The Philadelphia Flyers are determining what they have for the future of their organization. They are not making the postseason for a second consecutive season and are in the process of undergoing an “aggressive retool,” according to general manager Chuck Fletcher. Interim head coach Mike Yeo is evaluating young players at the NHL level by giving them playing time as well.
The Flyers have given prospects opportunities due to many of their experienced players dealing with injuries during the course of a frustrating year. Ailments to Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Nate Thompson, Ryan Ellis, and Scott Laughton have forced Yeo to be flexible with his line combinations. With many key players out and veterans traded by the March 21 deadline, a lot of players have received chances with the Flyers. The trading of Claude Giroux, Justin Braun, and Derick Brassard at the deadline, created further changes in the starting lineup. Let’s take a look at why Yeo should keep Noah Cates, Ronnie Attard, and Hayden Hodgson in the lineup over the remaining three weeks of the season.
Cates signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers at the end of March. He played for the University of Minnesota and participated in the Beijing Olympics for Team USA. Since his Flyers debut on March 29, he has been featured in the top six. The Flyers’ fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has the opportunity to gain valuable experience. He has a chance to be in the lineup on a regular basis with Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Farabee, Hayes out with injury and Laughton, who is nearing his return to the active roster after sustaining a concussion on March 10.
According to Yeo, Cates will remain in the Flyers lineup if he is successful, “We haven’t talked about long term. Obviously some of these guys, the younger players, the more they play in the league, the more comfortable they should feel. With Catesy, what I’d say is if that first game that he showed us is any indication, then he’ll have no trouble earning his way into the lineup nightly.” If the rest of the Flyers’ young players are playing well, they have a good chance at more playing time during the final month of the season.
Cates can play both wing and center, which may work to his benefit in regards to more chances. He will have the support of experienced members of the roster as well, such as Nate Thompson. The 37-year-old forward commented about his role in helping him become acclimated to the NHL, “I was once him, so I get it. You want to be there for the guy, make sure that you’re helping him and helping him succeed. He’s going to be a big part of this organization for the future, so you want to make sure he’s got confidence, he’s feeling good about himself. Hopefully I can help him do that.”
Cates is one of the Flyers’ prospects that will look to leave a good impression with coaches and management over the final three weeks of the season. He will have the opportunity to learn from his experience with the Flyers heading into next season. Due to the return of some of the injured players and new additions during the offseason, Cates will look to make the Flyers roster as a member of the bottom six in 2022-23.
Attard is another player whom the Flyers signed to a two-year entry-level contract. He had success playing with the Western Michigan University Broncos before his promotion to the Flyers. The defenseman is a player with good size at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds.
Attard has good offensive abilities that will be utilized when he is in the lineup for the Flyers. A defenseman with offensive skills can provide a burst to the rest of the offense with his speed coming out of his own zone. He has the skill to read the ice for offensive chances in passing the puck to his teammates or creating scoring opportunities of his own (from ‘Flyers Ink Ronnie Attard to an ELC’, Philly Sports Network, 3/29/22).
Related: Philadelphia Flyers’ Ronnie Attard Set to Make An Impact in NHL Debut
Before his Flyers debut on April 2 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, Yeo commented about Attard’s skills, “I liked what I saw in practice today, as far as the tool set that he has as an NHL potential player. You’ve got size, you’ve got mobility, you’ve got the ability to move the puck and shoot the puck. It looks like he has a good stick in the D zone coverage drills we were working today. So I’m excited to see him in some game action.”
Attard has received advice and support from Wade Allison, who is a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League (AHL). Both players were teammates at Western Michigan University. Allison spent time with the Flyers in 2020-21 but has been dealing with injuries and is working his way back in the hopes of returning to Philadelphia one day.
With a strong finish to his debut season, Attard can enter training camp this summer motivated to make next year’s Flyers roster. Rasmus Ristolainen and a healthy Ryan Ellis figure to be two of the Flyers’ top defensemen. It remains to be seen if Ivan Provorov will be with the team past the offseason as there were rumors he had interest from other teams. Travis Sanheim is another Flyers blueliner whose name was a part of trade speculation near the deadline. Attard has the opportunity to earn a spot on the Flyers roster during training camp or be on the shortlist for a call-up to Philadelphia if he begins next season with the Phantoms.
Hodgson played with the Phantoms in 2021-22 as he was one of the team leaders in points. Between him, Cates, and Attard, the 26-year old Windsor Ontario native impressed the most in his first Flyers game. He finished with a goal and an assist in their win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24.
Yeo credits Hodgson’s perseverance and his exceptional work ethic as some of the reasons for his success in his first NHL game. (from ‘Are Flyers fully pivoting to future as season enters final month? A look at their moves: O’Connor’s Observations’, The Athletic, 3/29/22).
Hodgson brings grit to his game as he engaged in a fight with Tanner Jeannot during the March 27 contest against the Nashville Predators. His underdog story to the NHL and toughness will be appreciated by the city of Philadelphia and Flyers fans. He did not play in the April 2 contest versus the Maple Leafs but will look to get back into the lineup beginning on April 3 against the New York Rangers.
Hodgson has playing experience with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the ECHL as well. Despite not being drafted, his commitment to his goal remained the same, “I remember playing in the OHL and not getting drafted. I made it my goal to get there the hard way,” (from ‘Determination of Hodgson inspiring as Leamington native earns NHL deal with Flyers’, Windsor Star, 3/23/22).
The Flyers have begun to retool their roster and Fletcher will continue the process during the offseason. Yeo is trying out new line combinations involving the young prospects and is putting players at different positions on offense. One notable change is that Farabee has been moved to center due to the Brassard trade and the injuries to Laughton and Couturier. Once he returns from injury, Laughton could be moved to wing on the second or third line due to Farabee, Hayes, and Morgan Frost playing the center position on their respective lines. Cates, Attard, and Hodgson will benefit from the playing experience in the NHL and they will look to make the most of their respective opportunities with the Flyers over the final month of the season.