(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
With training camp about to get underway, the competition for roster spots will start heating up from the start. It’s no secret where the biggest opening is.
The Flyers still have a need for a third-line winger. It’s too early to even know who else will be part of that line, though it is assumed that Nolan Patrick will be the center and a winger like James van Riemsdyk or Oskar Lindblom could line up on the left side.
With the opening being one of the focal points of camp, let’s break down the competition.
The third-line winger competition can really be broken into three categories: prospects vying for the spot, players already with the team that could move up, and veteran newcomers added in the offseason.
You don’t have to go far to think about who could be in play. But the competition gets deeper than that. Yes, there are prospects that should have their sights set on a third-line role in camp. You think of top prospects in the system like Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe, but also consider players like German Rubtsov or Mikhail Vorobyev as options as well.
Where it starts to get tricky with prospects is where exactly they would fit into the plan. Is there really a third-line spot open for them, or would a prospect making the roster really mean he falls in as a fourth-line player automatically? That’s why the first few days of camp will be important. There needs to be a sign that the spot really is an open competition, and that means seeing players like Frost and Farabee get put in situations where they are around the types of Flyers players they could be playing with this season, not the same combinations seen in Rookie Camp.
Veterans Already with the Team
The first name you should think of here is Scott Laughton. It’s already been said that Laughton will get looks at both center and right wing to see where he fits best with the team as the season begins.
Otherwise, the only returning member of the team you think of that could be in the running for the spot is Michael Raffl. Raffl has been up and down the lineup before, getting first-line minutes at times and others being part of a very effective fourth line. With all the movement he’s made around the lineup in the past, he could certainly be in play in this competition.
This group has four names to go through, but each one faces some form of long odds.
Tyler Pitlick was the obvious choice among the veteran newcomer group until an injury came into play. Now he will be sidelined at the start of camp and lose some valuable time in the competition. That leaves Andy Andreoff, Kurtis Gabriel and camp invite Chris Stewart as the options that are veteran newcomers.
Andreoff has always been more of a reserve forward than anything else in his NHL career. He can crack a lineup on a fourth line, but usually is an emergency policy as a 13th forward. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s where he falls this year, but there is an opening, so assuming that no prospect is ahead of a veteran as camp begins, Andreoff sits as the 12th forward.
Gabriel has limited NHL experience and is known to be a bruiser. That’s more fourth-line type than anything else, so assume he’s even behind Andreoff in this case.
Stewart’s case is interesting. He’s had an up-and-down NHL career with some solid offensive years and some otherwise downright forgettable ones. He essentially took last season off too, so the odds are certainly against him. It is only a tryout, so there is no commitment on the Flyers end just yet, but he’ll be in the running for having a long background in the game.
It will easily be the biggest competition in camp and leaves open the possibility that there could be even more new faces on the Flyers roster in October. The competition begins on Friday and it is sure to be a two-week race to the finish to see who rounds out the final roster.