Bobby Brink came into training camp as a dark horse to make the Philadelphia Flyers roster. With preseason coming to an end, he has made one of the biggest cases to capture one of the few open forward spots.
Brink’s previous season was a bit of a fight as he spent most of the year recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He didn’t appear in any games until January where he played with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL. While it took him a bit to get up to speed, he appeared in 41 games and posted 12 goals and 28 points. He was top-10 in goals and points despite playing 20+ fewer games than most.
Brink appeared in 10 games with the Flyers when he debuted following his college season in 2021-22. He notched four assists and came close more than a few times to scoring his first NHL goal. Fully healthy once more, Brink is back to flashing his offensive skill and was a big reason the team earned the win in the shootout against the Bruins on Friday. Assisting on Ryan Poehling’s first period power play goal, Brink was the reason the game needed extra time in the first place. Set up by the persistence of Jacob Gaucher, he skated through the slot and fired one past Linus Ullmark. He once again answered the bell in the shootout with a slick move.
That performance earned him a spot in the lineup the following night, the only player to appear in the back to back. The goal was to see if Brink could handle the grueling nature of playing on consecutive nights. Safe to say he passed that test as well. Early in the game, Brink and Wade Allison traded passes before the latter flipped it past Vitek Vanecek to open the scoring. Brink had a few other chances throughout the night, but once again looked the part of an NHL player.
"“I think he’s been doing a great job. I think he’s shown what he’s capable of doing. He’s kind of opened up the ice a little bit and had a little time with the puck on his stick, and he’s doing his thing.” Travis Konecny recently said about Brink’s play."
When the Flyers took the ice for a rematch again Boston on Monday, Brink was once again in the lineup. With John Tortorella behind the bench, it was close to an NHL lineup. Brink started the game on a line with Poehling and Wade Allison, but was later bumped up to the top line with Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee. While it may have been a move to simply shake things up, it’s telling that Brink was the one chosen to move up.
Tortorella isn’t once to mince words and he’s been largely vocal about what Brink has shown the Flyers in camp thus far. He noted that it’s been hard to keep the young forward away from a top-six spot with what he has shown the team.
"“He made a ton of plays tonight. The puck follows him around. You can see he’s looking for that next play. He has that innate ability, that you can’t teach, to see the next play. He continues to impress. We got to keep on going through here the next week and then we’ll see where we all fall.” Tortorella said after the game against the Bruins."
Could Brink have jumped Tyson Foerster for one of the coveted NHL spots? While Foerster hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t necessarily rose to the occasion in his preseason opportunities. In fact, the coaching staff has mentioned that Foerster appears to be fighting the puck recently and just beginning to get his legs under him after a tough first few days of camp. Foerster may have the upper hand, though, due to what he showed the Flyers during his limited sample size last season. He even had Tortorella trying to limit his excitement due to the fact that Foerster was eventually sent back to the Phantoms for their playoffs. He was the leading scorer for the team in the regular season, was named an AHL All-Star, and even played well despite a postseason sweep.
What Brink is doing now is impressive, but it may not be to be the only thing the Flyers look at when it comes decision time. One thing that can make the case for Brink is his playmaking abilities. The Flyers could use that skill set the most at this time. They have plenty of players that can be categorized as shooters. And if what Tortorella has said about jobs being won on merit is true, things also swing Brink’s way. He has clearly been the most impressive between Foerster and Allison, who is also challenging for a spot.
The question is going to be if an impressive training camp is what will be looked at the most. If that’s so, pencil Brink into the opening night lineup. There could be a chance that the Flyers find a way to open up more than one spot in the top nine, but it isn’t a guarantee they can do so. It seems as if the trio of Poehling, Garnet Hathaway, and Nic Deslauriers is here to stay. The three haven’t been split up when all in the lineup and give the team a formidable fourth line. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for change elsewhere. If the Flyers can find a way to make things work, then Brink and Foerster can co-exist.
But as of right now, it looks like it is going to be one or the other. Will this training camp make the difference or will the Flyers use larger sample sizes to make the decision? With one final preseason game on the schedule, we will soon find out.