The Flyers did a lot of the legwork this offseason long before July 1. They signed Kevin Hayes to fill an open second-line center role. They made trades for two veteran defensemen that add experience to a young blue line. They brought back Brian Elliott to be the back-up/1B option to Carter Hart. The only spot left was for a third-line winger.
So when Monday came and went and the Flyers did nothing but address organizational depth, it was telling. For prospects like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee, it should be motivating. It means there will be an opportunity to make the NHL this season. There will be an open competition.
The Flyers could always bring someone else in to fill that role. After all, they do still have approximately $15 million in cap space. But with Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton still not signed, they don’t have much flexibility.
Perhaps Chuck Fletcher liked a lot of what he saw at Flyers development camp last week. Maybe Frost or Farabee, newly turned pro, appear ready for the challenge. Maybe someone else with pro experience, like German Rubtsov or Mikhail Vorobyev, factor back into the plans. There are many possibilities.
“It’s more than Farabee and Frost. I think Rubtsov had a tremendous prospect camp here. Isaac Ratcliffe is a quality young player. Vorobyev is a young man that we feel is going to come back next year a little bit stronger,” Fletcher said on Monday. “There are several players down there that can play games. Never mind Andy Andreoff who’s a player that will make a very strong push to make our team this season. Kurtis Gabriel is a player that’s played games in the NHL the past few seasons. We have a lot of options. That’s what training camps for. It’s an opportunity for players to come in and show that they belong. It should be an exciting camp.”
The Flyers may have a lot of young prospects that could fill the role, but Frost and Farabee are the real headliners of the group, the ones that could generate the most excitement should it be them on the third line. Following development camp, it’s not a question of skill either. Both players are skilled enough to join the NHL immediately. It’s if they can physically handle the challenge, and training camp will ultimately dictate that.
“You watch Joel Farabee. You watch the way he thinks the game, especially the small area hockey games out there. He’s a guy that I can imagine you put him with NHL players, he can play,” assistant GM Brent Flahr said during development camp last week. “Whether he’s physically ready or mentally ready to handle the grind of an NHL season, I’m not sure. I’m not sure that’s realistic. Morgan Frost’s another player. You can see the way he thinks the game and sees the ice. He can make plays. Again, whether he’s ready physically to handle the rigors of the NHL, training camp will dictate that. There’s a lot of guys.”
“Over the next 24 months, we’ll have several young forwards knocking on the door of the NHL,” Fletcher said on Monday. “I don’t think it’s a very smart thing to box these kids out and take on additional cap responsibilities when we’re going to have a lot of really good pieces that could mature and grow through the system.”
Frost was not a standout prospect in his draft year, scoring 20 goals and 62 points in 67 games with the Soo Greyhounds in the 2016-17 season. So when he was taken in the first round, it received mixed reviews with some saying he was ready to blossom and others calling it a reach. The next season, Frost burst onto the scene with 42 goals and 112 points in 67 games. Last season, he followed it up with 37 goals and 109 points in 58 games.
The 20-year-old forward has also added size, going from 170 pounds to 187 pounds in the last year. His goal is to reach 190 pounds by training camp to be physically ready to battle for a spot.
Farabee is just 19 years old and making the leap to the professional game after an excellent freshman season at Boston University, scoring 17 goals and 36 points in 37 games.
With both players at the forefront of a group that could be coming to an NHL arena soon, the Flyers have left the spot open for competition. So one question about the Flyers potential lineup will go unanswered for the next few months. But if Frost, Farabee or another prospect makes the leap to the NHL and succeeds, it will be worth the wait.