Sean Couturier: Stock Down
Couturier spent over a season away from hockey as he tried to mend his beleaguered back. He is such a gladiator and had set such a standard of excellence with the Flyers that former GM Chuck Fletcher thought it wise to extend the center until the year 2030 at $7,750,000 per season. It is fair to say that much like his back, this contract is not aging well.
Couturier does not look all together ineffective. He is a step slower, but speed was not really a key to his game. He still looks sharp on faceoffs, and is able to battle for them effectively. Defensively he is still positionally sound and game to battle for the puck. There is a good foundation in Couturier’s play, but there is also a lot missing from where he was at his peak.
Offensively he looks out of sync, and that could just be rust. In all likelihood it will remedy as the season progresses. What is more concerning is that Couturier seems to have lost some flexibility from his pre-surgery self. Watching him play this preseason, there seemed to be a resistance to him twisting his torso. This could be something as transient as a piece of restrictive equipment, think a baseball glove not yet broken in, or temporary inflexibility from his recovery. However, if this is permanent, this is going to be a problem for the former Selke winner. If he can’t twist, how will he block passing lanes? Will he now be susceptible to fakes since he will have to turn his skates to follow the puck? At this time, Couturier does not look right, and with plenty of preseason hockey played, this appears to be more than just rust.
Couturier will have to be monitored this season, for his health and his play. The season will tell the story on how much he has recovered. Couturier did prove he can still play this preseason, but he looks to be a good distance away from his dominant self.
Bobby Brink: Stock Up
During this preseason, it was difficult not to notice the Flyers’ 2019 second round pick Bobby Brink. It seemed that Brink was having his name called, in a good way, every time he took the ice. Brink played so well that he may have derailed Allison’s NHL career by forcing the team’s hand into sending him back to the AHL.
Brink still has the same warts that have dogged him throughout his career. His skating style is still funky, and he is still small and plays that way, but he is a puck blood hound. He has shown the ability to consistently disrupt opponent’s breakouts and steal pucks in the offensive zone. His concise passing and great vision through camp has been impressive and has generated many offensive chances.
Brink has pleased John Tortorella in the preseason, but Torts is a fickle fellow. If Brink can stay healthy and keep his motor running high, he will be a lineup regular.
Cam Atkinson: Stock up
Cam Atkinson’s return to the ice has been a welcomed sight as the winger played at a really high level over the course of camp. Atkinson arrived in Philly in July of 2021 from Columbus in exchange for Jake Voracek. He missed all of the 2022-23 season with a herniated disk in his neck. The injury was so severe that it limited his ability to use his left arm. The winger sought medical advice outside of the Flyers and opted for surgery. He says he has been pain free since.
Atkinson and his surgically repaired neck have looked very much like the player that scored 23 goals for the Flyers in 2021-22. He had looked tenacious chasing down pucks in the offensive zone, he has been extremely active on the penalty kill and scored two goals on seven shots in three preseason games. Atkinson and the Flyers main challenge may be staying healthy this season, so look for him to get some extra days off this year.
Atkinson’s return, and his high-level play, is a huge development for the team. The feisty winger gives the team a reliable scorer and a huge boost on special teams. While the Flyers may not be able to ride Atkinson for massive minutes, he will get more than his fair share of important minutes at pivotal points in the game. His play in key situations may be just the thing to allow the Flyers to challenge for a playoff spot.