Aside from the recent front office change (welcome back, Hexy!) things have been pretty slow on the Flyers front and probably will be since their biggest splashes have already been made. What I’m being asked about now focuses on the prospects, the young guys, who makes the team, etc.
Before I get into that, let’s assume that the following players open the year with the team:
Giroux, Voracek, Hartnell, Lecavalier, B. Schenn, Simmonds, Couturier, Read, Talbot, Rinaldo, Hall, Rosehill
Timonen, L. Schenn, Coburn, Streit, Grossmann, Gustafsson
While some folks strongly feel that Simon Gagne returns and serves a role comparable to a third-line, two-way forward, I would assume it’s a coin flip at this point since cap space will need to be freed up before that were to realistically happen. To piggyback on that though, I feel there is a strong chance that once Andrej Meszaros receives medical clearance within the next week or two (expected, but not a guarantee) that he will be that cap casualty via the trade market.
Let’s completely assume that Emery and Mason is your tandem in goal next season. All of these thoughts, as always, are barring injuries. Injuries always happen, so let’s be realistic in chalking up my predictions as more of an art than a science for those tallying the total percentages.
With all of this in mind, I will break down the chances of each “bubble” player making the team. In all likelihood – and this changes with the decision on Gagne – there will be 1 to 2 forward vacancies for the opening night roster, as well as a vacancy for the seventh defenseman spot. I will use an actual percentage prediction of the player making the squad, as well as expected roles.
Scott Laughton – 65%
Despite the resigning of fourth-line checking forward, Adam Hall, I believe that Scott Laughton has a very strong shot at not only cracking the opening day line-up but staying as a regular. He forced himself into the equation after a very impressive – albeit abbreviated – camp last season and stuck around for five games before being returned to juniors.
Laughton, with a newfound level of confidence, returned to the Oshawa Generals and tallied 56 points and 72 penalty minutes in 49 games while playing in all situations. After putting on 14 lbs. of muscle since the beginning of last season combined with a very strong early display in developmental camp, he may just be ready to stick around for the long haul.
His chances are minimally affected by Hall’s resigning. If push comes to shove, do you really think the Flyers commit playing time to a player on a 1 year, $600K extension? This was purely a depth signing, and this is the contract depth players get.
Projected role: Fourth line center for Flyers comparable to the role Sean Couturier assumed as a rookie.
Tye McGinn – 50%
McGinn’s chances would increase if there was an injury on the bottom two lines, but he displayed enough promise in his few stints with the big club last year to earn a fair shot at cracking the line-up. He is still on a two-way contract and has plenty to refine in his game, including skating and defensive play.
While McGinn proved some flexibility with moving up and down the forward lines last season – mainly due to injuries – he still has yet to solidify what his role will be in the NHL. A power forward in the AHL, he may be best served as a third or fourth liner at the next level. Only time will tell. He uses his size well, but still has room for improvement as he is not necessarily the biggest hitter.
Projected role: On the Flyers, a bottom six winger who adds size and toughness; a top six, power forward with first unit power play time on the Phantoms as he works on skating and technique.
Michael Raffl– 35%
Raffl is a true wildcard. It’s too early to effectively place him in a depth chart or any sort of “pecking order”. It’s true that the Flyers outbid more than a handful of teams to sign him, and it’s also true that Paul Holmgren and a few members of top management have dubbed him as possibly NHL ready.
However, much of Raffl’s chances have to do with Simon Gagne (or another third-line type player external to the organization) signing, and much has to do with how he handles the transition to a smaller rink in training camp.
Best case scenario, from what I’m sensing from his reports and the statements of the front office, is that the Flyers have a poor man’s Matt Read in waiting. This may be an unfair wish, and management remains excited and optimistic, but time will tell.
Projected role: Top-nine, two-way winger for the Phantoms who plays in all situations and brings offensive upside; third line winger if/when he makes the Flyers.
Jason Akeson – 25%
Despite a promising NHL debut playing along good friend and team captain, Claude Giroux, Akeson is not yet a finished product for the higher level. An average skater with a steadily developing all-around game, Akeson will really have to carve out his niche in the NHL with more hard work.
The skill is there and apparent as he has arguably the best hands of any of these forward prospects, but he would have to combine an impressive camp with an injury to a top-nine winger – more likely a scoring forward.
Projected role: A productive scoring winger for the Phantoms.
Kris Newbury – 10%
Unless he plays out of his mind in training camp, Newbury will be dressing for Adironback in the fall. Though he could be the first call up if Rosehill or Rinaldo were to be lost to injury.
The 31-year old journeyman can play center or wing, is aggressive on the forecheck, drops the gloves, and can actually provide some scoring at lower levels. This was purely a depth signing and to bring some experience into the organization.
Projected role: Top nine forward for the Phantoms who brings a two-way, physical game to the line-up. Will likely see a few games at the NHL level as a fourth liner if there is an injury.
Petr Straka – 10%
One of the more hyped prospects in local Flyers news over the past few weeks, Straka has been very impressive in the developmental camp thus far following a breakout offensive showing with 82 points in just 55 games in the QMJHL last season.
The former 2nd round pick of the Blue Jackets has well-documented speed, hands, an above average shot, and plenty offensive acumen. However, he has plenty of work to do to prove to scouts and management that he is more than a one-dimension player that can eventually help at the NHL level. Keep in mind he has not yet played a game of professional hockey, and players don’t make teams out of developmental camp. A year in the AHL is likely the next ticket. But never say never!
Projected role: Scoring forward with plus speed and skating ability for the Phantoms.
True longshots (under 5%): Ben Holmstrom (may be best to get traded at this point), Nick Cousins, Marcel Noebels.
Bruno Gervais – 70%
Maxime Talbot’s best man has the inside track to making the squad as the team’s seventh defenseman for several reasons. Despite a forgettable season last year (one of several members of the defense corps that can say this), he does bring decent mobility and puck-moving abilities but is badly exposed in tougher match-ups or heavy minutes. Gervais does bring the element of being a right-handed shot and has had some NHL success in the past with the NY Islanders.
He could be sent down to Adironback without the Flyers having to absorb any cap penalties due to his salary being below the $900K threshold, but he would risk having to clear waivers. He will likely battle it out with Marc-Andre Bourdon (recently medically cleared) and maybe even Oliver Lauridsen but ultimately, in my opinion, has the inside track for now.
Projected role: Depth defenseman for Flyers who seizes the seventh defense spot.
Marc-Andre Bourdon – 25%
The former 3rd rounder pick of Philadelphia has finally received medical clearance. He will need to prove that his concussion issues have not greatly affected his development as a physical, rising two-way defender with a booming shot. He has average mobility and still has not reached his alleged offensive ceiling, but he competes, is tough as nails, and had some early success as a rookie in 2011-2012 before suffering a major concussion.
He has the tools to make it at the next level, but barring an injury will likely risk waivers to be sent down to Adirondack to develop and get his game back on track.
Projected role: If healthy, a mainstay on the Phantoms’ top-pairing and playing tough minutes in all situations.
Oliver Lauridsen – 25%
The hulking Dane (nice ring?) was a pleasant surprise for the Flyers down the stretch last season. It’s obvious that he needs some work with handling the puck and picking his spots of when to be physical. The toughness is there, the shot is NHL-caliber, and the work ethic seems to be strong, but he is best served developing at a reasonable pace in the AHL before his one-way contract kicks in next year.
Being two-way for the first year of his contract, I’d say the only chance he has would have to be due to an injury AND outperforming some of his peers in the position battle.
Projected role: Top-four defensemen for Adirondack while refining his overall game.
Brandon Manning – 15%
The “Manndog” had a disappointing season for the Phantoms, and despite looking steady in his brief call-up late last season, it appears that (at least for now) he has been leapfrogged by Lauridsen, who seems to serve a more specific role at this time.
Manning has a broader skill set than some of his competition, but needs to show more consistency and better decision-making before earning a spot with the big club. A monster training camp could prove me wrong.
Projected role: Top-four defensemen for Adirondack, possibly paired with Bourdon on the top pair, who brings a strong two-way game and a mean streak.
True longshots (under 5%): Mark Alt, Matt Konan, Maxim Lamarche.