The Philadelphia Flyers will be a much different team on Oct. 12 compared to how they looked in their season-opener last year. This statement rings truer to Yegor Zamula than perhaps any other player on the roster currently. The young defenseman made the Flyers’ opening night roster last year, but now finds himself on the outside looking in.
Zamula played in the Flyers’ 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils in last year’s opener, alongside the likes of fellow defensemen Justin Braun, Tony DeAngelo, Nick Seeler, Travis Sanheim, and Ivan Provorov. Three of those players have long since left the organization, and still Zamula’s prospects of becoming an NHL regular this season look cloudy.
2019 first-round pick Cam York is a lock to make the Flyers as a permanent fixture on the blueline this year, leaving him and Sanheim as the sole occupants of the top two left-handed defense spots. The third and final spot likely comes down to a competition between Zamula, Seeler, Marc Staal, and Emil Andrae. The latter had impressed in development camp earlier in the summer, but his lack of size will be the deciding factor there.
Conversely, that will not be an issue for Zamula. The Russian stands at a towering 6-foot-5, and because Rasmus Ristolainen is 6-foot-4 and Sanheim is 6-foot-3, the Flyers will have one of the larger defense corps in the NHL. This also helps make up for York’s average size of 5-foot-11.
Staal is also a tough customer at 6-foot-4, but at his age and given his background, he should be expected to contribute more off the ice than on it. Zamula, who had season-ending hip surgery, could learn a thing or two from his new veteran mentor, as Staal has dealt with a few significant injuries of his own.
Zamula has more NHL experience than Andrae, is the Flyers’ tallest defender, and offers more as a player than Seeler and Staal. Seeler is best suited as a seventh defenseman or rotational piece; the same can be said for Staal. On the basis he is healthy and performs well, the 23-year old should have no problem securing a spot in the Flyers’ lineup again this season.