As the 2019-2020 season started, the Philadelphia Flyers defense had a different look than what we grew accustomed to. When the Flyers visited Prague to take on the Chicago Blackhawks, Philippe Myers was not in the lineup. The first change on defense for Philadelphia was Samuel Morin on October 27th, 2019. It wasn’t until after Morin tore his ACL in a loss to the New York Islanders that Myers got called up to the Flyers. Fast forward to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, and Myers is holding down the second pairing with Travis Sanheim.
Philippe Myers bloomed into a premier defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019-2020. He was not the only Flyers defenseman to get the call up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Mark Friedman stepped in when Shayne Gostisbehere had arthroscopic knee surgery. Friedman played well enough in six games for third-line depth consideration in 2020-2021. He recorded an assist on a Connor Bunnaman goal in a win against the Boston Bruins (the one where Brad Marchand overskated a still puck in a shootout.)
In total, two defensemen were called up to the Philadelphia Flyers from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2019-2020. When the Flyers arrived in Prague, Samuel Morin was the seventh defenseman behind Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere. Last season, Philippe Myers was proof that a Phantoms defenseman is only one injury away from earning an important role in Philadelphia. Now, the landscape has changed once again. Chuck Fletcher signed two free-agent defensemen this offseason.
2020 Offseason Signings
Investing $3mil into Erik Gustafsson means that he will be a feature in the Philadelphia Flyers plans. Gustafsson is capable of playing both LD and RD, so he shows versatility. What is not concrete about his game is his defensive ability. If the Flyers is focused on Gustafsson helping specifically as an offensive defenseman or as a powerplay specialist, then that is how he’ll effectively contribute. It would not be a bad idea to stick him on the third line to relieve Justin Braun because it means fewer minutes to be a defensive liability.
Erik Gustafsson will likely substitute for Shayne Gostisbehere or Justin Braun. Braun’s aging and did not have the quickest first step in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Gustafsson is undeniably faster and can advance the puck to the offense. In signing Gustafsson, the Philadelphia Flyers duplicated Gostisbehere. The idea here is that Gustafsson will replace Gostisbehere if Chuck Fletcher can trade him.
Derrick Pouliot was the other defenseman that Chuck Fletcher signed this offseason. He’s only 26-years-old, but he’ll be featured with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. After comparing his most recent venture in the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers would likely offer Mark Friedman a call up before Pouliot. Pouliot’s best seasons were 2015-2016 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and 2018-2019 with the Vancouver Canucks. He simply has not lived up to the hype of being the eighth overall selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
The Philadelphia Flyers will always have an eye on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for potential talent ready to take on the NHL. This upcoming season does not offer room for Phantoms defensemen in particular. Once a trade occurs to send Shayne Gostisbehere to another franchise, a position may open. All eyes will be on what Alain Vigneault does with Erik Gustafsson and how that impacts Gostisbehere.
A hot commodity for the Philadelphia Flyers since Matt Niskanen’s retirement is a defenseman who offers a physical presence. It why players like Philippe Myers and Robert Hagg should not be in any danger of losing ice time. If healthy, Samuel Morin is a defenseman that fits the physical description. Another defenseman that the Flyers like is Egor Zamula. He’ll likely start this season in Lehigh Valley but could be a specific defenseman Philadelphia focuses on for a call-up.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre