Training camp is over, the preseason is done, and the puck is getting ready to drop. Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers are ready to storm the halls of the Wells Fargo Center and cheer on their guys in Orange and Black.
In the midst of all this anticipation, the Flyers have announced their initial team roster. This group of 23 will start the year, and from there will of course be roster changes as players get hurt and then get healthy again, among other NHL-related happenings.
Most of these roster spots weren’t surprises. However, some players made a big push to be up here and other players were shocking cuts. As long as everything goes well, this roster should formulate the core of the team for most of the season. We have seen in the past few years that injuries can turn up at any time shake up this team, but for now we will examine what this team is on paper and what it is built for.
Longtime Flyers and vets
Cam Atkinson, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton
This is the heart and soul of this team. Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton are the clear-cut leaders of this team. They are the loudest voices in the locker room and they set an example for the rest of the team. They both have been here for over a decade and they have earned their roles on this team.
For the first time in Orange and Black, Cam Atkinson gets to showcase what he can do under coach John Tortorella. Last year, he talked a lot about how much he loved playing under him and how much he appreciated being pushed by his coach. Atkinson is also a leader for the young guys. He can translate what Tortorella ‘says’ and explain what it ‘means’ to the kids. He can take them under his wing and show them how to adapt and help them grow.
Then there is Travis Konecny. Konecny had a breakout year last year offensively, despite playing in just 60 games. Whereas Couturier and Laughton are the soul of this team, Konecny is the dynamo. He is the guy who will put this team on his back and carry them to victory. He is assuming the scoring mantle left behind when Claude Giroux was traded. If he is healthy, he will put up points once again.
The 4th Line
Nicolas Deslauriers, Garnet Hathaway, Ryan Poehling
These guys are here for one reason: intimidation. They will punish the opposition and scare them away from trying to maintain possession. Very quietly, the Flyers have seemingly put together one of the better and more cohesive fourth-line units in the NHL.
They may not score a lot of points, but that is not their role. Garnet Hathaway looks as if he can be the perfect compliment to Nicolas Deslauriers, and Poehling will be given a new chance to show what he has. The former Montreal Canadien has played a lot on this line during training camp, and it looks like the trio is melding well.
Flyers’ young guns
Bobby Brink, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee, Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett
Most of these guys have played in less than 120 games in their career. While Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink are true rookies, the others are only a season or two removed from being called one.
Noah Cates is looking to build off a surprisingly successful freshman campaign. He has a real chance to become one of the Flyers’ best forwards if he continues on this upwards trajectory. Likewise, Owen Tippett had a breakout season as well. He could be a great compliment to whoever’s line he is on.
Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee are pretty much in the same boat; this is a critical season for both of them. Are they going to build off of last year and continue to improve and become the first-round stars they were projected to be, or will they stagnate in their growth as players? While the Flyers really are dependent, overall, on all of their players, they will really be banking on these two more than any others. A lot of time and effort has been invested in them. They are the future of this team on the flanks, and this is their time to shine.
As for Brink and Foerster, this is their moment. They will have opportunities to show what they have. If they struggle, they can always be sent down to Lehigh Valley and improve. Hopefully, that won’t be the case. If they can show off their skills as they did during training camp and preseason, we’ll be in for a treat.
These six forwards are the key to this team’s future. We already know what to expect with Konecny, Couturier, Laughton, and Atkinson. Are these six young players for real? Will they be the next Konecnys, Simon Gagnes, or Mark Recchis, or will they be the next Matt Read?
Last year, Tortorella famously said that he was going to ‘play the kids’ to evaluate them. Well, it’s time for more evaluating this season too. If these guys can’t cut it, Briere will have to clear the deck and prepare to refill the prospect pantry.
A new-look Flyers blueline
Emil Andrae, Travis Sanheim, Nick Seeler, Marc Staal, Sean Walker, Cam York, Egor Zamula
For now, the Flyers are carrying seven defenders. Rasmus Ristolainen, who is dealing with an undisclosed injury on injured reserve, will hopefully be back with the team soon and re-take his spot on the roster. However, that means someone will have to sit. As it is right now, someone will be riding the bench more than hitting the ice.
Marc Staal is the elder statesman who is here to help steady the younger players. How much ice time he will get across the full season remains to be seen. He is a favorite of Torts, so he will probably get his fair share of playing time. You could make the same argument for Seeler. While Seeler is younger than Staal, he does a lot of the ‘little things’ correctly.
Sean Walker and Travis Sanheim have both been around a while; although it is Walker’s first year in Philly. Each know what is expected of them, and know they are supposed to be the guys that the team rallies around.
This leaves the younger players in Cam York, Yegor Zamula, and Emil Andrae. Andrae dazzled team management over the summer and the youth development camp and carried that momentum into training camp and the preseason games. York and Zamula have both had their time in Philly and know what Torts wants. It is up to the three of them to earn their permanent spots on the roster.
To do that, young defenders will have to push the veterans for their jobs. This means that someone will have to sit and lose minutes, be it a vet or a rookie. At some point, Danny Briere will have to make some rough decisions deciding, for the long term, who stays and who goes.
Flyers carry three goalies
Samuel Ersson, Carter Hart, Felix Sandstrom
No part of this team has gotten more scrutiny during the summer than the goalie situation. Rumors have been swirling about Hart all offseason. Who knows what is real and what is conjecture? Are the Flyers moving on from him or are they committed to him? Have they talked to other teams about moving him or is that just speculation? Barring a roster move (trade, release), the Flyers are carrying three goalies right now. How long this will continue is, as of yet, unclear.
No matter what happens with Carter Hart, they have people who can fill in it net. Sam Ersson seems to be the immediate heir apparent and has been named the official backup. Felix Sandstrom is still here for now. If waived to the AHL – just like Cal Petersen last week – he’d be subject to a potential waiver claim.
For now, it is Hart’s job to lose. If he wants to stay in Philadelphia, this is his time to prove he wants it. At one point, he was supposed to be the foundation of this franchise, and that is no longer guaranteed. Others are ready to take his place, and if he can’t do it, watch for Ersson to slide into his role. Sandstrom and Petersen are, at this moment, insurance policies if things don’t work out.