With at least one and maaaaaaybe two or three roster spots up for grabs on the Flyers' roster, the team released its first major round of roster cuts this afternoon right before they head to Lake Placid, N.Y. for some team bonding. Per Anthony SanFilippo of Flyers.com, there are 32 players still with the Flyers, while the rest have been sent to their other clubs with which they will play some or all of the 2013-14 hockey season.
We'll go through these group-by-group, with some notes on players who are (or aren't) still there and what it means for the team's final roster outlook. Players listed alphabetically. We'll start with the least surprising group.
Goaltenders (3): Yann Danis, Ray Emery, Steve Mason
Thoughts: None, really. Danis is around because there's no real reason not to keep a third goalie around at least for the rest of training camp in case someone gets injured or something goes wrong, but we know who the team's top two goalies are, and chances are that Danis will be heading to the AHL next week.
What we don't yet know is whether the team is looking to name one of Emery and Mason the "starter" out of camp. But that's not something we'd have learned today anyways.
Carsen Chubak and Cal Heeter were sent to the Adirondack Phantoms' camp. Heeter figures to be the starter for the Phantoms, while Chubak will likely start with the Greenville Road Warriors in the ECHL.
Defensemen (12): Marc-Andre Bourdon, Braydon Coburn, Bruno Gervais, Hal Gill, Nicklas Grossmann, Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Pronger, Luke Schenn, Mark Streit, Kimmo Timonen
Thoughts: The numbers game on the blueline that we've been discussing for months now is finally coming into shape. Bourdon and Pronger, both of whom have their own set of concussion issues, will be on long-term injured reserve as soon as possible and don't figure to be a part of the team's plans. Timonen, Schenn, Streit, Coburn and Grossmann are all pretty much locks to be on the roster, and it'd be quite surprising if either of Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson are left off, either.
That's already nine defensemen (seven active ones) on the roster. There's a chance Holmgren's looking to deal one of them, but we've been talking about that all summer and if it hasn't happened yet there's a decent chance that it's just not in the cards. That doesn't leave much room for veteran Bruno Gervais, PTO candidate Hal Gill, or likely AHL-bound Oliver Lauridsen.
With that said, Laviolette's been impressed by Gill in training camp, so maybe there's more of a possibility that he sticks around than I'd have thought. But I can't see it working out, and it would make no sense for a cap-strapped team to be carrying eight active defensemen.
So I'm skeptical that any of the final three guys mentioned there have much of a chance of making the roster, but I guess the fact that they're still here means it's possible. But odds are that the seven guys we've been talking about all summer are the ones who will be with the team on October 3 when the season starts.
Players sent down to their respective teams include Samuel Morin, Mark Alt, and Brandon Manning. No big surprises, but there are several blueliners that were cut today that we'll have our eyes on from afar this season, and those three top probably the list.
Forwards (17): Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Adam Hall, Scott Hartnell, Ben Holmstrom, Scott Laughton, Vincent Lecavalier, Kris Newbury, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot, Chris Vandevelde, Jakub Voracek
Thoughts: Here's where things get interesting.
From my perspective, ten of these guys (Couturier, Giroux, Hartnell, Lecavalier, Read, Rinaldo, Schenn, Simmonds, Talbot, and Voracek) have their names etched in stone in the opening-day lineup. Another one (Chris Vandevelde) is the most perplexing remaining name of all, given that he's currently on an AHL-only deal, and his odds of making the team are barely any higher than mine are.
The six guys left can essentially be paired off into three head-to-head roster battles. Let's talk about those, from least significant to most.
Newbury and Rosehill: Because this is the Philadelphia Flyers and all, we'd be remiss if the team didn't have at least one person on the roster whose primary job is to punch people in the face. Jay Rosehill is the incumbent there and figures to be the favorite to bolt down a roster spot, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if the team gave the spot to Newbury instead, since he's shown at least some ability to score points at the AHL level before (certainly more than Rosehill). That said, chances are whoever wins it will be in the press box most nights, so let's move on.
Hall and Holmstrom: Adam Hall, the 33-year old veteran who the Flyers plucked off of waivers and then signed to a one-year deal for 2013-14, is basically your typical fourth-line center, as we discussed yesterday. He can win faceoffs, kill penalties, play well in his own end, and do all sorts of stuff that you'd like a fourth-liner to do. That said, Ben Holmstrom's skillset is basically the exact same as Hall's, and he's a fair bit younger.
There's a decent chance -- as SanFilippo notes in his article -- that the only reason Holmstrom's still up is because he's not waiver-exempt and the team is waiting for him to clear before they send him down. But in the event that they think he's fully recovered from his torn ACL suffered last year, there's a very, very slim chance that he could knock Hall off for that 4C spot. I assume Hall's got a big edge there thanks to his experience, but you never know.
Raffl and Laughton: And now for the spot everyone's wondering about. Laughton, the team's 19-year old first-round draft pick in 2012, and Raffl, a 24-year old free agent from Austria signed by the team last May, are the two most skilled forwards still on the roster bubble, and whichever one of them wins a spot is presumably going to be playing on the left wing on the team's third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
We'll talk a lot more about these two in the coming days, because it's the biggest storyline remaining in training camp. But the team's been very impressed with Laughton's progress in the last year -- enough that they're willing to consider moving him to the wing in order to get him on the NHL roster -- and everyone seems to like what Raffl's done in the preseason to date.
For now, let's look at some of the names that didn't make the cut. Tye McGinn, who played 18 games with the Flyers last year, was sent down to Adirondack. Jason Akeson, who's led the Phantoms in scoring the past two seasons, will also be heading to the AHL. So will Nick Cousins, Petr Straka, Marcel Noebels, and a handful of other guys who were darkhorse candidates for that last top-9 spot.
McGinn and Akeson were probably the two leading candidates among them to make the lineup, but Peter Laviolette seemed to make it clear last season that he only likes McGinn in a top-6/power-play role, which the team probably can't offer him at this moment. Akeson probably falls into that same boat, though SanFilippo noted that there was "some deliberation" within the team about Akeson surviving this round of cuts. They'll both be leading candidates for call-ups once the season begins and players inevitably get injured.
32 players remain with the team, and only 22 or 23 of them will be left when we go through this exercise again soon for the team's final cuts.
Anyone who surprised you by sticking around or getting cut? Discuss in the comments.