The organizational depth of the Philadelphia Flyers is kind of hit and miss. The have practically no homegrown centers or right-handed defensemen to speak of, but one position they’ve done very well filling is right wing. The team has drafted quite a few players that are all pushing for NHL ice time at the same time and it’s caused a bit of logjam on the wings.
The overcrowding starts by two veteran wingers in Travis Konecny and Cam Atkinson, who were technically two of the best forwards on the team last season, despite that being a relatively low bar. There’s practically no depth on the left side. James Van Riemsdyk and Noah Cates are the only natural lefties on the team, with Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee filling in the holes in the interim.
Owen Tippett, Wade Allison, Tyson Foerster, Bobby Brink will all be pushing for roster spots, but not just making the roster, they could all conceivably play top nine minutes in the NHL during the 2021-22 season.
So how do they divide up the ice time? Well it’ll be a game of musical chairs on ice.
The easiest move first and foremost is moving Scott Laughton back to center. It’s his natural position, and even though he plays his best hockey on the wings, the team is so light down the middle that he may have to re-take a residency there based off necessity of the team alone.
It’s also quite possible that James Van Riemsdyk could just straight up be scratched. It’s hard to believe until it actually happens, of course, but it’s very possible he finds himself as the odd man out among the hordes of talented wingers.
That opens up two left wing spots that can be filled by Konecny and Atkinson along with Cates in the short term. That means the right wing slots can be divided up among Tippett, Allison and Foerster. That’s a short term solution to a long term problem.
Farabee and Brink are both on the mend from offseason surgery. It seems like Farabee will return first, and his spot is guaranteed, whereas Brink will be fighting for a spot upon his return, and it’s possible he’s the odd man out in the short term and starts the season with the Phantoms, especially if Foerster makes the opening night roster. So Farabee takes a spot on the left, which once again forces everything to be rearranged.
Farabee’s timeline doesn’t really have a solid end date. The original timeline was about 3-4 months dating back to late June, so that would put him back around Halloween. If that’s the case the Flyers will only play about half a dozen games before he’s cleared. It’s not a large sample size, but it could be enough to determine whether or not Tyson Foerster is NHL ready. If he doesn’t come out of the gate flying, he could get sent to the AHL to gain some momentum.
It’s also worth noting the Farabee was tried at center late last season with mixed results, so, especially considering the lack of overall center depth on the team, he could very well slot in the middle if every other winger plays up to their potential.
It’s always possible another injury occurs, and with the luck of the Flyers lately, it’s almost a guarantee.
They could always move Tippett and Foerster to the left side. Typically, they shouldn’t play the young guys on their off-wing, instead letting them get comfortable in the NHL at their natural positions before the maneuvering begins, but Tippett and Foerster are both projected to do most of their offensive damage shooting from the left wing on the powerplay, so slotting them there at five-on-five could go a long way to giving the scoring boost the team will undoubtedly lack.
That would keep Atkinson and Konecny on the right along with Allison, and Cates, Tippett and Foerster on the left. It certainly splits the talent up evenly for all involved to get a decent amount of ice time. Ice time will be mixed and matched based on production. All six names on either side should be relatively pliable on any of the top three lines.
Essentially, the wings are a game of musical chairs. There’s a lot of overcrowding and nobody really has a specific role carved out yet. Anybody could play on any line. Too much talent is a good problem to have, but it’s going to force the Flyers to make some tough decisions. Do they play the kids over the vets? Do they force the vets or youth to play on their off-wing? Do they actually demote or scratch JVR? These are all questions that will need to be answered in the near future, but the details should shake out in the wash once the regular season gets underway.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: Getty Images