The Flyers began the season with a rotation based lineup on defense. Each game they would switch out either Egor Zamula or Emil Andrae. A similar situation to that of Bobby Bruno and Tyson Forster, the Flyers didn’t want any of their rookies to sit for too long. But when looking at what was best for their developments, the team has finally made a decision on the defensive end.
Andrae, who made his NHL debut this season, is heading back to the AHL to work on his game. It hasn’t been perfect for him at the NHL level and it’s best for his future development if he’s able to get bigger minutes and more responsibility down with the Phantoms for now. He made it hard on the team, essentially forcing their hand and keeping him on the roster to open the season. But four games in, Andrae has clearly been overmatched more often than not.
His offensive game, something he’s been complimented on, hasn’t shown up thus far. Andrae has no shots on goal in his four games and the Flyers are heavily out chanced when he is on the ice. There have been some good moments, but they are far and few in between right now. He’s also skated an average of 13 minutes per game, though it’s been closer to 12 his last few games. He will be better served getting a larger amount of minutes in the AHL.
"”I feel okay, but I feel like I have more, especially my puck movement and stuff. It gets a lot faster out there and you obviously don’t wanna make the mistakes, but I feel like I haven’t gotten to my game yet. Hopefully I can get better and better.” Andrae said ahead of the Flyers game against Vegas."
The Flyers, like they did with Zamula, have a fair amount of interest in Andrae and what he can do. But it’s also in their best interest to allow him to develop at his own pace and not place him into situations that he is not ready for. Now he knows what he has to work on and what the play is like at the highest level. He can use these few games as a stepping stone and continue to get better. He’ll be back again this season.
In his place, according to Anthony SanFilippo of Crossing Broad, the Flyers will actually be bringing up two defensemen in Andrae’s place. It’ll be Victor Mete and Louie Belpedio earning the calls. Mete has more experience in the NHL as Belpedio has only played in four career games and none since the 2020-21 season. One would assume it will be Mete who will be getting the playing time with Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal sidelined.
Mete, acquired this offseason, spent most of the season recovering from an injury sustained in December. He only appeared in 11 games for the Leafs, where he had two assists, and eight games for the AHL Marlies, where he had no points. The 25-year-old has 247 games under his belt, but hasn’t been able to establish himself in the league. His best season came in 2018-19 with the Canadiens where he registered a career high 13 points, all of which were assists. He has a total of five goals to his name, four of which were scored in 2019-20. He hasn’t scored in the NHL since April 28, 2021, though he only has appeared in 54 games over three seasons since.
Belpedio has spent the majority of his career in the AHL between the Iowa Wild, Laval Rocket, and Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 309 career games, the 27-year-old defenseman has 33 goals and 109 points. His NHL career has been spread out over three separate seasons in which he has only four career games and two assists to his name. In his first season with the Phantoms last year, he was second amongst defensemen in goals (8) and points (27).
There’s no exact word on how long the two will be up. Staal is out for at least 4-6 weeks, however there is no current timetable on Ristolainen’s injury. It is known that he had a recent setback, but nothing more than that. We’ll see how long the Flyers rotate players in and out on defense.