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Photo: JustSports PhotographyPhoto: JustSports Photography

#AHLOTB: Flanagan feeling right at home

by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat

Complete, multipurpose, versatile and a multitasker are some words that come to the coaching staff’s mind when asked to describe Binghamton Senators forward Kyle Flanagan.

After coming into the B-Sens lineup during the 2015-16 season, Flanagan took advantage of his chance at a professional tryout to solidify himself as a part of the team. Flanagan’s influence during that year resulted in him being named the team’s Seventh Man and earned him a two-year contract in the offseason.

Before Flanagan became a crucial part of Binghamton’s line up, he was guy from Upstate New York who grew up surrounded by hockey and family.

STARTING WITH FAMILY

Flanagan’s interest in hockey was sparked after his father got the forward’s older brother, Sean, into the sport.

“I wanted to do anything my big brother was doing,” said Kyle. “Naturally when he started playing hockey, I started playing hockey whether it was around the house or in the driveway.”

The Flanagans’ driveway was located in Canton, New York, only five minutes away from the local colleges that held a big hockey presence including St. Lawrence. Flanagan and his brother grew up going to see the players hit the ice at the Division I school and eventually had their own chance to be a part of the Saints.

Sean stayed close to home for college committing to St. Lawrence during Kyle’s senior year in high school. Three years later after playing in juniors and receiving interest from other schools, Kyle decided to join his brother at St. Lawrence.

“I always wanted to play at St. Lawrence because I grew up watching it. My dream was always to play in my hometown,” said Kyle. “Most people don’t get that opportunity: to play with their brother in front of friends and family in their hometown. It was almost like when we were growing up playing in the driveway, but we were playing Division I hockey.”

Kyle and Sean spent two seasons as Saints together playing for the Division I school, but the younger brother found lessons learned off the ice just as special.

“I learned a lot from him especially balancing the student athlete aspect of it. It was not like he was just a friend or senior looking after me, he was my brother,” said Kyle.

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Photo: JustSports Photography

The help was beneficial seeing as Kyle was named a team captain in his final two years with the team and compiled 147 points over all four years played. He was selected to the 2012-13 ECAC All-Conference First Team and signed a one-year entry level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

MAKING A NAME IN THE PROS

Flanagan played his first full-year professional stint with the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League in the 2013-14 season after 13 games in the prior year. Over that time, he tallied 22 points in 63 games played while staying in the New York area and close to his family.

That changed the following year when Flanagan signed with MODO Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League. After an offer came in, the forward traveled overseas to continue with his career but had to fight with an injury and distance from the life he knew back home.

“Overall the hockey experience was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it,” said Flanagan. “Maybe down the road I would go back over, but it is nice to be back here and close to friends and family.”

Looking to get back into the AHL, Flanagan returned to the Glens Falls area and joined the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Following 12 games with the team, the 28-year-old got a call to help an AHL team in a pinch.

“The coach in Adirondack thinks the world of [Flanagan] and pushes his players up if they get the opportunity,” said Binghamton Senators assistant coach Steve Stirling. “We could not get someone from [our ECHL affiliate] in time, so I called the coach and Flanagan was available. He got a chance to play, and he played pretty darn well.”

Stirling remembered Flanagan as a player during their meetings in the 2013-14 season, and knew he would be an asset on an injury-ridden team. Flanagan was signed to a PTO and added depth along with leadership to the B-Sens. He had 20 points in 44 games played and proved why he should be a part of the team.

“He is the kind of guy every team needs because we never know when we will need to fill in left wing on the first line, center somewhere else or need a real key penalty kill guy,” said Stirling. “When he is out there we do not have to worry too much about the defense because whatever line he is on, he is playing all 200 feet. We are in pretty good shape when [Flanagan] is there.”

The forward’s efforts both on and off the ice earned him a well-deserved award according to Stirling — the Seventh Man award at the end of his first season with the B-Sens.

“I like to be a good team guy, joke around and not take things too seriously,” said Flanagan. “I think leadership had something to do with it too. I just work hard and try to do the right thing on the ice.”
Flanagan’s hard work in the season prior helped extend his stay in New York in the form of a two-year AHL contract with the Senators organization.

“We thought without question he established himself as an American League player and the kind of guy we want on our team for the next two years,” said Stirling.

The forward has played 28 games during the most recent season with the Binghamton Senators and continues to be one of the top point scorers on the team. Despite fighting a recent injury, Flanagan has continued his work that made him stand out the year prior both on the ice, but also in the community.

“[The players] sign up to go [to community appearances] and help the community by reaching out like we did with a family we helped this Christmas,” said Flanagan. “The more we get out in the community, the more we see that people appreciate it. It is nice to do that and spread the word we are here.”