Carrying the correct depth players is crucial to achieving a deep playoff run. It’s no surprise that the teams with the deepest pools of talent across all positions are usually the ones to win championships. In the NHL, it’s specifically a trait for Stanley Cup champions. The playoffs are a time when depth players show their worth for a starting role. In the event of a post-season injury, skilled depth on the roster is a luxury well worth the investment.
In the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers can carry five additional players on their roster. In adding fresh legs and youth, the Flyers may be able to get more mileage out of their team. Philadelphia also has the opportunity to insert players into the lineup who have playoff experience throughout their careers. Some key additions may serve as an insurance policy. The Flyers only need to look back to a decade ago when they utilized depth players for a deep playoff run.
There is a high likelihood that three of the five additional roster slots will be forwards. What about the other two? Here’s who I project the Philadelphia Flyers will call up onto the playoff roster:
In the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the teams that the Philadelphia Flyers seem to have a tough time against are the ones with speed. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders have that in excess. It’s why they have an explosive offense. Inject Morgan Frost into the lineup to add an extra spark.
There have been a few times where Morgan Frost’s game was counterproductive, resulting in unaffordable penalties. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, the key is maximizing minutes and playing with a controlled frenzy. Frost’s potential to make plays on offense provides value for him to travel with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2020 post-season.
Nate Thompson comes with the Stanley Cup playoff experience. You may ask, “what does experience offer?” My answer would include expertise on how to stay focused and conditioned in a mentally grueling series against the league’s best franchises. With Nate Thompson’s experience comes a time to shine for the 35-year-old center.
He’s played in seven games throughout the 2019-2020 season with the Philadelphia Flyers and spent more minutes in the penalty box. What is welcome is how physical Nate Thompson plays. Thompson has tallied more hits than Shayne Gostisbehere. For perspective, Gostisbehere played six times more games for the Flyers in 2019-2020. Check off Thompson as another center Philadelphia will carry, especially since Nolan Patrick’s status is unknown.
I mentioned that three of these five spots would be accounted for by forwards. Connor Bunnaman’s hustle is what lands him on the Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup playoffs roster. Of the other forwards that I project making the Flyers playoff roster, Bunnaman played in more games under Alain Vigneault in Philadelphia. He’s also spent the least amount of time in the penalty box.
In 21 total games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Connor Bunnaman is a plus-7. That’s seven times better than Nate Thompson (plus-1, seven games) and exponentially better than Morgan Frost, who was a minus-3 in twenty games. Bunnaman would likely have received more playing time if the Flyers didn’t trade for Derek Grant at the deadline.
At first, I thought this extra slot on the playoff roster would have gone to Mark Friedman, but I recalculated. I have Shayne Gostisbehere as the odd man out of the top six defensemen. Since that is the case, it’s a lock that Gostisbehere gets the defensive slot as an extra defenseman with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Mark Friedman did impress in his six games with the Philadelphia Flyers. He never gave up the ship when he was on the ice and came within inches of scoring his first NHL goal by deflection. It’s just not enough to dethrone Shayne Gostisbehere, who has been a Flyers mainstay on the powerplay. In the final game of the 2019-2020 regular season, Gostisbehere made his return against the Boston Bruins. While watching that game, Gostisbehere showed promise after battling an injury.
Adding a third goaltender is an insurance policy. Some may inquire, “why a third goaltender?” To answer that question, I point back to the 2009-2010 season. The Philadelphia Flyers had to rely on only Michael Leighton to complete the comeback against the Boston Bruins on the way to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. It is certainly possible that if Leighton wasn’t a one-man-band at goaltender in those playoffs, the outcome might have been different.
In the event of an injury, Alex Lyon is an intelligent addition. Over the past two seasons, Carter Hart battled the injury bug. The same “what if” doesn’t exclude Brian Elliott. Lyon defeated the Colorado Avalanche this season, a team that I believe is the favorite in the Western Conference. In two starts, Lyon’s save percentage is 90.15%. He’s worth it.
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