Flyers Training Camp Update: Reading into Final Roster Battles
The Flyers were back on the ice in Voorhees on Friday morning before making the trip to Boston for the final game of the preseason against the Bruins, set for 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Two more players were cut from the camp roster with Tyrell Goulbourne and Carsen Twarynski being sent to the minors. That leaves just 31 players on the roster.
There are a number of injuries that make some of the decisions easier. Goalie Alex Lyon remains out for another two-to-three weeks at least. There has been no firm timetable for Michal Neuvirth’s return and with less than a week until the regular season begins, it seems likely he misses the start of the season. Defenseman Sam Morin is also out long-term, recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and is expected to return around February at the earliest.
Prospect Pascal Laberge will be heading to the Phantoms when he’s able to get back on the ice, but it appears that road to recovery could be long. Laberge posted a photo on Instagram on Friday morning from a hospital bed.
The Flyers later confirmed that Laberge had hip surgery and there is no timetable for a return. Not encouraging, especially for a player that has already missed a lot of time during his most important years of development.
With those four factored out of the equation, the Flyers have 27 active players in camp and four cuts to make. It could be three depending on the update on Corban Knight, who left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury. Knight was very much in the running for a roster spot, quite possibly the favorite for the fourth-line center job.
With realistically three cuts left to be made, it’s fairly easy to start reading between the lines and deciphering who is ahead in the roster battles:
- Mikhail Vorobyev making the team looks very likely now. He’s played in the third-line center role for the duration of the preseason and his spot has never been in question.
- Jori Lehtera was back on the ice and centering the fourth line, but after missing two days in the midst of reports that he is a suspect in a cocaine bust in Finland, his place is in question. Jordan Weal can hold down fourth-line center and pending Knight’s health, he may be the favorite. Lehtera didn't speak much regarding the report, but said he does expect his name to be cleared in the case.
- Taylor Leier appears to be an odd-man out. He didn’t play Thursday and he’s spent the past week outside the top four lines.
- Mark Friedman has remained in camp for the duration, even though he seems likely to be the final defenseman cut. Carter Hart is also still in camp with his spot still more up for grabs among goalies. Whether one, both or neither make the final roster, being around for the entire preseason speaks volumes. They’re closer than the rest of the pack.
- On Hart specifically, it’s really tough to tell if he’s in line to make the team or fall short in competition with Anthony Stolarz. Take this for what it’s worth though: Hart played the full game on Thursday and Brian Elliott played the whole on Monday. Stolarz was the backup in both games. Elliott is expected to play again on Saturday. So if Stolarz doesn’t see the ice at all for three straight games, that seems pretty telling.
Here were the Flyers line combinations on Friday, which remained relatively similar from the past couple of days. The only notable change was the swap between Oskar Lindblom and James van Riemsdyk.
Defensively, there was just one change. Radko Gudas was paired with Friedman and Robert Hagg was back alongside Andrew MacDonald.
Just one more preseason game remains and then it’s on to the start of the regular season. The final roster decisions will likely become known in the hours following the game on Saturday or on Sunday morning.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.