Let the Games Begin for Flyers Hockey

By Kevin Fortier, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Praise the hockey gods, September is finally here and Flyers hockey is just around the corner.

It has been a long, hot, dry summer for Flyers fans. Exiting in the first round against the Washington Capitals only added to the longevity of the summer, as did the anti-climactic free agency period.  

Boyd Gordon and Dale Weise? Not what many fans were hoping for. But that is all over now and the season is just around the corner.

Hockey fans were blessed to be able to watch the World Cup of Hockey exhibition games starting last week and it has been fun just to have hockey back in some capacity.

Rookie phenom Shayne Gostisbehere scored a goal for Team North America on Wednesday on a shot that appeared to have been fired from a cannon. Flyers fans also all collectively gasped when captain Claude Giroux went down in the first exhibition game last Friday from a hit from behind. But he did return and played in the remainder of Friday's game and all of Saturday's game.

This Saturday, for seven Flyers players, it is the start of the Round Robin games of the World Cup.

On Monday, Flyers rookie camp opens, a moment I have been looking forward to this all summer. This is a chance to finally get to see the kids start showcasing their talents to push for roster spots.  

The defense will include well-known prospect names including Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers and Reece Wilcox. Provorov appears to be the most likely to have a legitimate chance of making the opening night roster.

The forwards will include 2015 first-round pick Travis Konecny, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Russian free agent Roman Lyubimov and 2016 second-round pick Pascal Laberge. Realistically, only Konecny or Aube-Kubel have any shot of cracking the roster. That would also require GM Ron Hextall to make room for one or both of them.

Almost all of the non-World Cup participants, from last year's team, have been on the ice since last week getting ready for camp which officially opens in one week on Sept. 23. That's when everything truly begins as players start really pushing for a spot on opening night.  

Will Hextall be able to make room for rookies that outplay veterans? Matt Read and Mark Streit come to mind as guys who might be likely candidates for trades to other teams, especially if there are rookie standouts, and that's only if Hextall can find an interested suitor.  

Andrew MacDonald and his horrid contract continue to be an albatross. Nobody is going to trade for his contract and even though his play improved at the end of the season, he is still a third-pair quality defenseman making $5 million per season. He is going nowhere.

To be honest, the roster really does not have much room for any new blood. There are seven defensemen under contract and too many forwards competing for the 12 roster slots without taking any of the kids into consideration.

It will be exciting though. The season is almost upon us and it could not come fast enough for most fans.

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