The Black Aces, More Important Now Than Ever

A Black Ace. A term used to describe NHL players added during the post-season roster expansion. Typically consisting of an organization’s top AHL players, they can sometimes be the top prospects whose junior or collage career has come to an end. Typically speaking, rarely do any of these callups ever find their way into the playoff lineup. Players usually fight their way through injuries, or coaches are reluctant to change their linueps for an important game.

This year, though, things will be different.

As the NHL seems hell bent on wrapping up the playoffs through the coronavirus pandemic, the health of the players is put in the spotlight. The Return to Play committee and NHL have been silent to the public on the protocol if players get sick during the playoffs, but based off health guidelines, they will probably be forced to miss at least two weeks of action in order to pass multiple tests. So if teams get ravaged by the virus but play must continue, the Black Aces might actually get the call to arms this season.

The NHL has announced that playoff team’s rosters will expand to 28 skaters and as many goalies as they’d like. With the Flyers expanded roster not yet confirmed, it’s safe to say Morgan Frost, Connor Bunnaman, Mark Friedman, and Alex Lyon will be amongst those recalled from the Phantoms.

Luckily for the Flyers, there are plenty of reinforcements in the minor leagues at the Flyers disposal. Veterans such as Chris Stewart, Kurtis Gabriel, Andy Andreoff, Chris Bigras, and Nate Prosser will all be on call if the virus effects the Flyers main roster. As for the unlimited goaltender rule, the Flyers are in a bit of an interesting situation. Alex Lyon is their current third-string goalie, but beyond that, they have a pair of rookies in Felix Sandstrom and Kirill Ustimenko, who have zero NHL experience between them, heck, they have a combined seven games of AHL experience. The only guy with NHL experience was J.F. Berube, who was traded at the deadline to the Rangers organization so Ustimenko could make the jump from the ECHL to the AHL.

Hopefully, it doesn’t come to hoards of AHL players coming in to the playoffs to replace decimated NHL rosters, and the plug is pulled if any serious damage is done. Obviously time will tell what happens when the NHL resumes with training camps on July 10, but any fringe-NHLers that are in the system should be ready in case their number is called.

 

 

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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