Credit for the Flyers' turnaround (16-3-3-0 from Oct. 17 through
Sunday following an 0-5-1-1 start) should go to coach Roger
Neilson and defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, who was signed as a free
agent seven games into the season. Neilson didn't panic and
remained loyal to his players. Samuelsson, 35, provided levity
in the dressing room, made practices more spirited with his
aggressive play and helped defensive partner Dan McGillis, who
can be very hard on himself, regain his confidence....
Hurricanes center Jeff O'Neill, who had nine goals through
Sunday, has finally become the kind of player the franchise
expected when it drafted him fifth overall in 1994. A
disappointment his first four seasons, O'Neill, 23, has improved
his in-season workout regimen and his diet....
More NHL teams are scouting U.S. colleges for undrafted older
players who may have fallen through the cracks because they
developed later. The most sought-after such free agents this
summer probably will be left wing Roger Trudeau and right wing
J.P. Vigier of Northern Michigan, left wing Brad Tapper of RPI,
center Andy McDonald of Colgate and forward Steve Reinprecht of
NHL scouts are raving about the Sharks' 1999 first-round choice
(14th overall), 6'3", 219-pound defenseman Jeff Jillson, who is
playing at the University of Michigan. Insiders are favorably
comparing the hard-hitting, offensively-gifted backliner to the
Kings' Rob Blake....
If offensive defensemen Scott Niedermayer of the Devils and Oleg
Tverdovsky of the Ducks don't rebound from their mediocre
starts, look for those teams to have difficulty reaching the
elite level they were expected to attain.