Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella revealed Tuesday that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen suffered a ‘setback’ with the injury that landed him on injured reserve to start the season. The Finnish blueliner has been on IR since Oct. 9, and with Marc Staal also out for an extended period of time, the Flyers have only six healthy defensemen on their active roster.
At present, former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Walker is the only righty amongst the Flyers defense corps. And, the blueline is already flush with young talent, including the likes of Emil Andrae, Cam York, and Yegor Zamula. The youth movement has clearly worked out thus far, so why not add some more familiarity on that front?
Like the Flyers, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms also don’t have a ton of right-shot defenders. Ronnie Attard, however, is one of those few, and he carries some NHL experience.
The Chuck Fletcher draft pick was re-signed by Danny Briere on July 5 to a two-year, $850k deal that essentially puts him on his last legs in the Flyers organization. Attard scored two goals and two assists in 15 games in the 2021-22 season, and went scoreless in a brief two-game cameo last season. With a lack of right-shot defenders and two veterans down injured, Attard couldn’t ask for a better opportunity after initially getting cut in training camp.
When Attard got his extended opportunity two seasons ago, he played most of his 5-on-5 minutes with none other than Ivan Provorov. Together, the pair played 88 minutes in 15 games and had a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 57.73 and an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 58.63.
When Attard was paired with anyone else, his CF% dropped to 47.37 and his xGF% dipped to 48.76. When Provorov was paired with anyone else, his CF% fell to 46.47 and his xGF% cratered to 45.45. Essentially, the Flyers had found the perfect partnership with those two, albeit in a smaller sample size.
Provorov is now gone, and Attard finds himself out of the NHL for the second year in a row. The 24-year-old could be paired with virtually anyone on the defense at this point, but York and Travis Sanheim might profile most similarly to Provorov if that’s the route Tortorella and the Flyers want to take.
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So far, there’s been no indication that the Flyers are definitely going to call a player up in the wake of the latest injury news, but Attard would make a ton of sense. He has experience, knows most of the team already, loves to shoot, and has some offensive skill in his locker. It wouldn’t hurt the Flyers to at least give him a chance as the seventh defenseman.