Can Taylor Leier crack the opening night roster?

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 30: Taylor Leier
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 30: Taylor Leier /

Philadelphia Flyers forward Taylor Leier is on the verge of becoming a full-time NHL player. Making the Flyers’ opening night roster would be a good way to start.

The numbers game can be brutal. Look at any professional sport, and you’ll see talented young players who just come up short in their attempts to make the final roster. If a team is stacked at a particular position, a guy who might be an active player on other teams is left without a spot. Similar to Anthony Stolarz, Philadelphia Flyers forward Taylor Leier might be one of those players.

Leier has been largely productive in his professional career, but has never quite made it into discussions about the Flyers’ top prospects. While a bit undersized at 5-10 and 176 pounds, he fits Ron Hextall‘s preferred mold of a responsible two-way forward.

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Leier dominated the WHL in the two seasons immediately after being drafted by the Flyers in 2012. He scored 141 points in 126 total games, and his 1.27 PPG rate in 2013-14 ranked 16th in the entire WHL.

The jump to pro hockey saw an expected drop in performance. Leier scored 31 points in 73 games his first year with the Phantoms, then made a modest improvement to 49 points in 71 games his second year. Not bad, but not quite good enough to force the Flyers’ hand and decide to bring him up to the big leagues.

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Leier finally got his chance last season. After upping his PPG rate and scoring 37 points in 48 games with the Phantoms, Leier saw ice time in 10 games with the Flyers. He didn’t immediately set the world on fire, but he showed that could become a decent bottom-6 forward for an NHL team.

But the question is, can Leier make the roster? The Flyers will likely only have one spot available between him, Scott Laughton, and Mike Vecchione, a battle in which Laughton seems to possess the edge considering the Flyers surprisingly chose to protect him in the expansion draft. Meanwhile, Vecchione is a year older than Leier, which might give him a slight advantage.

Still, if Laughton falters and Leier performs well during training camp and the preseason, it’s not impossible to imagine him cracking the opening night roster. And even if he doesn’t, he’d likely be the first forward to be called up in the event of an injury.

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Leier will have the opportunity to further cement his status as a valuable NHL player this year. Whether or not that will come at the beginning of the season or sometime in the middle depends which player makes the strongest early impression.

(All stats via Hockey Reference and Elite Prospects)