It still feels surreal given the fact that COVID news only seems to get worse, but NHL training camps have officially begun. Teams have started showing up to their respective home practice facilities, and we’re getting just a little bit closer to finally having hockey back on the TV. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to the structure of training camp. Would it just be the exact same team? Would it be the whole organization with guys fighting for a roster spot for the playoffs? Well, turns out it’s somewhere in between.
The Flyers officially announced their training camp roster this morning, and it was just the thing I needed to start my Monday. To sum it up, the roster is the team that they went into the break with, and a few players from the minors who were either up and down a bit during the season, or are prospects the Flyers want to give extra ice time.
Some forwards worth mentioning include: Morgan Frost, German Rubtsov and Carsen Twarynski. Morgan Frost, alongside Joel Farabee, is probably the Flyers’ highest rated prospect. The kid has great speed, hands, and hockey IQ, and is exactly the kind of player the Flyers need to compete in the new NHL. A rough stint in the middle of the season saw him sent down to the AHL, but there’s little doubt he’ll be a part of the Flyers in the long run. German Rubtsov was the Flyers’ first rounder in 2016, and he just hasn’t quite gotten to the level of an NHL player just yet. However, he played very well leading up to the pause, and management remains hopeful on him. Finally, Carsen Twarynski came out of nowhere in the preseason and nearly earned himself an opening night spot. Being among the final cuts before the regular season started, he was up and down throughout the course of the year, and played rather well when he got the chance.
On the defensive side of things, the Flyers brought 5 extra skaters in addition to the 7 they carried at the break. We just learned today that Shayne Gostisbehere had another knee surgery at the pause, but hopefully he’s back by the time the playoffs are underway. This leaves the potential for guys like Mark Friedman, Nate Prosser, and Any Welinski. These guys have been grinding it out in the AHL for pretty much the entire season and have earned at least a shot at cracking the Flyers roster.
Finally, we get to the goalies. While we already know that the tandem for the playoffs will be Carter Hart and Brian Elliott, the Flyers brought Alex Lyon and Kirill Ustimenko to camp. Lyon has been the Phantoms’ number 1 for a while now, and maybe he’ll take over the backup position once Elliott’s tenure is over. When it comes to Ustimenko, the thought process is that this camp will help his development, as he hasn’t quite progressed at the level the Flyers would have liked. In 5 games with the Phantoms, he has a 3.84 GAA and 0.889 SV%. The rest of the time this season, he was with the Reading Royals in the ECHL.
I know this is a pretty short evaluation, but the fact that the Flyers were as hot as they were at the pause leaves little room for improvement given the pool of players. If we’re being honest, the team is going to be close to if not the exact same team it was at the pause barring any injuries or unless one of the prospects became God over the course of a few months. Either way, I’m very optimistic for the Flyers’ chance in the playoffs. I think they’ll likely get the number 3 seed after the round robin, which will leave them the winner of the Carolina/New York Rangers series. I 100% believe the Flyers will win that series regardless of who they play, as they have a combined record of 6-0-1 against those teams. After that, too many variables come into play to make any further predictions, so I’ll wait until later for that. I’ll probably do a preview blog for every series, but for now am saying the Flyers make the second round at minimum.
To close it out, I’ll leave you guys with this little reminder. HOCKEY. IS. BACK.