Flyers 3rd Line Center Options Starting to Emerge
There was an update on Monday afternoon from Flyers GM Ron Hextall, mainly to provide an update to injuries, particularly Travis Sanheim after he left Sunday’s preseason opener. It also provided a chance to review the first days of camp and the first preseason game, which features a lot of prospects.
Hextall put some praise on certain players and added that a lot of players in Sunday’s game appeared to be overwhelmed by the level of competition that the NHL presents. With the first four days of training camp and two preseason games in the books, it’s provided some clarity on who the Flyers third-line center options appear to be, based on both the on-ice sessions at camp and Hextall’s comments.
Jordan Weal - Hextall has been dropping Weal’s name into the competition since the beginning and Weal has looked solid in camp drills assuming the center role. He also got a chance to play center with Claude Giroux and Nicolas Aube-Kubel in Monday’s preseason game and had a solid game overall.
Weal seems to be the front-runner here in the early going, but things change throughout camp. He’s due for a bounce-back season, and perhaps the move is what he needs to get going.
Scott Laughton - With an opening on the third line, this seemed to be a chance for Laughton to emerge from the fourth-line grinder role and be a more balanced center on the third line. He’s right up there with Weal in terms of his camp performance so far, but he’s been featured on the wing to start.
That is simply because he finished last season on the wing and looked good there. Dave Hakstol said that they wanted to start him on the wing based on that, but would also move him to center at another time during camp.
Laughton’s another player waiting to break out and rise to the occasion if given the opportunity. That time could be now.
Mikhail Vorobyev - Vorobyev seemed like a bit of a dark horse in this race entering camp. It was obvious that veterans like Weal and Laughton would get every opportunity to get the spot, but the role could be earned.
Vorobyev has been praised early in camp. Travis Konecny called him a special player. Hextall also noted that Vorobyev has looked good so far in camp, and it appears he’s getting every opportunity to earn a roster spot, starting camp on a line with Konecny and Laughton. In Monday's game, he was a standout, scoring a goal and doing just about everything well. The only area of concern out of Monday's game was face-offs. Vorobyev was 4-for-19 in the face-off circle.
Vorobyev looks like he's getting every opportunity to make the roster with regular playing time, but he’s one of the prospects who has to earn his way onto the roster.
Morgan Frost - Many people were clamoring for Frost to make the roster sooner rather than later, and that’s mainly due to seeing a 112-point season and highlight-reel plays.
Frost has come into camp a much-improved player from last season. His vision and passing look sharp when given time and space. That said, he’s one of the players that Hextall said felt overwhelmed. It was easy to see in a game. It’s been fairly noticeable in camp drills as well.
Frost just doesn’t have that standout quality just yet that other prospects have shown when they made the jump the NHL. One more year of development and seasoning will not hurt the kid.
German Rubtsov - The 2016 first-round pick hasn’t done much to truly stand out, but Hextall specifically mentioned him in regards to the third-line center race for the first time on Monday.
It’s really the first time anybody has mentioned Rubtsov’s name at all in regards to the NHL, let alone such a key role. He’s been an underwhelming prospect at times in games, but has the tools during drills. He had a solid game on Sunday, but nothing overly special to put himself seriously in the running.
But Hextall went out of his way to mention him, so that certainly carries some weight.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.