Roster cuts and battles shape Flyers before preseason finale

Flyers' Samuel Ersson
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson blocks a shot by the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

A collage of different players appeared at the 2023 Flyers Training Camp, battling for various roles with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Most roster cuts will continue their journey at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms camp. Flyers management hasn’t completed their roster transactions. Tomorrow, the New York Islanders visit the Wells Fargo Center for the final exhibition of the 2023 Flyers Preseason.

Who were among the roster cuts? Which skaters are battling to the bitter end for a spot on the Flyers’ opening night roster?

Flyers Roster Cuts

To date, 29 players have been reassigned to the AHL, returned to their junior club, waived, or released from the Flyers’ training camp roster. None of the transactions came as a big surprise:

Wisdom, Desnoyers, Barkey, Laczynski, and Tuomaala are notable drafted forward prospects who had their moments during the 2023 Flyers Rookie and Training Camps. Ian Laperriere praised Wisdom during the series versus the New York Rangers:

“He’s [Wisdom] focused to make our team. So far, he’s been our best player right now. There’s other guys that need to be better, and Wis is not one of them. He’s been great since day one, and good for him.”

Ian Laperriere; 9/16/2023

Brown, an invite to the 2023 Flyers Rookie Camp, overachieved. He was far off the radar at the beginning of camp, but the long shot could find his way with the Phantoms.

“All [the] credit to him [Brown], but him, Wis [Wisdom], and Gaucher; those guys, they’re battling like they want to make a team, like they want a contract, and that’s what training camp should be. I wish we had a little bit more guys the last couple of days that feels like that. Brown’s like that; since day one of camp, he’s been pushing, he’s been working hard, he’s been doing everything we’re asking him to do.”

Ian Laperriere; 9/16/2023

Avon isn’t cut from the roster yet. He was rehab skating with Nick Schultz, and will head to the Phantoms soon.

Grans, Mete, Belpedio, Attard, and Ginning had solid periods during their overall performances but not enough to earn a role in a wide-open Flyers defensive unit on opening night. Overall, the defense is the least concrete unit for Philadelphia. John Tortorella emphasized how the youth will get ice time, intending to use a veteran like Marc Staal in the seventh defenseman role:

“That’s what I have to referee; is it getting in the way of the development of a guy, or is that guy just not ready, and Staalsy [Staal] plays. Those are things I can’t forecast; we’ll just see how it goes.”

John Tortorella; 10/4/2023

Bonk is a prospect who was always returning to the London Knights despite signing his entry-level contract. He left in the first round of cuts, but not due to performance. Returning to the Knights was always a part of his hockey journey this season.

Petersen returns to the AHL. Sam Ersson is waiver eligible, but the Flyers didn’t consider Petersen a waiver risk; he made 30 starts last season with the Ontario Reign compared to 10 with the Los Angeles Kings, earning an average annual value of $5mil. Tortorella went as far as to appoint Ersson the backup goaltender role with the Flyers, identifying that Felix Sandstrom will soon arrive on waivers.

“Hartsy’s [Hart] our guy. Ers [Ersson] is backing him up. That’s where we’re at. They’re one and two.”

John Tortorella; 10/4/2023

Flyers Battles

Bobby BrinkWade Allison, and Tyson Foerster continue battling among the forwards. Yegor Zamula and Emil Andrae are two defensemen who made the right impression on Tortorella.

“He’s [Andrae] got some fiestiness to him. I thought [he] played well in spots in the exhibition games, he had a really good third period; almost scores in the OT. He’s one of those guys; he’s going to play a role in this somewhere along the way, but right now we feel him and Z [Zamula] will stay, and we’ll see what happens.”

John Tortorella; 10/4/2023

Of the forwards, Brink is the most outstanding. He is making it hard for management to send him back to Lehigh Valley. Tortorella did say that he wouldn’t only consider progression from these skaters from training camp; he remembers how Foerster and Allison were a season ago.

“We don’t just evaluate on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of this year. We certainly saw some things last year; maybe a little bit of a struggle on Monday, Tuesday, [and] Wednesday, but we bring it all into the picture. It isn’t just based on what’s happening now. We certainly have to be cognizant of what we saw, especially with Tyson; some of the abilities that he has from last year.”

John Tortorella; 10/2/2023

Many will press for Brink and Foerster to both make the lineup, but the forward group is a little too crowded. Holding either one as an extra forward deters them from gaining quality minutes in the AHL. They’re waiver-exempt, and since Allison would have to clear waivers, making him the extra forward is a sensible option while keeping one of Brink or Foerster in the lineup.

Similarly, Andrae is the popular option. The better choice to deploy into the lineup is Zamula, who would have to clear waivers if reassigned to the Phantoms. Both could be powerful parts of a young defense in Philadelphia and if they’re in the lineup on opening night, it means waiving Nick Seeler or Sean Walker.