Rookie camp is upon us, and training camp is right around the corner for the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s a proving ground for kids looking to make their mark with Ron Hextall and Co. The Flyers have many young prospects that are ready to make the jump to the NHL, and a good number of veterans who will be reluctant to give up their spot in the lineup.
This is the time of year where the roster doesn’t necessarily take shape, but it becomes a lot more clear who is in a spot to potentially nab one of the roster spots up for grabs. Let’s take a look at three training camp battles to keep an eye on this summer.
1) Philippe Myers v. Christian Folin (Defense)
This camp battle didn’t really come into focus until Flyers veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald went down the other day with a lower-body injury.
On one hand, you have Christian Folin, who spent last year playing for the Los Angeles Kings. Foliin isn’t going to turn heads with his blazing speed or wow you with his puck handling skills. What Folin does is kills penalties and provides a physical presence on the blue line.
Philippe Myers, on the other hand, gives the Flyers a unique opportunity to have four of their 6 starting defensemen be proficient puck movers, scorers, and players who can gain clean entry into the zone as opposed to MacDonald’s dump-and-chase mentality.
Folin is the safer bet, having played in the NHL before. He possesses the ever-important “veteran presence” that head coach Dave Hakstol has become infatuated with during his tenure with the orange and black. Both Folin and Myers can kill penalties, which is a big area of need for the Flyers at this point, but Myers has only ever done it at the NHL level.
Myers provides too much of an opportunity to pass up without giving him a fair shake. Him and Folin, even T.J. Brennan and Reece Willcox according to some, will do battle for that last defenseman position open with the Flyers. However, expect Philippe Myers to have a terrific camp, and earn the last spot on the blue line, for at least the first few games of the Flyers’ regular season.
Winner – Philippe Myers
2) Scott Laughton v. Jordan Weal (3rd Line Center)
Last year, the third line center position started out with Nolan Patrick. After Nolan Patrick was promoted to 2C, the 3C position became one that was essentially up for grabs throughout the rest of the season. Scott Laughton had a cup of tea on the third line, proving that with better linemates, he can produce at a higher level than being stuck on the fourth line.
Jordan Weal is a curious case. He ended the 2016-17 season on a hot streak, scoring 7 points (4g, 3a) in his last 7 games, even spending a bit of time on the top line as well during his 16-17 campaign. Coming into the 2017-18 season, he seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle, putting up 21 points in 69 games for the Flyers. Weal is a proven scorer, winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy in 2015 as the AHL Playoff;’s Most Valuable Player. His skills never fully translated to the NHL, but he has shown glimpses of being the player many thought he would be when Hextall acquired him in 2016.
The third line center battle seems to center around Laughton and Weal, but there are some rumblings about a few outside shots who could end up nabbing the spot from the two incumbents. One of those players is Mikhail Vorobyev. Vorobyev looked solid for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year, putting up 29 points in 58 games. He has the professional experience Hakstol so vehemently desires, with almost a full AHL season under his belt, and one and a half KHL seasons as well, but Vorobyev has “call-up” written all over him.
The more popular choice amongst non-Laughton/Weal fans would be Morgan Frost. The highly touted prospect put up video game-like numbers with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and appears to be ready to make the jump and the young age of 19. History doesn’t prove much for his case, considering Konecny and Provorov waited one year in juniors, while Nolan Patrick made the jump to the NHL immediately. If there is one player who dethrones Scott Laughton or Jordan Weal for the 3C position, it’s Morgan Frost.
All else aside, it appears that the Flyers could be content with having Laughton and Weal battle it out for the 3C position. With the injury to Couturier, Morgan Frost’s chances to make the club spiked. However, knowing that Coots will more than likely be ready by the beginning of the year, Frost may very well be back with the Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League this coming year.
Expect the battle to be one of the more heated ones at camp this year, but Scott Laughton will start the season opener against Las Vegas on the third line as the center.
Winner – Scott Laughton
Travis Konecny v. James Van Riemsdyk (First Line RW)
This one seems a bit odd to include on the list, but there’s justification to this being a battle to keep your eyes on.
James Van Riemsdyk comes back to Philadelphia, where it all began, and comes in being a more refined scorer. Having posted 36 goals just last year, he could be the missing piece to the Flyers top line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
The emergence of Travis Konecny tells the same story.
Travis Konecny saw a good bit of time on the top line last year, and benefited greatly as a result. Potting 24 goals and adding 23 assists, Konecny almost doubled his points production from the previous season, and really carved himself a niche alongside Giroux and Couturier.
Regardless of who ends up where, the Flyers clearly have more scoring depth with their top nine, seeing that the addition of JVR potentially could, and most likely will, bump Wayne Simmonds down to the third line. So why could we see Van Riemsdyk slot in on the top line instead of Travis Konecny?
It’s simple: JVR plays well with players who can get pucks on net, and Giroux and Couturier do just that. Van Riemsdyk thrives off of pucks in close to the net, and has a knack for slamming them home. He was perfect for then-coach Peter Laviolette’s “JAM” mentality. Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek are pretty good at getting the puck to the net too, but with Voracek’s tendency to not shoot when fans scream shoot, a joke of course, and the fact that Nolan Patrick’s passing abilities are far beyond his years, JVR may be better suited for a top line role.
Travis Konecny, on the other hand, may very well be better suited for a second line role. Alongside such prolific passers, Konecny could see another huge uptick in his scoring, mainly in the goal department. If he can stay out of the box and shed that dreaded “Brad Marchand” comparison, Konecny could be in store for a fantastic year, and Van Riemsdyk could find himself back at home, on the top line of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Winner – James Van Riemsdyk
This years training camp is shaping up to be quite the interesting couple of weeks. We’ve said this all before, especially last year when the Flyers had prospects like Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, and Travis Sanheim all vying for a spot on the blue line. This year is no different, with no shortage of excitement sure to come. Be on the lookout for these three key training camp battles once it starts up this Friday, September 14th.
Please, feel free to discuss any other training camp battles that you feel will take place this year in the comments below!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports