As they re-take the ice in preparation for the continuation of the 2019-20 season, the Flyers do so with an expanded training camp roster. Every NHL team is allowed to bring 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders to the two-week camp.
One of the many extras on the Flyers’ training camp roster is defenseman Mark Friedman. Throughout the season, Friedman has been a consistent eighth blueliner, and earlier this week earned himself a contract extension.
The one-way, $725,000 deal keeps Friedman in the orange and black for another two years. Although most of that time will be spent with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, his extension helps further solidify the strength of the Flyers’ blue line for years to come.
Friedman’s Career So Far
Friedman was drafted by the Flyers 86th overall during the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Since then, with only seven career NHL games, he’s established himself as a regular in the top-four on the Phantoms’ blue line.
Through 186 regular-season AHL games, the Toronto native tallied 10 goals and 51 assists, as well as two points in the Calder Cup playoffs.
With such a small sample size of experience with the Flyers, it’s difficult to judge Friedman’s game too harshly. However, through the early stages of his career, he hasn’t found his footing yet in his transition to the NHL level.
He isn’t a traditionally offensively-minded defenseman, but he’s more than capable of joining an offensive attack and earning his way onto the scoresheet. While he might not always light it up in the offensive zone, Friedman plays a reliable and smart game on the back end. He’s also an incredibly strong skater and rarely backs down from puck battles or an opportunity to block a shot.
Role on the Postseason Roster
Friedman is the best of the four additional defensemen included on the training camp roster. Outside of the Flyers’ solid top-seven blueliners, Friedman joins Andy Welinski, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Egor Zamula as the reserve defensemen. Of the four, he’s the only one who has played in an NHL game during the 2019-20 season. For that reason alone, he’s expected to remain the Flyers’ eighth defensemen throughout the restructured postseason.
Hopefully, the Flyers won’t need him much down the stretch, but in the event that an injury does arise, it’ll be comforting to know that Friedman can step in.
The State of the Flyers’ Blue Line
Heading into the 2020-21 season, only one member of the team’s top-seven defensemen (Justin Braun) is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Now, with Friedman locked up for the next two years, their defensive core is well set up for years to come.
Given his progress in the AHL, and the fact that he’s only played seven NHL games, Friedman still has a long road ahead of him before he becomes a regular with the Flyers.
The next two years will be critical for Friedman’s career. As has been the case for the past several seasons, a call up is always right around the corner for him. However, if he wants to establish himself as a legitimate NHL defenseman among the Flyers’ emerging blue line stars, he’s going to have to take his play up a notch during his few and far between opportunities with the club.
There may not always be room for him on the roster, but depending on how his game progresses during the offseason, he could finally make a legitimate breakthrough into the pros. For now, his extension gives the Flyers some additional support in their system and helps secure a successful future for the Flyers’ blue line.