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Flyers Roster Update: Battles Heat Up as Final Cuts Approach

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(Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

We're in the homestretch of the Flyers preseason. The team is off on Friday after their 5-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night and will return to the ice for practice on Saturday before their preseason finale on Sunday.

By Monday, the team will fly to San Jose ahead of Wednesday's season opener, so the final roster will be decided somewhere in the next 72 hours.

The Flyers really don't have many cuts left, with 25 healthy players on the roster. Seemingly, there are just one forward and one defenseman left to be cut. From a fan's perspective, it may be fairly simple to narrow down the two players not making the final roster of 23. But with so many prospects still up at camp, will the Flyers carry upwards of six rookies on the team, or will some of them head back to the minors for extra seasoning in the AHL with the Phantoms?

Here is the latest on some of the camp roster battles.

Let's start with the forwards that are truly left to discuss. Given the way the top two lines have consistently played out, consider Nolan Patrick a lock at this point. You don't spend the entire preseason on a line with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds for nothing.

What this really comes down to is whether the Flyers feel a rookie has beat out a vet in camp or a prospect battle between Oskar Lindblom and Taylor Leier.

The Flyers really haven't seen much out of Matt Read or Dale Weise in camp or the preseason, but given their veteran status, they are harder cuts. Leier has really been the one putting the heat on here. His strong camp has forced some serious consideration, and his brief NHL experience may actually give him an edge over Lindblom.

That said, for such a small sample size, Lindblom has looked good in multiple facets of the game. His scoring may be a little lacking at this point, but consider that Patrick had his first fight in the NHL before his first goal, and it really doesn't matter. Playing to his strengths and filling a role is more important for making the NHL roster. Lindblom has done that, but so has Leier, so this is a tough call.

One player who was considered to be in a roster battle is Scott Laughton, but he's also taken the reigns and seems to have a spot locked up at this point.

So really, unless the Flyers take a different route and find a way to move a veteran like Read or Weise, the final roster spot could come down to Lindblom or Leier.

Defensively, it's a similar situation.

The Flyers are facing the decision to potentially carry three rookie defensemen, even with veterans Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning on the roster. To this point in camp, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim have all performed well, but would the Flyers actually trudge forward with three rookie defensemen on the roster? It would certainly be something atypical in Ron Hextall's blueprint.

Of the three, Morin appears to be the lock. He's been solid all preseason and really nailed down a spot in Thursday's game. That leaves Sanheim and Hagg up for the final spot.

Sanheim has dazzled with offensive ability, but his defensive play still leaves something to be desired at times. He's nearly on a level playing field with Hagg, who has been responsible defensively in his own right, but consider Sanheim the trailer here based on the lack of pro experience when placed against Hagg.

MacDonald really factors into the decision-making process here as well. I don't see a scenario where the Flyers keep MacDonald as a seventh defenseman, even if the possibility that Manning could start in the minors is a real one. If MacDonald isn't going to serve as a seventh defenseman, then Manning has to be on the roster just so whichever prospect is the odd-man out can get top-pairing minutes with the Phantoms as opposed to a seat in the press box.

So consider this a competition between Hagg and Sanheim with the edge to Hagg.

If that is the case, it is very possible that Oskar Lindblom and Travis Sanheim could be starting the season with the Phantoms in the AHL as opposed to the NHL. It's not unprecedented, especially by Hextall's blueprint, but for Lindblom to come in with such hype only to fall out of a roster spot after the two weeks of preseason pass by would be a bit of a shock at this point.

As the roster was trimmed down, it started to seem like Lindblom was a given, but now, with just two days until the final roster is decided following the preseason finale, it's not as much of a lock.

There is still one game left before the final decisions are made, but there are certainly a couple of interesting ones to go, even if the roster is mostly set.

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