The Philadelphia Flyers report for training camp on Friday and start playing preseason games on Sunday. The roster is pretty much set, but there will still be some players and battles to keep an eye on throughout the preseason.
What to Look for With the Flyers Goalies?
Brian Elliott is the Flyers number one goalie to start to the season unless he gets injured during the preseason. Elliott missed significant time last season due to injury, which is the reason he struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs. The biggest thing with Elliott is going to be how he reacts after making a difficult save – does he look comfortable or not? If the Flyers want to take the next step and get deeper into the playoffs then, they need a healthy Elliott to keep the puck out of the net.
Michal Neuvirth is expected to be the team’s backup goaltender, but he is known to miss a big chunk of time because of injury. The goal of the preseason for Neuvirth should be to stay healthy and be more consistent. Alex Lyon, who saw some time with the Flyers last year, will need to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff to crack the roster this year.
Who’s the Flyers’ 3rd Line Center?
This is the one battle that has the potential to be one of the more interesting ones as preseason goes on. At least three players on the current roster will have a shot at being the third line center come Oct. 4, including Scott Laughton, Jordan Weal, and Jori Lehtera. Laughton spent some time in this role last season and played well. When Weal was in the lineup, he played second or third line wing, while Lehtera rotated between the center position and wing. Lehtera is another one of Hakstol’s go-to guys on the team and played in every situation last year even when he should have been a healthy scratch.
Morgan Frost has an outside chance of making the team, but it could happen with a spectacular rookie camp and preseason. The injury to Sean Couturier should have Frost sticking around for preseason. Frost is small in stature but would add the speed factor to the third line. He also has hockey sense and makes quick decisions to set up his teammates or shoot the puck. The center would need to have a phenomenal showing and prove that he could handle the NHL to even get a shot at starting the season on the Flyers roster.
Can Philippe Myers Crack the Flyers Roster?
Andrew MacDonald was injured during offseason workouts and is expected to miss the next six weeks. The veteran defenseman will miss the first two weeks of the regular season if there are no setbacks. MacDonald’s injury opens the door for 21-year-old Philippe Myers to try to land a spot on the team. The 6-foot-5 defenseman was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He made his pro debut last year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and finished the regular season with 21 points while adding seven more in the postseason.
Myers is a big kid that can skate and move the puck out of the defensive zone. He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck since he was held shotless in only seven of his 50 games played last year. Myers will need to leave an impression in the preseason to sticks around and take advantage of his opportunities when he has them.
Do the Flyers Young Kids Get Expanded Roles?
The Flyers started to trust the young kids more in the second half of last season and they excelled. Travis Konecny was moved up to the top line to play with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier where he gained confidence and started to put up some points. Nolan Patrick was added to the top power play unit when Wayne Simmonds was injured and didn’t miss a beat. Travis Sanheim was a much better player after he was recalled, and Oskar Lindblom was playing on the second line at one point last season.
The kids should have more defined and expanded roles this year. One possibility is Konecny seeing some time on the penalty kill since it needs some fresh faces and revamping because of some terrible finished the past few seasons. Patrick will be the second line center and play a more prominent role in the offense. Lindblom will be starting the season on the third line, and he could also see some time on both special teams units.
The usage of Sanheim by Hakstol could be the most interesting thing to see in the preseason. The defenseman will likely be paired with Radio Gudas on the third pairing at even strength, and could very well see some time on the second power play unit should the Flyers opt to go with two defensemen on that unit instead of four forwards.
How Does James van Riemsdyk Fit In?
One of the bigger storylines to keep an eye on is how free agent James van Riemsdyk plays and fits into Hakstol’s system. He could be playing with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek at even strength. If he doesn’t mesh or build chemistry with them over the course of the preseason then do the lines start to get tinkered with until the right combination is found? van Riemsdyk should see plenty of ice time, but will he grasp the Flyers system quick enough?
There is no question that van Riemsdyk will be on the power play, but if the first unit struggles, does he gets bumped up to the first unit with someone else demoted? If he is not fitting in on one power play unit, does he moved or stick with that same unit no matter what? When on the power play, he should be the net-front presence, but there is also a chance that he could also play in the slot.