The two veterans are both known as great locker-room guys, with a healthy dose of talent to match.
Atkinson, 32, has been all in since the Flyers acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a one-for-one trade on July 24. This week, he toured the Flyers’ facility, climbed the Rocky steps and got up close and personal with Gritty.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) August 12, 2021
One of Atkinson’s best friends is Scott Hartnell, a former Blue Jackets teammate who spent last season on the Flyers’ broadcast crew. Hartnell was responsible for the Gritty T-shift that Atkinson sported during his introductory Flyers media conference.
And Atkinson on his Gritty shirt: "Actually it's my wife's. We spent a couple weeks last summer at the Hartnell residence and my wife loves Gritty and we couldn't leave Hartsy's without a Gritty T-shirt, so everything's aligning perfectly." pic.twitter.com/L4xNW9rNE2
— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) July 24, 2021
Atkinson says he’s also good friends with James van Riemsdyk and knows Claude Giroux. Also, during his third NCAA season at Boston College in 2010-11, he was teammates with freshman Kevin Hayes as the Eagles followed up their 2010 national championship with a second-straight Hockey East title.
On the Flyers, of course, Hayes sports the No. 13 that Atkinson has worn throughout his pro career.
“I know he’s had a lot of success with 13 with Philly, Atkinson said on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Flyers Talk podcast. He was like, ‘Do you want the number? I’ll give it to you.’ I’m like, ‘Honestly, you’ve done such good things with the Philly jersey, with that number, that you deserve it.'”
The New No. 89
Atkinson will sport No. 89 as a member of the orange and black.
“I was actually 89 at the world championships a couple of summers ago and had some success, that’s my birth year number,” he said. “I was like, ‘Fresh start, new look, let’s go!'”
When he returned to Columbus that fall, he had the best year of his career to date, scoring 41 goals and 69 points in the regular season before helping the Blue Jackets sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in that stunning 2019 first-round playoff upset.
Drafted by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round in 2008, Atkinson has carved out an impressive NHL career. In 627 career games, he has posted 213 goals and 402 points. That ranks him second all-time for Columbus in both categories, behind only Rick Nash.
Atkinson’s game also has an impressive defensive component. That’s something the Flyers can use after they finished with a league-worst 3.52 goals allowed per game last season, and 30th on the penalty kill.
“I take a lot of pride in how I P.K.,” Atkinson told the media. “Aggressiveness, anticipation and my energy.
“I think that whoever A.V. puts me with, we’re going to have success. I’ve been around a long time and especially, playing under a guy like Torts, I’ve learned a lot — how to prepare and how to play this game the right way.”
Atkinson has four years remaining on a seven-year contract that carries a cap hit of $5.875 million per season.
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Yandle Brings Back-End Offense
The Hayes connection also helped link Yandle to the Flyers, after he was bought out of the final two years of his contract with the Florida Panthers on July 15.
Less than two weeks later, he signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia. It carries a cap hit of $900,000 and a full no-trade clause.
Hayes, a close friend, helped sell fellow Bostonian Yandle on the idea of joining the Flyers. The pair were also teammates on the New York Rangers for a season-and-a-bit, playing under Alain Vigneault and reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2015.
“Having played for A.V. and knowing what he can bring to a team, I think that was a big part (of the decision to join the Flyers),” Yandle said. “Kevin obviously being one of my best friends, a guy that I train with every day in the summers, and I see him around every day — it’s definitely one of those things when you have a friend on another team, we can feel confident. It definitely made it a little easier.”
Now 34, Yandle played major junior in Canada, rather than going the college route. The then-Phoenix Coyotes drafted him out of prep school in the fourth round in 2005. Then, he spent one year with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, winning a league championship and being named defenseman of the year for both the QMJHL and the entire Canadian Hockey League in 2006.
After turning pro, Yandle established himself as an NHL regular by his second season. Strong on the power play, he scored double-digit goals for four straight seasons with the Coyotes between 2009 and 2013. He has broken the 50-point plateau four times in his career, including a 62-point season with the Panthers in 2018-19.
Power-Play Point Producer
“Last year, I was running the top power play, up top,” he said of 2020-21, when he finished with 27 points in 56 games. “That’s what I see myself as, a power play guy, a guy that can help out getting pucks to the forwards.
“Seeing how good the forwards are in Philly, it’s an exciting thing to see that and hopefully be able to pass those guys. I think, for me, it’s just being good on the power play. Obviously, you can’t score every power play, but it’s getting momentum for your team and staying positive. I definitely take pride in that.”
All told, Yandle has 102 goals and an even 600 points in 1,032 career NHL games. That ranks him sixth among active defensemen, behind Brent Burns (723), Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith and Ryan Suter.
Yandle is also the owner of the league’s longest active games-played streak, at 922 games. He needs 43 more games to pass Doug Jarvis for the longest NHL ironman streak of all time.
And while he says he lives his life one day at a time, his love for the game is what motivates him to suit up and hit the ice, game in and game out.
“I love coming to the rink,” he said. “I love going to practice, games, being at the rink. It’s the best job in the world. For me, it’s one of those things that I call it too, a little bit of FOMO. I hate missing out on anything, especially when it’s with your teammates. For me, it’s just wanting to be there and to be able to help out.”
That’s why Yandle is so beloved as a teammate — clearly evident as he reached the 1,000-game mark in his career last season.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 14, 2021