Flyers Preseason preview: Which defensive prospects will make the team?

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15 days people!

Coming to a close are the days of sweltering heat and clinging onto anything slightly relevant in Philly sports (looking at you Rhys Hoskins). The dreaded NHL offseason is finally approaching its’ welcomed finale. Football season is upon us and with it comes a sense of excitement of the months to come! The Sixers are gearing up for a promising season and our Flyers are abuzz with legitimately interesting news! Training camp, roster cuts and preseason games are aplenty and you can almost smell October in the air.

Looking ahead, the majority of the Flyers’ opening night roster seems to be set in stone. The forward corps is looking greatly improved and, save for a few interchangeable fourth line candidates, not many questions hang over Hakstol and the gang’s heads in that department. In my opinion, the one true battle for a roster spot lies on the blue line.

After a solid rookie game and overall training camp to this point, the time for Sam Morin to channel his inner Chris Pronger and be the defensive stalwart we all believe he can be is finally upon us. Aside from him, the majority of our D-corps is all but sured up. With the departure of team disc-jockey Michael Del Zotto and veteran Nick Schultz, the team is left with a mostly promising group of returners this year. Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning and Andrew Macdonald will all, most likely, be in the building when Philadelphia opens their 2017-18 season in San Jose.

If all goes as planned and the Flyers travel to California with 7 D-men (and the hockey gods don’t whisper is Hextall’s ear and tell him to shoot AMac into the sun) we’re left with one open roster spot. It’s no secret our organization has the deepest prospect pool in the league this year and that there are plenty of viable candidates to snag that last spot, so there are plenty of things that could change by the season opener. But, what seems almost certain, at this point, is that the Flyers’ brass has narrowed their choices down to two candidates: Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim.

Coming into this season there was a lot of hype for Phillipe Myers after he rocketed onto the scene last year. Deservedly so, he’s a grade-A prospect and a true testament to the team’s scouting department. In the near future he’s sure to play a huge role on this team, but, in my opinion, that time isn’t now. Today’s practice schedule further confirmed that same assumption:

With group one looking a lot like what our opening night roster most likely will, it’s all but assured that most, if not all, of group two will be sent to their respective minor/junior clubs, barring any injuries of course. Hagg and Sanheim will seemingly survive the inevitable mass cuts that are sure to come shortly, setting up an interesting battle over the course of the next couple preseason games.

Both prospects probably deserve to be on an NHL roster this year. Without Andrew MacDonald hanging over our heads, it’s possible they both would be, but the reality is that one of them will most likely be among the final cuts over the next couple weeks.

It’s no secret that Sanheim is the more exciting, flashy player of the two. He’s absurdly fast for his size and can lead a rush with the best of them, but if I had to choose one that will be present on the West Coast road trip, it’d be Hagg. He’s been highly-touted in this organization since he was drafted in 2013 and this season seems like a now-or-never situation.

While watching the Flyers’ rookie game against the Islanders last Wednesday, Sanheim shined on the offensive side of the puck, even scoring the second goal of the game. He showed a plethora of potential, but at times he surely looked like a rookie. A few miscommunications and unforced errors made the young blueliner look like he may need some more time with the Phantoms. He’ll have an increased roll with the departures of Morin and Hagg and the extra responsibility could do wonders for his game.

Hagg plays the game much more cautiously, which is really what the Flyers need a bit more of at the moment. Ghostisbehere and Provorov are more than capable of providing offensive help from the back end that we can afford to let Sanheim grow a bit more. At the end of the day, both players could end up seeing time up on the big club this year, but on October 4th, I expect to see Robert Hagg donning the flying P on his chest. Cheers to an exciting season no matter who we have on the ice this year!

 

Also,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOLAN PATRICK!

 

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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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