Flyers Training Camp – Who is a lock and who is on the bubble?

The Flyers 2019 Training Camp begins on Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey. As is the case every year, NHL teams send out a list of all their camp invites – and the Flyers list is massive this year. The Flyers have a strong mix of veteran presence and youth. This begs the question, who is a lock and who is not? Let’s take a look at who is a lock, who is on the bubble, and who is on the outside looking in.

Locks

Goalies

Carter Hart

Brian Elliott

Defense

Shane Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov

Matt Niskanen

Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim

Forwards

Sean Couturier

Claude Giroux

Jakub Voracek

James Van Riemsdyk

Travis Konecny

Scott Laughton

Nolan Patrick

Michael Raffl

Tyler Pitlick

Kevin Hayes

There aren’t any surprises on the “lock” list for next season. Both Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are still unsigned, but assuming a deal gets done in the next few weeks, they should factor in as locks this season. Goaltending wise, the Flyers are set with Hart and Elliott. As far as defense, the top five appear set as well and are a good mix of youth and veteran leadership. For the forwards, the Flyers appear to have ten players locked in, leaving a handful of players available to compete for remaining spots.

Bubble

Defense

Phil Myers

Robert Hagg

Sam Morin

Mark Friedman

Nate Prosser

Andy Welinski

Forwards

Oscar Lindblom

Andy Andreoff

Nic Aube-Kubel

Joel Farabee

Morgan Frost

Kurtis Gabriel

German Rubtsov

Mikhail Vorobyev

The Flyers have an interesting list of “bubble” players heading into the preseason. New Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has provided a high level of competition in camp through the signing of veterans to two-way contract.

Who will defend?

On defense, Flyers fans might be surprised to see Robert Hagg listed as a “bubble” player. However, with the acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, Hagg has found himself having to compete against some younger, cheaper, and more mobile options on defense. There is a good chance he sticks as the number six defender, but the Flyers may also opt to go with the younger and more offensive minded Phil Myers. However, Myers is not in need of waivers to be sent to the minors, so he could find himself beginning the year in the AHL.

Sam Morin is an intriguing option for the Flyers also. Morin has been injured for the majority of the past few seasons. He was a high draft pick years ago, and some believe he still has some potential and upside. Being over 6’6″ is also a positive. However, Morin will be in tough to make the Flyers, though they may hold a spot for him as he is not eligible for a waiver-free demotion.

Nate Prosser and Andy Welinski were two veterans Chuck Fletcher brought in. Prosser has been a seventh defenseman for a while now and is often coveted for his leadership ability. However, he offers little on-ice contribution and is likely an AHL option more than an NHL one, though new Flyers coach Alain Vigneault has shown a penchant towards valuing veterans over rookies in his lineup. Welinski has had an excellent NCAA and AHL career to date, but his skating struggles have limited his ability to stick with an NHL team. He does play with some grit, and Vigneault may decide to give him a chance, though he too is a likely AHL option first and foremost.

Mark Friedman has been in the Flyers’ system for a while. He has excellent wheels and has been a steady two-way presence for the Phantoms. This is the first year Friedman requires waivers to be sent down, so the Flyers may give him ample opportunity to stick with the big club to start. However, with so many options, Friedman may find himself on the outside looking in and be back in Lehigh in just a few weeks.

Looking for some offense

At forward, the Flyers also have a strong mix of rookies and veterans competing for roster spots. I’m sure Flyers fans are anxiously awaiting the arrivals of star prospects Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. Both may earn themselves an NHL spot, but it certainly won’t be given to them. Also, both Frost and Farabee will likely have to earn a top nine role to stick with the big club. They both have the tools and potential, but because they are waiver-exempt, they may begin the year in the AHL with the Phantoms.

Rubtsov, Vorobyov, and Aube-Kubel are all rookies who are competing for the last three roster spots as well. Rubtsov, a former first round pick, managed only 14 games in the AHL before losing the year to injury. He is a likely candidate to begin the year in the AHL. Vorobyov made the Flyers in training camp last year, but was eventually sent down where he struggled for much of the season. He will be given a chance once again. Aube-Kubel played some solid fourth line minutes for the Flyers last year in nine games. He plays a strong two-way game and could find himself in this role to begin the year.

Veteran wise, Oscar Lindblom (barely a veteran) is almost certainly a lock for a third or fourth line role, though he could easily be forced out if Frost or Farabee outplay him camp, putting him in the bubble category. Kurtis Gabriel and Andreoff, two bruising veterans, will be given every opportunity to earn an NHL spot. Flyers coach Vigneault loves gritty veterans, and both Gabriel and Andreoff fit the bill. Both Gabriel and Andreoff have played in the NHL previously, but spent good parts of last season in the AHL. Neither player has offensive upside and play a physical, grinding style of play. It wouldn’t surprise me to see both players start the year for the Flyers if the youngsters struggle in camp.

Roster Predictions

So who is going to make it? Let’s take a look at a few lineup options.

The “Vigneault” Option

G. 1 Hart G. 2 Elliott  
D. 1  Provorov Niskanen Spares: Morin, Myers
D. 2 Gostisbehere  Braun  
D. 3 Hagg Sanheim  
LW C RW
1. Giroux Couturier Voracek
2. J.V.R. Hayes Konecnky
3. Lindblom Patrick Pitlick
4. Raffl Laughton Gabriel
Spares: Andreoff    

This is the roster I think will be the closest to what Vigneault would desire. It is veteran heavy and has a distinct difference between top six and bottom six forwards, something Vigneault has valued in the past.  

The “Tyson” Option

G. 1 Hart G. 2 Elliott  
D. 1 Provorov  Sanheim Spares: Hagg
D. 2 Gostisbehere Myers  
D. 3 Niskanen Braun  
LW C RW
1. J.V.R. Giroux Voracek
2.Farabee Couturier Konecny
3. Lindblom  Hayes Frost
4. Laughton Patrick Raffl
Spares: Pitlick, Vorobyov    

Personally, I think this is the “ideal” Flyers lineup for this season. On defense, Travis Sanheim would have a top four role, as would Phil Myers. This group would rely heavily on puck-movers and on declining veterans Niskanen and Braun minimally. At forward, the offense would be spread out over three lines. While the first line would be top heavy, the additions of rookies Farabee and Frost (who I have moved to the wing) would provide a solid top six. The Flyers’ fourth line would rival many teams’ thirds. I think this is the optimal roster, but an unlikely one judging by coach and GM preferences.

The “Likely” Option

G. 1 Hart G. 2 Elliott  
D. 1 Provorov Niskanen Spares: Morin, Myers
D. 2 Braun Sanheim  
D. 3 Hagg Gostisbehere  
LW C RW
1. Giroux Couturier Voracek
2. J.V.R. Hayes Konecny
3. Farabee Patrick Raffl
4. Lindblom Laughton Pitlick
Spares: Gabriel    

Between both coach and GM preference, I think the combination of youth and veteran leadership will be what the Flyers do. On defense, Niskanen and Braun will have big roles in the top four, and Gostisbehere and Sanheim will compete for top four minutes. One of Frost or Farabee will likely make the roster, with Farabee getting the edge as a natural winger. Pitlick and Raff will stick as a veteran presence in the bottom six as well.

In summation, the Flyers have a ton of options available to them. With so much competition and a strong mix of youth and veteran leadership, the Flyers will be an intriguing team to keep an eye throughout training camp and in the early stages of the season.