Flyers Can Turn to Frost & Cates With Couturier Out Long-Term

The excitement of going into another season of Philadelphia Flyers hockey may have just come to a disappointing halt with the news of Sean Couturier’s back injury coming to surface once again. After a disheartening end to last season, this is not the news Flyers fans wanted to hear after an offseason of gathering hope and hard work. Thankfully with the help of some of the younger players on the Flyers roster, there is still a chance these young guns may help make an impact.

Couturier’s 2021-2022 season

Couturier has always been a key player for the Flyers, but after a hot start followed by an underwhelming turn at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, he left the organization and fans questioning the health of the then 29-year-old centre. The Selke Trophy winner recorded just six goals and 11 assists last season before pulling out of the line-up. The Flyers officially placed the centre on the injured reserve on Dec. 30, 2021, with an upper-body injury, where he remained until a successful back surgery on Feb. 11, 2022.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers ( Dean Plunkett/ The Hockey Writers)

When the news broke to Flyers fans and the hockey community that Couturier would miss the remainder of the season, it meant the Lehigh Valley Phantoms players may have their moment to shine. 

Couturier’s Promising Offseason

Recent news regarding Couturier’s offseason had people building hope. After months of rehab, the centreman was ready to leave last season in the past and focus on the first season after sealing his eight-year $62 million deal back in 2021. In a press conference Monday, Sept. 13, he took the time to speak with the media regarding his current health, where he reassured the hockey community he was feeling ready to roll.

“I feel good now. As I understand it, the issue should not crop up again [on its own]. But hockey is a physical sport, so anything can happen.” Famous last words as some may say, when just a week after the news was released the Flyers organization announced he would be out long-term with what reports said was a herniated disk after an off-ice training session.

After the completion of regular season play in 2021-22, the Flyers found themselves sitting a little too comfortably at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, finishing 29th overall. With the cardinal player already missing a heavy chunk of last season due to injury and recovery, this isn’t good news as preseason begins to round the corner.

Young Players to Step Up

Couturier’s playing style hasn’t gone unnoticed. As a 200-foot player, his shoes aren’t easy to fill, since he’s an all-around player and a key aspect to the Flyers’ game in all situations. Number 14 proved he was one of the best two-way forwards in the league in 2019-20 after winning the Selke Trophy, as he posted a 59.6 faceoff percentage. The Flyers will have to look to someone with a playing style as sharp as his around the puck.

Related: Evaluating 5 Flyers Prospects After Rookie Camp

Surely, for some of the young guns, this is an opportunity to showcase their skills. Two of the forwards that will need to step up if this team wants to be successful this season are the two 23-year-olds, Morgan Frost and Noah Cates.

Morgan Frost

Last season fans hoped it was Frost to the rescue, this year it may just be time for Frost to show the Flyers fanbase and staff that he is, in fact, an important addition to this Flyers squad. The 2017 Draft pick was first recalled from Lehigh Valley at the end of Nov. 2021 but was eventually sent back down in Feb. 2022 after his game began to fester. He was once again recalled in March and completed the remainder of the season with the orange and black, where he played a total of 55 games posting 16 points with five goals and 11 assists. He can be seen as a good two-way player and is a smart playmaker when he’s on his game.

Noah Cates

Another player that could help shift the dynamic of this squad is Cates. The 23-year-old forward showed promise at the end of last season putting up five goals and four assists in just 16 games. Cates will definitely have to win over the coaching of John Tortorella, but with a slick short-handed goal against New York Rangers in the rookie game on Saturday, Sep. 17, he could be good for the Flyers’ struggling penalty-killing unit. He is also seen as a mature player on and off the ice by seemingly comprehending the idea of what it means to be a part of the NHL.

Moving Forward

Not the ideal news to head into the start of the season, but the Flyers squad is presumptively heading into training camp ready to work hard and give it their all. There may still be a slight chance this Flyers squad is willing to do anything to change the past dynamic of this group. With the invitation of plenty of young players and veterans, it will be a great opportunity for head coach Tortorella and his team to make changes in the absence of Couturier and hopefully give the young forwards, such as Frost and Cates, a chance to step up and create a long-term impact on this team, perhaps even help shape their postseason hopes. Training camp kicks off Thursday, Sep. 22 and will continue until Monday, Oct. 10, with the Flyers’ preseason schedule taking flight on Saturday, Sep. 24 against the Boston Bruins.

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