It has been almost six months without a Flyers game that actually counted, but it is finally upon us.
Tonight at 10:30 pm, the Flyers will take on the San Jose Sharks and begin a new season.
The team will have seven of eighteen skaters who are playing in either their rookie or second season in the league. That is more than a third of the active roster, the youth movement is definitely upon us. By season’s end, it is not impossible to think that number will climb to ten or eleven with goaltender Alex Lyon and forwards Oskar Lindblom and Mikhail Vorobyov banging on the door in Allentown. This is no longer a team made up almost entirely of overpaid veterans well past their prime. This is Ron Hextall’s team and his stamp of approval is easy for all to see.
Nolan Patrick has made the team and will line up as the 2C on Wednesday night, centering Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal. The three of them had a fantastic camp and seemed to be building up a true sense of chemistry as the preseason progressed. The big question for Patrick will be his health. He has a history of injuries and as he is only nineteen it will be something to watch to see if his body holds up over the 82 games.
Robert Hagg is the only one of the defensemen who can breathe easily, he has won the preseason competition and received word from Hextall on Sunday that he had made the opening day roster. Well-deserved for the steady Swedish born defenseman. Hagg isn’t the flashiest of defenseman but some of the stay-at-home talk that is being spread is just an overstatement. Hagg is a fantastic puck mover and skater; he may not have the offensive instincts of Ghost or Sanheim or the pure size of Morin but he can more than hold his own.
On the day of the first game of the season; Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin still are unsure who won the last spot on the defense and who will be heading up to Allentown in the coming days. The injury to Ghost forced Hextall to keep eight defensemen on the California trip. While Ghost is expected to play, the two defensemen still wait on word from above. Both players have done incredibly well in the preseason, but both have also had their faults. Morin has had trouble moving the puck at times, relying on his partner to a fault. Sanheim, has been an offensive phenom but has been beaten at times in his own zone. During the season, it is fair to say that they both will have their opportunities to shine but one will be headed to the Phantoms before the week is over.
Taylor Leier is the true surprise of the roster. Leier used a great showing in the Allentown split squad game, scoring two goals and combined that with a tremendous PK effort alongside his Lehigh Valley partner Scott Laughton. Expect them to be together both on PK1 and the fourth line. A much-needed improvement to what had been a dreadful fourth line last year.
The rookies are not the only change to the lineup. After what looked like simply a preseason whim, it looks as if Claude Giroux will be starting the season on the left wing, where he has never played before. On a line with Voracek and Couturier, the Flyers are loading up the top line in hopes of fixing their desperate five on five woes. Giroux looked a little out of place but Couturier’s playmaking ability and Giroux’s chemistry with Voracek could lead to a lethal line. The question is whether the trickle down of lesser talent will negatively impact the middle six of the lineup.
In other news, the Flyers have waived Matt Read and sent him to Lehigh Valley. Read lost the battle for a roster spot to Leier and Lehtera, expect to see him be the first call up in case of an injury.
The game will be on NBCSN at 10:30 tonight. For those tuning in to the game, all of the rookies will be wearing new numbers, their gift for making the NHL roster. They are as follows: