Predicting the Flyers roster: final edition

One final stab at predicting the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening night roster that will probably still be wrong.

The preseason is finally drawing to a close, and the Philadelphia Flyers have only two more players to cut before their roster is set for San Jose. Of course, those two cuts are the most difficult ones of all. The Flyers’ depth on both the front and back lines is truly impressive, and two deserving players will not make the team as a result. The question is: which ones?

In past roster predictions I’ve laid out locks, borderline players, and so on. But that’s really unnecessary given the number of remaining cuts, so here are a bunch of fully formed paragraphs instead.

Forwards

There are really only two players in serious danger of being cut: Taylor Leier and Matt Read. If you squint hard enough you can mayyybe see the Flyers casting off Oskar Lindblom or Jori Lehtera, but that seems highly unlikely at this point in time.

Leier and Read are ostensibly fighting for the role of press box forward, but expectations would likely differ depending on which the Flyers decide to keep. At 31 years of age, Read has long expended any potential for growth (not to mention the fact that he’s steadily declined with each passing year, which is why he’s on the bubble in the first place).

At first glance, this might seem to be a strike against him. But Read’s spot on the development curve makes him better suited for an off-the-bench role. Taylor Leier has a chance to become a solid middle-six support forward, and he definitely wouldn’t be able to live up to that potential without regular ice time. As a result, the Flyers wouldn’t choose Leier over Read unless they plan on giving Leier plenty of opportunity.

In the end, I think Read gets the nod. He’s as reliable a bottom-6 forward as they come, and the Flyers would feel no guilt planting him in the press box on a regular basis.

Defense

As with the forwards, only one defenseman needs to be cut. Problem is, there’s no clear-cut decision to be made between two players. Andrew MacDonald, Brandon Manning, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg are all firmly on the bubble, and the Flyers’ choice of which one to cut will say a lot about their stance on calling up prospects.

Cutting MacDonald or Manning would signal a full embrace of the youth movement, as the Flyers would be left with three rookies on their opening night blue line. Dropping Sanheim or Hagg, meanwhile, would reaffirm the Flyers’ high standards for prospects looking to make the team.

I think MacDonald is a more likely cut than Manning, given the AMac’s infamous contract would ensure his safe passage through waivers. But even after a mediocre preseason, I still cannot imagine MacDonald has fallen so far in the front office’s eyes that they would send him to the minors, after giving him first-pair minutes all of last year.

So that leaves Sanheim and Hagg, and Sanheim has been the more impressive of the two. Sorry, Robert. I hope you still make the team anyway.