The previous Philadelphia Flyers regime of general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol were often criticized for their inability and unwillingness to give young players an opportunity. Hextall typically left players in the minors for extended periods of time, or sent them back to their junior teams, regardless of how well they performed in training camp. Hakstol never properly utilized the young players on his roster, frequently giving reduced minutes or even healthy scratching players such as Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, and Oskar Lindblom.
The new management team, headed by GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault, has been a breath of fresh air for Flyers fans. Fletcher and Vigneault have not only shown a willingness to give young players an opportunity, but they also pair rookies with talented linemates and elevate them in the lineup in order to best position them for success (from ‘Despite ‘reputation,’ Vigneault insists Flyers’ youth will be served,’ The Morning Call, 04/19/2019).
This strategy has paid major dividends for an injury-riddled Flyers team, as the organization has shown it will ice the best possible lineup on a nightly basis, regardless of age and experience.
One of the Flyers’ most highly-touted prospects entering the season was winger Joel Farabee, who signed his entry-level deal with the team after just one season at Boston University. While Farabee does not score at a ridiculous pace, he plays a smart offensive game, setting up many scoring chances and generating plenty of offense, and his defensive game is very strong as well.
Prior to the season, there were many concerns about Farabee’s size, as he is listed at 164 pounds, though the diminutive winger has all but erased those concerns over the past couple of months. He has shown a willingness to fight and defend teammates, thus earning him lots of respect in the locker room and discouraging opponents from bullying him due to his size. Ironically enough, one of the Flyers’ smallest players is the clear team leader in penalty minutes thus far.
Aside from his toughness, the first-year winger has contributed offensively at a solid rate, putting up 12 points in 28 games. After not making the team originally, Farabee scored at a torrid pace in the American Hockey League, forcing Flyers management to call him up just four games into the season. The 19-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, and he is here to stay and help the Flyers make a playoff run.
Another rookie who has played a major role for the Flyers is center Morgan Frost. Frost is a highly-touted prospect who lit up the Ontario Hockey League for the past two seasons, and the AHL prior to his call-up. After the Flyers went on a losing streak, Frost got his chance in the show and ran with it, as Fletcher has shown his willingness and ability to make changes swiftly when the team is not performing well.
Vigneault has placed Frost in a position to succeed, as he has paired him with some of the team’s most talented players such as Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. While Frost has not lit up the stat sheet, with just seven points in 17 games, his skill level is evidently clear. Anytime somebody watches a Flyers game, they can find Frost creating plays on offense, generating scoring opportunities, and dangling around defenders with his elite skating ability. The points will come along eventually, especially given the extremely talented linemates Frost is playing with.
After a cup of coffee in the NHL last season and a short stint in the AHL to begin this season, young defenseman Philippe Myers has cemented his spot in the Flyers’ lineup. The hulking 6-foot-5 defender has been a massive addition to Philly’s blue line, playing a strong and steady game on both sides of the puck.
The rookie has scored at a torrid pace for a defenseman, putting up 11 points through 21 games. His plus/minus rating is also among the league’s best, posting a plus-18 rating thus far. Though the Flyers have rotated defensemen on the bottom pairing, Myers will shortly become a mainstay in the lineup as long as he continues this pace of play. The Flyers have discovered an undrafted gem in Myers, who looks to be a major piece of their defense for many years to come.
The Flyers’ youth will only keep getting better as they continue to gain experience at the NHL level. Frost, Farabee, and Myers have been a major reason why a Flyers team ravaged by injuries and was missing six of their regular NHL forwards at one point, sits comfortably in a playoff spot at the NHL’s Christmas break.
Even as the team’s roster regains health and other players return from injury, all three of these players have shown they are here to stay. Frost and Farabee have cemented their spots among the team’s top nine forwards, while Myers has played the bulk of games over Robert Hagg as of late. The Flyers are playing at a torrid pace and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This Flyers team is very different than those of years past, largely thanks to the management and coaching staff’s ability and willingness to trust young players and give them a legitimate opportunity to succeed.