The Philadelphia Flyers finished an underwhelming preseason with a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. They didn’t do much to silence critics of their offensive firepower with just eight goals in six preseason games, and fans even got some unexpected and disappointing news that prospect Cam York will not start the 2022-23 season in the NHL. Limited action for some key players on the roster definitely skewed the overall results, and head coach John Tortorella will now set his sights on his first regular season in Philadelphia.
Preseason Roster Cuts
The Flyers sent York, Tyson Foerster, Olle Lycksell, Adam Ginning, Adam Karashik, and Pat Nagle to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL) on Wednesday after the preseason finale. They also placed Adam Brooks, Max Willman, and Louie Belpedio on waivers with the expectation that they’ll clear and accept an assignment to Lehigh Valley. Prospect J.R. Avon will return to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Foerster showed flashes of the talent that landed him in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Although he was a virtual lock to begin the season with the Phantoms, his poise during the preseason could help convince the organization that he deserves a shot at the NHL level sooner rather than later this season. If the Flyers don’t exceed expectations offensively or on the power play, adding Foerster’s powerful shot from the flank position could be a good midseason boost.
Lycksell improved his stock within the organization as much as any player in camp. The 23-year-old Swede will need to adjust to the North American game with some AHL experience, but his preseason performance definitely increased the likelihood that he plays NHL games in 2022-23. Brooks, Belpedio, Karashik, Ginning, and Nagle were long shots to stay with the big club. Willman could be a serviceable short-term call-up on the fourth line after 41 NHL games in 2021-22.
The Cam York Decision
The real stunner of the announced transactions was York’s demotion. The 2019 first-round pick entered camp with the expectation of earning a roster spot beside Justin Braun on the third defensive pair. Tortorella openly pointed out that his young blueliner hadn’t played up to his potential during the preseason.
“I just think there’s a lot there that Cam has. I just want him to offer it up a little bit more to the team. I’m not sure where the road goes, but he’s just got so many different abilities that could be very positive for the team,” Tortorella said after Tuesday night’s loss.
York misplayed a puck on the power play that led to an ugly shorthanded goal from Casey Cizikas late in the second period on Tuesday against the Islanders. While his game had been arguably shaky up to that point of the preseason, he showed a noticeable lack of confidence in the finale. His veteran partner Braun didn’t have his cleanest game either.
Ronnie Attard and Egor Zamula remained on the roster longer than York, although Tortorella said the two prospects will also likely start the regular season in Lehigh Valley. Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Travis Sanheim are locks for the opening night roster on defense. Braun, Kevin Connauton, and Nick Seeler will most likely battle for minutes on the third pair. Seeler is the youngest of the three journeymen at age 29. All three defensemen were underwhelming in their roles in sufficient opportunities in 2021-22.
Other Flyers on the Roster Bubble
The Flyers will set their final roster no later than 5 p.m. eastern time on Monday, Oct. 10, three days before the regular-season opener against the New Jersey Devils. The most notable roster battle is between Jackson Cates and Tanner Laczynski for the fourth-line center spot. Jackson and his younger brother Noah have both stood out during the preseason, but the organization might want to give the 25-year-old Laczynski a shot now that he is fully healthy.
Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Artem Anisimov, Bobby Brink, Patrick Brown, and Cooper Marody remained on the roster while battling injuries. None of the six are likely to begin the regular season healthy and on the active roster, leaving 14 forwards for 12 spots in the lineup. Noah Cates looks like he’ll join the eight veteran forward locks.
Laczynski, Jackson Cates, Zack MacEwen, Wade Allison, and Hayden Hodgson will battle for positions in the bottom six. Allison has shown that he can add intensity and offense to the lineup when healthy. MacEwen seemed likely to make the NHL roster entering camp, but his status hasn’t been as certain over the past few weeks as many people might have thought. The 26-year-old Hodgson plays with an edge, but he’s the least likely of the remaining forwards to dress in the opener against the Devils.
Cam Atkinson and Carter Hart did not play in any of the six preseason games, but the Flyers expect both core pieces to return from their precautionary injury absences within the next eight days. Felix Sandström remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, leaving Sam Ersson and Troy Grosenick as the choices for the backup spot. The 22-year-old Swedish prospect Ersson has shown flashes of brilliance during the preseason while the veteran journeyman Grosenick won’t offer a tremendous upside.
Tortorella spoke about the time leading up to the preseason opener after Tuesday night’s loss, saying “It’s a week of working on your structure. It’s a week of trying to figure out, hopefully, health. It’s hard for us to really figure out where we sit with our lines and our back end until we get some guys back. There’s been a number of key guys that haven’t played.
“Hopefully we get some health. We’re going to keep everyone off the ice tomorrow for that reason. Try to get them a little bit more rest and then try to figure out what your team is. I have an idea of how we want to play. I hope we have guys that are willing to play that way, try to piece together the lines and pairs, and go forth that way in the next week.”
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Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.