Before the start of the season 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers’ season, we voiced concerns about the way the defense was going to shake out on paper, given the uphill battle the young players were going to face to get ice time at the NHL level. And less than 20 games into the 2022-23 season, the worst case scenario is already playing out.
Cam York and Ronnie Attard, the organization’s top two defense prospects have found themselves in the AHL, and while Egor Zamula technically made the roster, he’s played in just nine games with wildly fluctuating ice time, struggling to eclipse the dozen minute mark. All this while Nick Seeler has played in all 16 games, pretty consistently hitting 15 minutes of ice time per night.
Why is the depth veteran getting ice time over three rookie players who could all reasonably build the core of the defense for years to come?
The thing is, Nick Seeler really hasn’t been bad. He’s got four points, which is third in defenseman scoring on the team, ahead of Sanheim, Ristolainen and Braun, and while there have been some hiccups defensively, there’s nothing overly egregious considering he’s a third pair player on a team forced to defend for 45 minutes a night.
Yet his presence on the ice begs the question of what exactly it is that’s getting accomplished? Seeler is 29 years old, drafted 12 years ago and clearly doesn’t have a much higher ceiling than what he’s already playing at. Whereas Zamula is 22, York is 21 and Attard is 23. They’ve all got untapped upside and could use some NHL minutes to develop, but are stuck behind a low quality veteran.
When Zamula, a natural lefty, has worked his way into the lineup, he’s been forced to the right side while Seeler remains on the left. Again, what exactly is that accomplishing? While Zamula has shown flashes of potential playing on his off-side, forcing a rookie to play an unfamiliar position in the name of not inconveniencing Nick Seeler is real dumb.
And if Zamula, who is on the 23-man roster can’t get ice time, what are the odds Cam York, who finds himself in the AHL, ever does? His play has been on the rise and Lehigh, and the fact he’s stuck behind Seeler, as well as the re-signing of Travis Sanheim, it’s a real bleak outlook at a role on this team long-term.
They forced York to primarily play on the right side last season as well. While a defenseman who can play either side is an admirable trait to have, it also isn’t the best building strategy. If they convert both York and Zamula to the right side long term, that would leave Ristolainen as the only natural right-handed defenseman on the team. Not great.
The Flyers have a lot of stock invested in Cam York and want to make sure he’s 100 percent ready before leaving him to his own devices in the NHL so they’ll give him a little while longer to sharpen his teeth in the minor leagues. Ok. Fine. That’s a fine excuse for the time being. But why is Zamula getting the short end of the stick either sitting in the press box or playing his off-side in the NHL when he was deemed good enough to make the roster?
Leave it to the Flyers to absolutely screw up a season when the lone goal was to “play the kids” that exactly zero of the three potential candidates are receiving regular NHL ice time. The continued questions on defense hopefully work themselves out in the wash as the season goes on, but considering they leaned right into the dumbest, worst case scenario right out of the gate, it doesn’t paint the most trustworthy picture even if the only place to go from here is up. And it’s a shame Nick Seeler is caught in the crossfire here, because he’s probably playing to the best of his ability. But considering the path the Flyers opted to go down this season, it just doesn’t make sense that he’s seeing regular ice time at the expense of displacing the youngsters.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
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