As the Philadelphia Flyers organization dives into offseason mode, so do most of the players. They will go to their respective homes, work out with friends/trainers, and report back to training camp in September.
It is during the upcoming months that players prepare themselves for the 2014-2015 season. Players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will be working hard to continue playing at a high level. Their roster spots are not in jeopardy. Other players within the organization are just hoping for an extended look at training camp.
Here are three players within the Flyers organization that need to have a strong summer if they want to wear the orange and black next season:
1. Jason Akeson
Although a strong finish to the 2013-2014 season will help Akeson’s case in September, he is not a lock to start the season in the NHL. Akeson has scored three goals and earned two assists in nine total NHL games (reg season and playoffs).
Akeson’s offensive instincts are undeniable. He is a good shooter and playmaker, while his ‘hockey sense’ is impressive. One knock on Akeson over the past few years has been his skating. However, in his time with the Flyers this season his skating seemed just fine, and pretty good in some cases.
The two biggest issues with Akeson are size and defensive play. He is only 5’10″ and 190lbs. Despite sticking at the NHL level for a brief period of time at the end of the season, smaller players have a tough time holding down permanent jobs. Also, Craig Berube is a defense-first coach who wants his players to be strong on both sides of the puck. Akeson’s strengths are his offensive skills and vision, not his shut down ability.
This summer Akeson will need to work hard on becoming a more complete player. He cannot grow any taller, but he can add muscle to his frame and become a better player on the defensive side of the puck. If he does those things, he should stick on the Flyers roster next season.
2. Scott Laughton
Up until a few weeks ago Scott Laughton seemed destined to start the 2014-2015 season with the Philadelphia Flyers. However, with the ascension of Ron Hextall to the GM chair, that assumption has been called into question. Hextall was explicit about his desire to see prospects spend time in the AHL before coming up. He said:
Hextall: "Tell me one young player who was hurt with time in the AHL. I can tell you hundreds and hundreds that were hurt too soon in NHL."
— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) May 7, 2014
Hextall continually preached patience with prospects and having a good fit among the forwards. There was already questions as to where Laughton would fit on the Flyers roster, seeing that there is a logjam at center and the organization does not seem to view Laughton as fourth liner.
Ultimately, Laughton will need to have a strong summer if he wants to play on the Flyers next year. He will need to do enough to prove that he can be a viable replacement for Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier, which is a tall order. Of course, this is not even taking Vincent Lecavalier into account. He could also keep Laughton out of the NHL for a little while.
3. Mark Alt
For all of the talk surrounding Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Sam Morin (rightfully so, they are all good prospects), Mark Alt may be the Flyers most NHL ready defense prospect. After spending three seasons playing college hockey after being drafted in 2010, Alt had an up and down rookie season with the Phantoms in 2013-2014.
Alt has all of the tools to be a solid NHL defenseman. He is 6’4″, 201lbs, skates well, and is a decent player in all three zones. Unfortunately, he did not stand out on the Phantoms last year. His 26 points (4G, 22A) in 75 games do not jump off of the page.
At 22 years old, Alt is coming upon a career crossroads. He will need to break into the NHL soon, or else he will begin to travel the path of a career AHLer. Alt will need to work hard this summer to prove to the Flyers brass that he is ready to hold down a job at the highest level.