Flyers’ Injury Situation Creates Opportunity for Prospects

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher sat down with the media to discuss some important injury updates to key players on the team. He stated that Sean Couturier, following successful back surgery, would require three months to return to play, keeping him out the rest of the season. He is the team’s top centerman and is one of the league’s best two-way forwards.

The good news is that he will have the entire summer to train and prepare for next season in the hopes that the Flyers rebound from this unfortunate season filled with injuries.

Sean Couturier Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fletcher also talked about Ryan Ellis. He said that whether it was two months ago or now, a surgery would knock him out for the season. To take him out would benefit the Flyers and ensure he returns healthy for next season. Teams would generally like to always avoid surgery if possible, and they have been trying to take a different approach with rehabbing and treatment to allow him to play again this season.

Fletcher also mentioned it’s getting to that point in the season where a decision would have to be made on surgery so that Ellis is ready to go once training camps open in the Fall (from ‘Flyers’ GM Chuck Fletcher says focus for injured players like Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, and likely Kevin Hayes is now 2022-23 season’, Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 11, 2022).

The final big name from the Flyers whose situation is still up in the air is Kevin Hayes. It was projected nearly a month ago that Hayes would be out for around four weeks with a lower-body injury. Now Fletcher says his situation is 50/50 whether he can come back and play this season. He may need some more work done to get him ready and 100 percent for next season, which could include surgery.

“What’s in their best long-term interest for their health, and can we get them ready for the 2022-23 season.” Fletcher said. This is an indication that the Flyers are looking ahead to the future, whatever that may hold, and ensuring that their top players are healthy and can contribute next season. This also means that younger players and prospects will get a good opportunity to slot in and be relied on more in the second half. This will allow them to grow and play in more impactful spots in the lineup to better acclimate them to the NHL for when they permanently open up for them in the future.

Young Flyers Who Can Fill Holes in the Lineup

Both Morgan Frost and Cam York are NHL-ready, and now is the perfect time to call both of them up. It’s not as if the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are winning a ton of games either. The team is 16-17-6-2, second last in their division. So that eliminates the reason to keep them down there to continue to be a part of a winning culture. There is such a thing as overdevelopment, and now with the opportunity to easily fill a spot on the second or third line, the time is now to recall and play him between players like James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny.

Frost has recorded two goals and seven points in 26 games but has only logged just over 13 minutes of ice time per game. On a team near the bottom of the standings, it would be wise to insert these players in the lineup and play them. This will allow them to gain confidence in the NHL and learn the league in less-meaningful games.

Morgan Frost Philadelphia Flyers
Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The best time to call up York would be right now with Ellis out of the lineup, and depth defencemen Nick Seeler and Kevin Connauton getting into games. York has played in only 13 games this season and has shown he is more than capable, while Seeler has played 28 and Connauton has played 23. The latter two have combined for two assists while he has one goal and two assists. He has also skated 18:31, a good amount for a rookie just coming into the league, while neither of the other two provide the Flyers with more than 13 minutes a game. If the team is just going to ride out the year, why not insert the next wave of prospects into the lineup and give them playing time?

Fletcher discussed how the goal is to have them in the lineup and play in all situations. With big-name players out of the lineup and even more injuries beyond that, they could be given that same opportunity in the NHL. He said the most important thing is development and the opportunity to get ice time and puck touches. Both Frost and York are very important pieces of the Flyers’ future. More so Frost than York, it will hurt his confidence to continue to be demoted to the American Hockey League (AHL) each season. For two of the past three seasons he’s spent time in both the NHL and AHL, the other year spent injured.

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It was also said that Frost and York played well with the Flyers. York spent games in a top-four role, and others in a bottom-pairing role. Fletcher stated that he had to make a decision to move York back to the Phantoms once his ice time dropped because, in his mind, ice time and reps are the most important part of development. He is only 21, but players develop at different rates. The Flyers are a perfect example of that, with players like Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny breaking into the NHL early, while a player like Max Willman is just breaking into the NHL at age 26.

Rostered Flyers Prospects & Laczynski Injury Update

The Flyers currently have Willman, Isaac Ratcliffe, Jackson Cates, and Connor Bunnaman on the NHL roster, but a number of other prospects have appeared in games this season including Frost, Linus Sandin, York, and Egor Zamula.

Good news is that Tanner Laczynski should return from injury in about a week’s time. Since he’s another young talent the Flyers would like to see grow with the club, there’s a good chance he will be seen in the NHL for the rest of 2021-22.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Zamula and Sandin don’t appear in the NHL again this season, but as for the rest, it is integral to the Flyers’ future success if they get reps there to learn the speed and skill associated with NHL talent.

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