The Philadelphia Flyers have eight games remaining in what has been one of the most miserable seasons in the franchise’s history. A head coaching change and a multitude of injuries to several significant players are some of the issues that resulted in the disappointing year. As a result, the Flyers traded veteran players such as Claude Giroux and Derick Brassard to playoff-contending teams. Players have received time with the Flyers that have been in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or who are former draft picks of the organization that agreed to their first contracts with Philadelphia.
The Flyers played seven rookies on April 13 against the New York Rangers. During the game against the Rangers, Felix Sandstrom made his second start of the season, while Tanner Laczynski played in his first game of the year. The forward suffered a hip injury back in September 2021 and began playing with the Phantoms back in mid-February.
Both Sandstrom and Laczynski have been loaned back to the Phantoms. But the Flyers’ lineup has more young players looking to make an impact with the franchise over the next two weeks. Let’s take a look at some young players aiming to impress before the regular season concludes on April 29.
Bobby Brink is the latest player to make his NHL debut with the Flyers, as he was in the lineup on April 12 versus the Washington Capitals. The Flyers’ second-round pick during the 2019 NHL Draft finished with an assist on James van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game. The 20-year-old had over 14 minutes of ice time in his first career NHL game, followed by 16 minutes the night after against the Rangers.
Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo compared Brink’s game to Atkinson’s, as both players are under six feet tall. Yeo believes the Minnetonka, Minnesota native has the most potential of the other youngsters that have recently debuted with Philadelphia. (from ‘Flyers’ Bobby Brink could be the college prospect who makes the biggest impact,’ PhillyVoice, 4/11/22). Brink had a great season with the University of Denver, which resulted in him being one of the finalists for the Hobey Baker award and earning an NCAA championship for the Pioneers men’s hockey team.
Yeo commented further about Brink’s ability, “The game that he brings, no question he has the ability to make plays, to create offense. You draft a player like that and you know about his skill level, and that’s why we draft him in a high position. One of my first memories was watching him in the [2021 IIHF] World Juniors, and I remember him on the penalty kill blocking shots, sort of doing whatever he could to help the team win. Obviously a character kid. Some kids, they might not get that power-play opportunity that they’re normally used to, but for him, he was willing to take any role and shine. So that’s a good quality to have.”
Brink will have the opportunity to further develop his game over the remaining two weeks with the Flyers, assuming he remains with Philadelphia and is not loaned to the Phantoms. He can make quite the impression with Flyers management with his mentality of making the most of his chances and doing whatever he can to help the club. He possesses good qualities that have Yeo and his teammates thinking highly of him. With a productive finish during the final month of the season, he can build on his momentum during training camp to make the Flyers’ roster next season. If his game needs a bit more development, he may begin next season with the Phantoms and get called up to the Flyers if an opportunity arises.
Egor Zamula debuted for the Flyers during 2020-21 and appeared in his second game of this season against the Rangers. He is second among Phantoms defensemen in points after playing 57 games this year with Lehigh Valley. Injuries to Rasmus Ristolainen and Cam York opened up a roster spot for the 22-year-old defenseman to receive more playing with the Flyers.
Related: Egor Zamula – 2018 NHL Draft Prospect Profile
Zamula’s strengths include his passing and the ability to read the opposition to create offense. At 177 pounds, he uses his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage offensively. Along with York and Ronnie Attard, the Chelyabinsk, Russia native is another young defenseman that can create a chance for himself in making the Flyers’ roster during next season’s training camp.
The Flyers have struggled defensively, as Ryan Ellis only appeared in four games this season due to a lower-body injury. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Keith Yandle, and Ristolainen have not done well as a unit throughout the season either. Depending upon Ellis’ progression with his ailment and whether Provorov or Sanheim are traded during the summer as a part of the retooling the roster is expected to undergo, Zamula may have more of a chance to make the Flyers’ roster next season. If he adds more muscle during the offseason, that may enhance his game physically.
Noah Cates has received playing time on multiple lines as Yeo determines which players the 23-year-old’s skills align best with. He had goals in back-to-back games on April 5 and 7 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and is working through becoming more acclimated to the demands of hockey at the NHL level. Scott Laughton appears to be one playing enjoy playing with Cates and credited the hockey smarts of the forward.
After his first few games, Cates has confidence in his skills to play in the NHL, “I just think that for me, kind of growing up and kind of trying to get to this level is always about speed. But I think I can play at this level with the pace. So definitely growing my confidence and making plays and playing at this pace through these first four games. You know, it’s definitely good to know, and I just gotta keep that up.”
Cates’ ability to create turnovers and battle for pucks will serve him well as he seeks to make the Flyers’ roster for 2022-23. He has a good chance to make the opening night roster next year as a member of the Flyers’ bottom-six based upon his strength of forcing the opposition into turning the puck over.
Flyers development coach Kjell Samuelsson and Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin each expressed high praise for the young forward. Samuelsson commented that the forward has done everything that has been asked of him, and Sandelin appreciates Cates’ body positioning and his compete level (from ‘Flyers sign one of their top college prospects who is a versatile forward, NBC Sports Philadelphia, 3/27/22). Cates appears to have grit based on his style of play, which is a good addition to the Flyers’ roster.
Brink, Zamula, and Cates represent three members of the youth surge that suddenly comprised the Flyers’ roster over the last few weeks. Brink and Cates have more of a chance to be in the lineup over the final eight games of the season than Zamula unless injuries keep Ristolainen and York out longer than anticipated. But even if both Ristolainen and York return from injury, the Flyers would benefit from Zamula’s presence in the lineup over Yandle’s. The veteran defenseman struggled mightily during 2021-22 and will not return to the Flyers next season. The Flyers have some players in their organization that represent change as the team searches for another group of contributors that can complement their core players.