We’re a few days into training camp, and the injury bug has already hit the Philadelphia Flyers. Tyler Pitlick injured his left wrist and is believed to be out for around 2 more weeks, putting him in danger of missing the season opener in the Czech Republic against the Chicago Blackhawks. Third-year center Nolan Patrick has an upper-body injury, and is considered week-to-week, even after this beautiful display.
The biggest shock comes in the form of Travis Konecny still not being under contract, while Ivan Provorov just inked a 6 year, $40.5 million deal. Konecny and the Flyers still appear to be far off from reaching an agreement, and Alain Vigneault has made it clear that he’s missing out on a vital time with the club.
“I’m very disappointed that T.K. is not here,” Vigneault told reporters after his first practice with the squad. “It’s unfortunate, but I’m going to work with the players that are here and going to work extremely hard with those players.”
So who exactly is he talking about?
With the absence of Konecny, Pitlick, and Patrick, and the uncertainty surrounding the third line winger spot, the Flyers have 8 NHL forwards. They would need to fill four holes on their roster if none of these players were ready to play come October 4th. Those four players need to come from somewhere, and that somewhere seemingly is Lehigh Valley.
The Phantoms are flush with solid players. From the veterans to the promising young prospects, they have a lot of talent. However, not all of them are NHL caliber, yet.
Everyone is clamoring about Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost. Rightfully so. German Rubtsov had an impressive showing during the rookie game as well, throwing his name in the hat for a promotion. While it would be nice to see a Lehigh Valley Phantoms line of Farabee, Frost, and Isaac Ratcliffe, Farabee has turned some heads during his time on the top line at camp with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. One, if not both, of the younger stars could find themselves suiting up for the Flyers come early October if Konecny and the Flyers remain at an impasse over their current contract discussions.
Let’s say Rubtsov & Farabee both make the Flyers. That still leaves a potential of 2 spots up for grabs. It’s likely that two centers will be part of the four call-ups, if you will, that happen. Rubtsov can play center, so it’s likely that one of either Mikhail Vorobyev or Andy Andreoff.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher seems high on Andreoff, telling Bill Meltzer of NHL.com that Andreoff has been working on his skating and it showed on his first day at camp. He adds that they scouted Andreoff extensively last year in the AHL, and felt that he could get back into an NHL role.
Mikhail Vorobyev is a different story. Vorobyev spent 15 games with the Flyers last year, amassing a grand total of 2 points, and was promptly sent back down to the Phantoms. Vorobyev seemed a bit lethargic last year with the Flyers, never living up to the hype most placed on him. This could be a redemption year for the 22-year-old, as he remains in camp and battling for that potential last open spot with the Flyers. He looked good in the rookie game, but never really stood out.
The last spot will likely be a winger, and the Flyers have 3 candidates. When it comes down to it, it’ll be either Nicolas-Aube Kubel, Kurtis Gabriel, or PTO Chris Stewart. Stewart seems to be the most unlikely of the three, but wouldn’t catch many of us by surprise if he earned a contract and, at the very least, ended up on the Phantoms. It would be a great get for Scott Gordon and company, adding some veteran presence to help with the influx of young talent the Phantoms added this offseason.
Kurtis Gabriel has been listed since his signing as a rostered NHL forward. His time in New Jersey was short-lived, and his time in Minnesota before then wasn’t the greatest. He won’t give you a ton of goals or assists, but he brings an edge to his game that would slot well on the 4th line of the Flyers. While Gabriel isn’t the sexy choice, it makes sense to add some snarl to a team that lacked it this past season.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel would make the most sense here. He’s statistically one of the best Phantoms of all time. He’s also coming to a point in his career where he will need to take that next step if he doesn’t want to be deemed a career-AHL player. The skillset is there. Aube-Kubel has the hands, the speed, and the mindset to make the NHL, he just needs to be put into a position to thrive, and make the most out of it.
The Konecny impasse is sending a ripple effect through the entire organization. It isn’t just the Flyers feeling the effects of his stalemate with their brass. The Phantoms could be hurting for quality forwards come season’s beginning if the Flyers are still battling injuries as well. As it stands, the Flyers could end up pillaging forwards from the Phantoms, and really hurting their chances of getting out of the gates quick. If all goes according to plan though, and Patrick and Pitlick are back before the season opener, it could help Lehigh Valley out. If Konecny maintains his stance in contract negotiations, it could still gash the Phantoms.
The quicker Konecny and the Flyers get a deal done, the better, and for more than one reason.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports