With Noah Cates sidelined for the next six-to-eight weeks, the Flyers are carrying just 12 forwards at the moment. With Lehigh Valley only about 90 minutes away, that isn’t a problem at the moment. But an injury or other situation could arise at any moment, leaving the team in a possible pinch.
While there isn’t expected to be any moves for either game against the Penguins, when the team sets out for a three-game Western road trip, having an extra forward with them is something the team is likely to do. But who could they bring with them? Well, it depends what the Flyers are looking for.
Do they want someone to just be an extra body on the road? Are they looking for someone who could potentially kill penalties? Do they want a more offensive weapon? Teams also have to make sure that they aren’t interrupting a prospect’s development by calling them up at a time they aren’t ready. Those are all questions that John Tortorella and the Flyers leadership group will have to think about in terms of who they decide to call up. In a rebuild, the Flyers might focus more on bringing up a more established player who has NHL experience already.
"“We’ll make the decision on which we feel is best for — not to stop their development. Because sometimes when a guy plays really well in the American League, you want to keep him there and keep proceeding and feeling good about it. Or do we think he’s ready for that next step?” Tortorella said about how they’ll approach bringing someone up."
It’s also the players themselves who can make the decision easy or hard on the team. Play well down at the AHL and you could be the next one called up when the team needs someone. That could be the case for Olle Lycksell, the Phantoms leading scorer. He has 12 goals and 19 points in 19 games played. He’s earned a recall before, appearing in eight games last season where he recorded his first NHL point. He’s likely the leading candidate for a call up.
Tanner Laczynski is another option as well. He appeared to be in the doghouse last season and was often a healthy scratch. Being sent to the AHL to start this season, he hasn’t let that get to him. He is third on the Phantoms in scoring with six goals and 17 points in 17 games. It’s possible that the Flyers could see his positive attitude and reward him with another chance at the NHL level.
It’s a less likely option, but the Flyers brought back former prospect Cooper Marody on a two-year deal this past offseason. He’s started off rather strong, recording five goals and 16 points in 19 games for the Phantoms. He’s on the older side and wasn’t able to translate his AHL success to the NHL when a part of the Oilers organization. If the team simply wants an extra body to have and not play, he could be an option. But he’s likely toward the bottom of players that would be chosen.
If the Flyers want to look toward the future and get an idea of what they have, Samu Tuomaala could be there guy. He was impressive during training camp and has taken strides from where he was a season ago. He is right being Lycksell in terms of scoring as he has five goals and 18 points in 19 games. Tuomaala is one of the players that came to the Flyers organization with plenty of hype around him. He is one of the players that falls into the category of what Tortorella has talked about in terms of development and wanting to keep players in a positive environment.
If Tuomaala was to be the one chosen, it would be his first crack at the NHL. He has been adjusting to the smaller ice in North American and seems to be doing rather well. Sami Kapanen is someone who has done a tremendous job working with Tuomaala to enhance his game.
The internal competition at the NHL level could also play a factor in what the Flyers want to do. Morgan Frost and Bobby Brink are a prime example. With Cates’ injury, both players have now been in the lineup at the same time. It’s been clear, though, that that final spot has come down to the two of them most times. Tortorella has also used the healthy scratch option to give a younger player a breather and watch the game from up top. With only 12 healthy forwards, there is no opportunity to do any of that.
Whoever the Flyers call up will likely show where their thinking is at in terms of if said player is going to get an opportunity to play during the three-game road trip or not. It’s the balance of continuing to develop players and rewarding those based on merit that will be the ultimate factors now and in the future.