it's [the Phantoms], I don't think it takes a whole lot away from Rex and Gagne," LeClair said. "They dominated. They were everywhere. They were terrific."

Before the game, there was an emotional ceremony honoring defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny, who was killed in a boating accident in July. His wife, Polina, and his parents, Valery and Tatyana Tertyshny, accepted the crowd's standing ovation for the defenseman. The net proceeds from last night's game went to Polina and her unborn son.

Once play began, Gagne's line was in the spotlight.

"With the addition of Renberg, there is a tremendous amount of speed on our line, and you saw we got down real low and were coming out of the corners," Recchi said.

What if Gagne sticks? Would Recchi mind being his winger on the second line?

"That's fine," Recchi replied. "He's a great person, a great hockey player, and he's fun to play with."

Gagne, who has had his chances in the preseason, flubbed his first attempt on net, on a Renberg pass. That was pretty much the kind of camp he had had - lots of chances, but nothing to show for them except fine playmaking and set-ups. All that changed after the flubbed shot. Phantoms goalie Neil Little, who made a number of good saves during the period and a half he played, made a tough stop on Dan McGillis' point drive, but the rebound went to Renberg near the net. Amid a pileup, Gagne dug out the puck and flipped it over Little to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 12 minutes, 54 seconds of the first period.

Five minutes later, Gagne notched his second goal, after initiating the play. He directed the puck through traffic onto Recchi's stick, and the puck went into the left corner. One of the things the Flyers coaches like about Gagne is his instinct. He will not dig for pucks. He's isn't physical enough to do that now. But the 6-foot, 175-pound Quebec junior star knows how to get open and frequently hovers through the slot. When Renberg went to dig the puck out, Gagne immediately circled around the net to Little's left, took Renberg's pass, and flipped another quick wrist shot over the goalie for a 2-0 lead.

"We practiced some this week, and we make a good line," Gagne said. "It helps to have a lot of speed.. . . Sometimes you have a lot of chances to score, and tonight I had two good chances. I worked well with my linemates."

His line set up a third goal at 7:31 of the second period. Gagne sent another nice pass to Recchi, who gently slid the puck back into the slot to Karl Dykhuis, who in turn blasted a shot past Little. The point was Gagne's third of the night.

Gagne picked up his fourth near the end of the period, after Jean-Marc Pelletier had replaced Little and John Vanbiesbrouck had replaced Brian Boucher, who played another strong game in net.

"Gagne looks very good," Flyers coach Roger Neilson said. "He's smart in his own end. We've got six games left to see more of him."

With Recchi and Renberg working the puck down low, Gagne added an assist on Renberg's second-period goal to make it 4-1.

"It's just an exhibition," Gagne said. "I have to prove I can work with those guys."

Lost in all the magic was the fact that Sean O'Brien's line, which also consisted of Jason Zent and Chris Albert, shut down the line of Lindros, who was joined by LeClair and Rod Brind'Amour. Of course, Lindros hasn't played since April 1, and this was Lindros' and LeClair's first preseason game.

"The puck was a little square in the first period," Lindros joked. "As the game went on, I felt better and better."

The rust showed for both Lindros and LeClair. Of course, that wasn't a problem for Gagne's line.

"That whole line cycled the puck well," Lindros said. "They've got a little chemistry going, which is great to see."

Notes.

The NHL found no evidence that Sandy McCarthy bit Detroit's Aaron Ward in Saturday's game. McCarthy said he was bewildered by Ward's saying he had. "I got caught up with him and fell backward, and I have no idea how he got cut," McCarthy said. . . . Vanbiesbrouck gave up one goal, a screen shot by Mark Greig.


For the benefit of Tertyshnys Emotional ceremony before game
By Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News -- September 22, 1999

The ceremony was simple, but elegant. The family of Dmitri Tertyshny stood at center ice while applause rained down. Then Valeri Zelepukin and Mikhail Chernov - the only two Russian members of the Flyers' organization who knew Dmitri - presented the family with Dmitri's two game helmets, one white, one black, each autographed by all of his teammates.

"It was hard to start the game after that," said Flyers forward Rod Brind'Amour, after the Flyers skated circles around their minor league affiliate, the Phantoms, winning, 6-1, in a game at the First Union Spectrum held to create a scholarship fund for Tertyshny's unborn son. Tertyshny, a 22-year-old Flyers defenseman, died in Chernov's arms, after a boating accident July 23 in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Brind'Amour said it was a good feeling to do something to help in some small way, but the on-ice ceremony reminded him just how small a way it was.

"It's something they're going to deal with the rest of their lives," he said. "By no means is [a benefit game] going to ease it for them."

For Zelepukin, who represented the organization at Tertyshny's funeral last month in Chelyabinsk, Russia, the ceremony vividly brought back his former teammate.

"It was very emotional. It was very hard," said Zelepukin, whose wife, Stella, accompanied the Tertyshny party onto the ice. "What to do? We just play the game for him. I hope he can see us from where he is. . .After going to the funeral, I felt like I got over it already.

"Today, I look at 15,000 people cheering, his parents - it's very hard, you know. . .He's always with us."

Flyers coach Roger Neilson noted "a few tears on guys' faces."

John LeClair, who saw his first action of the preseason, said: "The more we get together and play like this, the more we miss him."

Linemate Eric Lindros, who wore a uniform for the first time since suffering a collapsed lung April 1 at Nashville, said, "Dmitri was a special person. Hockey playing aside, he was real honest, hard-working, someone you could count on. He liked to have some fun. He was enjoyable to be around. I hope it gets through to everybody what a loss this is."

Dmitri's parents, Valery and Tatyana, his widow, Polina, and Polina's mother, Lidia, all made the 15-hour journey by air from Chelyabinsk for the game. They were scheduled to meet with reporters between the first and second periods, but after the pregame ceremony they told a Flyers spokesman they were too upset to speak. Instead, agent Jay Grossman conveyed their thanks to the Flyers and their fans.

"The reception was tremendous," Grossman said. "The organization has been tremendous in setting up this game. . .They are most appreciative of the way the Flyers have promoted this game."

Lindros said the announced crowd of 15,482 - only rafters-level seats in the end zone were empty - was a tribute to Philadelphia fans.

"The fans of Philadelphia are great. To support a cause like this - hats off to them," Lindros said. "We got over 15,000 people. That's pretty impressive for what I'd call an intrasquad game. . .I think it's very impressive."

Grossman said the Tertyshnys talked of coming to Philadelphia even before the game was scheduled.

"It was something that they really wanted to do," he said. "It came from them."

Polina Tertyshny and her mother have rented a South Jersey townhouse, in an area where other Flyers families live, and Polina plans to give birth to her son here, near the end of the year, in part because she wants to take advantage of better medical care than is available in Chelyabinsk.

GAGNE DOMINATES

The game, meanwhile, had kind of a strange feel to it, as Brind'Amour noted. Under any other circumstance, the Phantoms might have come out snarling, wanting to prove a thing or two to their better-paid brethren. But given the point of the evening, that seemed inappropriate.

As Lindros later acknowledged, "It wasn't a real physical game; the only hit was when I didn't see Jimmy [Montgomery] in the corner."

Lindros turned to chase the puck and sent the diminutive Phantoms veteran sprawling. On the only penalty whistled, Roman Vopat accidentally high-sticked Martin Cerven, then quickly bent over the fallen Phantom to make sure he was OK.

Two things were apparent, as the Flyers gear up for a stretch of six preseason games in six nights that starts tomorrow at the Rangers.

First, Lindros and LeClair, who played last night with Brind'Amour, have some rust to scrape away.

&auot;The puck was pretty square in the first period," Lindros said.

Second, 19-year-old Simon Gagne certainly could play in the American Hockey League, if he met the age requirement of 20. Gagne scored the game's first two goals and assisted on two others. His line, with Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg on the wings, showed the Phantoms the kind of speed and skill they don't often encounter in Hershey or Rochester.

LeClair, asked if he'd watched the Gagne line much, said: "You couldn't help but watch 'em. They were everywhere."

Recchi had three assists, Renberg a goal and two assists, along with an impressive nine shots on net. Renberg had missed the first two games of the preseason with a sore back, so it was the first outing for what could be the Flyers' new second line.

"I think we make a pretty good line," said Gagne, who was the Flyers' first-round draft pick in 1998.

"There's a tremendous amount of speed on our line," said Recchi, who called Gagne "a really good person and a great hockey player."

It is beginning to sound as if the junior hockey Quebec Remparts shouldn't count on getting Gagne back this fall.


News Excerpts regarding Simon Gagné
Found from Articles dated September 18, 1999

According to a Daily News Article, the Flyers' Management had hoped to use the game against the Washington Capitals game, as well as several subsequent ones to get a good read on Eaton and on 19-year-old centerman Simon Gagne...the rookie skaters given the best chance of making the team going into camp....Roger Neilson called the Capitals-Flyers game a " a fairly spirited preseason game" in which "Gagne handled himself well." Gagne was smooth and impressive, even though he didn't figure in the scoring

* * * * *

According to a Inquirer Article, Simon Gagne centered a line with multiple wingers, with the only constant being Mark Recchi, as in training camp...the two played very well together during the Capitals-Flyers game. . .


Gagne Impresses in training camp
By Tim Panaccio -- September 12, 1999

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario - Three days into Flyers training camp, all of Peterborough - at least those who watched at Peterborough Memorial Centre yesterday - got to see the real Simon Gagne.

The one with the swift, jaguar-like moves. The one who carries the puck quickly and weaves up the ice. The one who sees the bigger picture, finds his open wingers, and comes up with three assists and a goal, as he did in yesterday's intrasquad scrimmage.

This is the Gagne the Flyers want to judge in the preseason, which begins Thursday against Washington at the First Union Center.

"We won't know if he can play [against NHL players] until we see him in some preseason games," general manager Bob Clarke said yesterday.

Clarke is sticking to his pre-camp assertion that unless Gagne is going to get quality minutes on a decent line with some scoring wingers, the 19-year-old will go back to his junior club, Quebec.

"It would be wasting his talents if we did not play him with people who can score," Clarke said.

Gagne, the Flyers' first-round draft pick in 1998, was impressive yesterday. He moved away from hits nicely, the way players like Jaromir Jagr move with the puck. And he saw the ice and the play ahead of him.

"I played with some confidence," said Gagne, who conceded that he was both nervous and intimidated on the first day of camp. "To come here and see [Mark] Recchi and [Rod] Brind'Amour and [Eric] Desjardins, just to see them is pretty tough because we play against junior guys all year and now we face them. I felt a little nervous."

Gagne did what he does best - set up other people and score.

"My vision is a big asset for me," Gagne said. "I have to work with this asset of my play. I think my speed on the ice is good, too. I like to play the rush when I can."

Simon Nolet, who scouted Gagne in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, says he is constantly impressed by Gagne.

"He is always one level ahead of everyone else wherever he has played," Nolet said. "The big difference with him is that he has always risen to the level of the opposition. His play goes to the higher plane."

Gagne played well at the World Juniors last year, and Nolet believes it gave him confidence for his season in the junior league, where he scored 50 goals.

But is he ready for the NHL? The intrasquad games that Flyers coach Roger Neilson has put together during the first week of camp involve a blend of NHL and AHL players and juniors who will soon turn 19. That's a far cry from the veteran-laden NHL clubs Gagne would see every night from October through April.

"Is he ready?" Nolet asked. "I think he is pretty close. I don't know what would be best for him. A guy with his talent, you don't want him playing on the fourth line, you want him on the ice. If you're not going to play him, send him back to juniors."

The center spot is loaded with Eric Lindros, Brind'Amour, Daymond Langkow and Marc Bureau. All indications are that Gagne won't unseat Brind'Amour or even Langkow right now, which means he's likely headed back to juniors. But what if Lindros' back injury lingers? Lindros will not play today because his back is still sore, Neilson said.

Gagne hedged when asked whether he would be content to make the club as a fourth-line player. He is still uncertain whether he is ready for the NHL, he says.

"I want to find for myself whether I can play with these guys," Gagne said.

That test will come soon enough.


Simon Gagné @ Philadelphia Flyers Training Camp
The Simon Gagné Website -- September 4, 1999

Simon Gagné will be participating in the Philadelphia Flyers training camp alongside other Flyers prior to the Pre-Season. It will be taking place at the Peterborough Memorial Centre in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, between September 8-13.

Morning and Afternoon scrimages start on the 9th and go on until the 12th, at 9:00AM and 1:00PM respectively. On the 13th, there will be an inter-squad scrimage @ 6:00PM and will require a ticket. The other scrimages are assumeably free.

So if you're in the the Peterborough-area and want to see some NHL hockey before the season starts, swing by the Peterborough Memorial Centre.


Team Report: Philadelphia Flyers
By Chuck Gormley, South Jeresy Courier-Post -- August 23, 1999

Simon Gagne, who has the potential to become the Flyers' brightest star of the new millennium, has signed a three-year contract with the club and will be given every opportunity to make the team when camp opens on September 7. Gagne, 19, is considered the best junior player in North America. A first-round pick (22nd overall) of the Flyers in 1998, he led the Quebec major junior hockey league with 50 goals and 70 assists last season as a center for the Quebec Remparts.

To be effective with the Flyers, however, Gagne would need to play as a second-line center behind captain Eric Lindros and ahead of Rod Brind'Amour and Daymond Langkow. For Gagne to beat out Brind'Amour, he will need to dominate during the Flyers' preseason. Otherwise, he would be better off returning for a third season with the Remparts. Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said it was important to sign Gagne, because he would have become a restricted free agent after this season if he returned to Quebec unsigned.

"We think Simon has a chance of playing in the NHL next year," Clarke said. "If our team can give him enough ice time, at least we got him under contract. Certainly, going back to junior (league) is what's probably going to happen. But when you have a player this good, you want him under contract just so you can have some say in his development."

Gagne said recently that he has every intention of making the Flyers this season but would have no problem returning to Quebec, where he would likely be named captain of the Canadian national junior team.

The Flyers are taking a cautionary approach to Gagne's situation because of their past experience with Dainius Zubrus. A first-round pick in 1996, Zubrus made the club the following fall as an 18-year-old. But after struggling on the Flyers' top two lines, managing just eight goals in each of his first two seasons, Zubrus was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Mark Recchi.

Reportedly, Gagne has more finesse than Zubrus. A shifty skater with good acceleration, he is just as adept at giving a pass as he is finishing off a play. Like Zubrus, he is a good checker, although at 6-0, 175 pounds, he is not considered a physical player.

"Simon obviously is a very, very talented player," Clarke said. "He would need to play a lot, and we'll give him a good look. Most guys do go back (to the junior league), but if he's good enough, he'll stick."

With Gagne signed, the Flyers now are down to two unsigned restricted free agents -- forwards Valeri Zelepukin and Langkow. Clarke said he spoke with Zelepukin's agent, Mark Gandler, last week, and the two will speak through the end of August.

Clarke said he hopes to have both Zelepukin and Langkow under contract by the end of this month. He said he has had no recent contract discussions with unrestricted free agent Craig Berube. ...

Flyers left winger John LeClair suffered a back injury during off-ice training earlier this month and last week visited a back specialist in Los Angeles.

LeClair said the injury is "no big deal" and that he expects to be fine when training camp begins. But the fact he needed to see a specialist two weeks after sustaining the injury -- along with the fact he missed several games down the stretch last season with back pain -- does not bode well for the burly winger. ...

In other injury news, defenseman Eric Desjardins is working out at the Flyers' training facility in South Jersey, testing his reconstructed left knee. Desjardins said his knee is "as strong as it's going to be," but that his left quadriceps muscle is still weak.

"My leg lost a lot of strength because of surgery," Desjardins said. "(On a scale of 1 to 10), it's about 7.5 compared to other one."

Desjardins said he hopes to be 100 percent by the Flyers' October 1 season opener. ...

Goaltender Ron Hextall said he is still weighing an offer from another NHL club to extend his playing career. Hextall, 35, has been offered a pro scouting position with the Flyers and is uncertain whether to continue his playing career in another city.


19-year-old Gagne inks 3-year deal with Flyers
Frank Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer -- August 20, 1999

Fourteen months after the Flyers made the high-scoring center their top pick in the 1998 draft, Simon Gagne signed a three-year deal with the team yesterday.

The Flyers did not reveal details, but sources familiar with the negotiations indicated that the 19-year-old native of Sainte Foy, Quebec, would receive $975,000 a season, the maximum allowed in any year of a rookie contract.

He also had been seeking a signing bonus of $1 million and performance bonuses worth between $200,000 and $400,000.

His agent, former NHL goaltender Bob Sauve, did not return telephone calls.

"Simon is a very talented player and probably one of the top prospects in Canadian junior hockey right now," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "He has the potential to play in the NHL in the very near future. He has a chance of making our club this season, but we would need to be certain that he would get enough ice time to further his development."

When Gagne and the Flyers failed to reach an agreement last year, the draft's 22d pick overall returned to junior hockey, recording team highs with 50 goals and 70 assists for the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The Flyers retained his rights until June 2000, and before negotiations concluded yesterday, they had received inquiries about the 6-foot, 185-pound center from several NHL clubs, according to Clarke.

Gagne will report to the team when the Flyers' training camp opens Sept. 7 in Peterborough, Ontario.


TEAM SIGNS TOP PICK FROM '98
By: Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News -- August 20, 1999

As expected, the Flyers have signed 1998 first-round draft pick Simon Gagne. Whether he becomes a factor in their plans for the 1999-2000 season now is largely up to Gagne, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said yesterday. Gagne, who turns 20 in February, isn't eligible to play for the Phantoms this season - he'll either make the Flyers or play another year of junior for the Quebec Remparts.

"He has a chance of playing in the NHL (this) year," Clarke said. "Certainly, going back to junior is probably what's going to happen. But when you have a player that's this good, you want him under contract."

Clarke said training camp, which opens Sept. 8 in Peterborough, Ontario, will determine whether Gagne is a Flyer this season. Certainly, the team could use his skills. He scored 50 goals and 120 points in 61 games last season in junior, and was widely acclaimed as one of the top players at that level.

But the Flyers felt they rushed 1996 first-rounder Dainius Zubrus, who regressed for two seasons before being traded to Montreal in March, and they don't want to make that mistake again. Also, Gagne's best position is center, where the Flyers already have Eric Lindros, Rod Brind'Amour and Daymond Langkow, although Langkow isn't yet signed for this season. (Clarke wouldn't use the signing of Gagne as leverage against Langkow, now, would he? Of course not. Perish the thought).

Clarke said that Gagne is "probably one of the most talented guys in Canada at the junior age. He's going to play lots of exhibition games. We'll give him a good look. But the odds are, for most of these kids, that they'll go back to junior."

Agent Bob Sauve could not be reached for comment. Gagne will make the rookie maximum of $975,000 per year, if he plays in the NHL, on a mandatory three-year contract. He also will get unspecified performance bonuses that were a sticking point in the negotiations.

Clarke said he expects to speak with agent Mark Gandler on Monday about signing Flyers restricted free agent winger Valeri Zelepukin, whose total of 16 goals last season was his highest since 1993- 94. Clarke said he also will try to get Langkow's deal done next week. He said he has had no further talks on a contract for unrestricted free agent Craig Berube.


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