After another long offseason as a result of the Philadelphia Flyers missing the playoffs yet again, here we sit just two days away from the start of training camp. Free agency and the NHL Draft have long been completed and now all that is left to be decided is who will make the NHL roster.
So what position battles can we look forward to watching? The Flyers have a fairly deep forward group and most of their forward spots are pretty much set. Even the Flyers fourth line of Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Vinny Lecavalier seems to be set in stone. Barring an injury or a trade, the Flyers forward group will probably look the same as it did last year. Someone like a Scott Laughton could crack the Flyers line up, but a trade of a Lecavalier or R. J. Umberger would need to happen to open up a spot for him.
In goal Steve Mason is set as the starter. And with the signing of Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers have a solid back up netminder.
So as always seems to be the case with this team, the defense will be where most of the focus will be. Even though the Flyers have eight defensmen signed to one way NHL Contracts, this is the area of the team where there is the best chance to see some new faces. The Flyers already signed KHL defenseman Evgeny Medvedev and obtained Radko Gudas in the Braydon Coburn deal. Both players are shoe-ins to make the NHL roster so right off the bat there will be two new faces on the Flyers defense corps. Barring a trade, Mark Streit, Luke Schenn, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz and Andy MacDonald figure to make the team as well.
With all of that, there is still room for competition on the Flyers defense corps. The Flyers are right up against salary cap and are looking to shed salary. Luke Schenn is in the last year of his contract and makes $3.5 million a year. Mark Streit is 37 years old and is coming off a 52 point season. He is due to make $5 million this season. Nick Scultz is 33 years old and only has two years and $2.5 million a year left on his deal.. All three are veteran defensman who could help a Stanley Cup contender thus making them likely trade candidates. If the Flyers choose to trade one or two of them, that would open room for some of the young guns to step in.
So which of the young guns would be likely to step in to the Flyers line up? Brandon Manning would likely get the first shot. He is 25 and has a lot of seasoning in the AHL and out of all the Flyers young defense prospects he has the most NHL experience. Shayne Gostisbehere would be the next most likely canidate to make the big club. He is 23 years old, has four years of college under his belt and has AHL and NHL experience. Samuel Morin would be next on the list. He had a very strong training camp last year and made it to the last roster cut. He will most likely start the year with the Phantoms. Even though he has no AHL or NHL experience, Ivan Provorov would be the next most likely canidate to make the NHL roster. He averaged over a point a game with the Brandon Wheat Kings last year and his game is so advaned that many say he is ready to play in the NHL right from day one. Travis Sanheim might be the Flyers best defense prospect but his play in his own end still needs improving. He will most likely spend another year in junior.
Ron Hextall‘s mantra has always been patience. He loves to say that no player’s development has ever been hurt by spending an extra year in the minors. He has said though that if some prospect blows him away in training camp, he will make a move to make room for one of them. It all starts on Wednesday.