Flyers News & Rumors: Tortorella, York, Gauthier & Atkinson

The Philadelphia Flyers finished their five-game homestand with a 2-3-0 record. Head coach John Tortorella is ready to get back on the road with the team for a four-game trip that will last until next weekend.

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“We need to get out of here…Going on the road and this type of trip here, going out west, I think it’ll be good for our team. (We’re) playing some really good hockey teams. We’ve been here a while. It’s been enough. Five games at home, it’s enough. It’s time to get on the road,” he told the media in Philadelphia on Wednesday night after a 4-1 loss against the Washington Capitals.

John Tortorella Watch

The lightning-rod head coach has dominated the headlines since the Flyers hired him in June. His demand for hard work and accountability took the fan base by storm during the summer and throughout training camp. Since the season began, Tortorella’s usage of players, especially Kevin Hayes, has differed from the strategy that most other NHL coaches take with their leading scorers (to say the least). Of course, his infamous interactions with the media have caught the attention of hockey fans throughout his coaching career.

Tortorella met with the media after the Flyers suffered a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Metropolitan Division rival New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. His availability lasted less than a minute. He told the media members they were asking dumb questions and walked out of the room. 

Despite the short temperament during postgame press conferences, Tortorella has given the media plenty of transparency on other occasions. His recent openness about the state of the organization building from the ground up without much short-term expectation pleased a lot of fans because it differs from the approach of general manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher, who has lost the benefit of the doubt over the course of his four-year tenure in Philadelphia.

Related: Flyers Ignoring Useless Semantics of Rebuild

The Flyers are getting exactly what they signed up for when they chose a fiery, old-school coach to try to recover from the embarrassment of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons and the malaise that persisted throughout the majority of the previous decade. Expect controversy and polarizing opinions about Tortorella to continue in any and all conversations about the Flyers.

Cutter Gauthier and Team USA

Cutter Gauthier received honors as the NCAA American East rookie of the month for November. He scored five goals and added three assists in seven games. He leads Boston College in scoring this season with 12 points in 12 games played. The Flyers selected Gauthier with the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. They hope that he can fill an organizational need as a center after playing both down the middle and on the wing at different points during his development as a prospect.

Cutter Gauthier USNTDP
Cutter Gauthier, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Gauthier also received an invite to camp for Team USA ahead of the World Junior Championship. He is expected to play a pivotal role after spending two seasons with the US National Team Development Program before entering the draft. Ethan Samson, Philadelphia’s sixth-round selection in 2021, also got an invite to Team Canada’s camp. The tournament will take place from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Flyers prospects have enjoyed success on the world stage in recent World Junior Championships. Carter Hart helped Team Canada to the gold medal in 2018. Joel Farabee earned the silver medal with Team USA the following year, and Bobby Brink and Cam York played key roles for the Americans on the way to the gold medal in 2021.

Atkinson, Injury Updates

Cam Atkinson wore the blue jersey at practice on Tuesday, Dec. 6. “I’m getting close, but not enough to where I think I can help this team right now. But I’m closer than not,” the veteran winger said on Dec. 3.

The situation surrounding Atkinson’s upper-body injury hasn’t been clear at many points throughout the season. It seemed he was nearing his first NHL game in 2022-23, but the lack of contact in practice indicates some form of a downgrade. The lack of clarity is a bad look for an organization with recent history involving murky injury timelines with a potentially career-ending injury to Ryan Ellis and a peculiar situation with former second-overall pick Nolan Patrick involving a long-term absence from severe migraine headaches.

Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and James van Riemsdyk have returned to the lineup, helping provide some element of veteran stability to a team forcing young players into roles they’re not suited for. While a talent disparity still exists between the Flyers and most of their opponents, the veteran reinforcements improve the overall outlook for the team.

However, Tanner Laczynski suffered a lower-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. He is now on injured reserve, listed as week-to-week. The 25-year-old battled major injuries that disrupted his first two professional seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Flyers Call Up York

The Flyers added Cam York to their active roster ahead of the upcoming road trip. Most roster projections handed York a spot on the Philadelphia blue line before training camp began, but Tortorella challenged him to be more aggressive with a stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) first. The former 14th-overall pick has three goals and 10 assists in 20 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2022-23.

Cam York Philadelphia Flyers
Cam York, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tortorella answered a question on Monday about choosing veterans Justin Braun and Nick Seeler to play over defensemen like York and Egor Zamula who might make a bigger impact on the long-term future of the franchise. His response left the possibility of a roster move on the table.

“Do you feel the (younger) guy is going to get more opportunity to improve in the minors and playing a ton of minutes or playing the 10 or 11 minutes where they’d probably play here…It’s something we talk about daily,” Tortorella said.

The Flyers sent Zamula to the Phantoms. He has moved back and forth between the AHL and NHL this season. Considering Tortorella’s transparency concerning the situation, it’s unlikely that York would make the trip only to become a healthy scratch. The lineup on the blue line will draw some eyes when the Flyers face the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night. Their road trip will continue to Arizona, Colorado, and New Jersey next week.