The Philadelphia Flyers will begin training camp on Sept. 23. They enter the 2021-22 NHL season with many new faces, including Cam Atkinson, Nate Thompson, and Derick Brassard among the forwards. The hope of general manager Chuck Fletcher and the front office is for the Flyers to rebound from a disappointing 2020-21 season while the window of opportunity remains open for core contributors Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux to win a Stanley Cup.
Injuries, prospect growth, and the overall performance of individual players will undoubtedly shuffle the lineup throughout the season, especially considering the number of players new to the organization. Head coach Alain Vigneault will need to find the right blend of chemistry, and it will logically take time to do so. Ahead of training camp, health is assumed in lineup projections.
Flyers Forward Projections
First Line: Claude Giroux (LW), Sean Couturier (C), Travis Konecny (RW)
Couturier has blossomed into one of the best 200-foot centers in the NHL over the course of the past four seasons. His recent extension will keep him under contract with Philadelphia through 2029-30, and they will count on him to produce on the top line for the foreseeable future. The former Selke Trophy winner truly broke out during the 2017-18 season and allowed Giroux to transition from a top-line center into a steady role as a winger with less pressure to carry the team. The two most prominent team leaders have developed strong chemistry ever since.
Konecny, 24, shattered his career-best point total during the shortened 2019-20 season. However, the COVID pause of March 2020 disrupted his rhythm. He went without a goal in 16 games in the Toronto bubble during the 2020 Playoffs, and his inconsistent play in 2020-21 was one of the many disappointments the team experienced. Given proven playmakers like Giroux and Couturier on his line, Konecny should be able to regain the rhythm that inspired such high expectations early in his NHL career.
Second Line: Joel Farabee (LW), Kevin Hayes (C), Cam Atkinson (RW)
Hayes and Atkinson, a pair of former Boston College Eagles, could find themselves playing with 21-year-old Joel Farabee, a former star for the Boston University Terriers. Coming off a shaky season, Hayes will look to return to the excellent form he showed during his first year in Philadelphia in 2019-20. His strong ability to extend puck possession should mesh well with Atkinson’s feisty style. The Flyers will also be counting on both, possibly as a tandem, to help revamp a penalty-killing unit that finished 30th in the league last season.
Farabee will look to replicate an outstanding 2020-21 campaign in which he led the Flyers with 20 goals in just his second NHL season. The organization expects him to produce top-six scoring following his recent six-year, $30 million contract extension.
3rd Line: James van Riemsdyk (LW), Derick Brassard (C), Oskar Lindblom (RW)
In 2020-21, van Riemsdyk played perhaps the best all-around hockey of his career. On top of his 17 goals, he showed play-making ability and improved defensive awareness. He developed good chemistry with Farabee and Couturier for stretches of time last season, so it’s certainly possible he’ll move up in the lineup at some point in 2021-22.
The Flyers signed Brassard to a one-year contract in August. He will provide veteran depth for a team that relied too heavily on inexperienced players last season. Lindblom will look to re-establish himself as an offensive threat after minimal point production last season. He is expected to return in stronger physical condition now that he is farther removed from cancer treatments that understandably affected his conditioning last season.
Fourth Line: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (LW), Nate Thompson (C), Scott Laughton (RW)
Thompson will return to the Flyers as a depth center after one solid season with the Winnipeg Jets. Laughton is a versatile player who will move up and down the lineup and back and forth between center and wing throughout the season. His presence on the fourth line is a luxury for an NHL team. Both players will contribute to the penalty kill.
Aube-Kubel lost favor with the coaching staff by the end of last season, notably because of his tendency to take careless penalties. He will have to justify his place in the lineup as an energy player if he wants to avoid a younger prospect taking his spot, especially Wade Allison, who is capable of playing a comparable role in the bottom-six.
Flyers Prospect Pipeline: Frost, Allison, Laczynski
Fletcher has consistently indicated an organizational emphasis on veteran experience in the lineup in 2021-22, both by his words and by his roster construction. All the information he’s shared with the media hints that top prospects like Morgan Frost, Wade Allison, and Tanner Laczynski still need to develop before entering the team’s NHL lineup.
“That’s where you want to get as an organization. You want to make it so that young players have to earn their spot and you want the competition level to be high.”
-Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher
His logic is sound, and it doesn’t dispel the possibility that any of the three players will contribute at the NHL level in the near future. However, it does suggest that preference will be given to players with longer NHL track records, especially to begin the season.
Allison probably has the best chance of any prospect to play on opening night. He impressed the coaching staff in a 14-game NHL stint at the end of last season, and he could potentially bring value with a net-front presence and a strong shot on the power play. Frost is not well-suited for a fourth-line center role, but it is possible that he could overtake Brassard and jump into the lineup on the third line to play with a skilled winger like van Riemsdyk. The same is true about Laczynski proving his worth over Thompson on the fourth line. The object of bringing in so many new additions was to provide healthy competition, and Fletcher has done just that entering training camp.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.