Michael Raffl was this year's Mike Testwuide -- the talk of training camp, the guy who would come out of nowhere to make the opening night roster. But just like Testwuide three years ago, the Flyers have sent Raffl to the Adirondack Phantoms, where he'll begin his North American professional career in the AHL.
That probably shouldn't be much of a surprise, considering the insane jump Raffl -- a 24 year old who never even reached Sweden's top pro league in his time there -- would have had to make to become an NHL player. As usual, Eric T. probably summed it up best...
Can't say I'm shocked that a guy who was under a PPG at age 24 in Sweden's minor league despite a >22% sh% couldn't crack the roster.— Eric T. (@BSH_EricT) September 27, 2013
If the Flyers general feelings on him and the apparent battle to sign him this summer are any indication, Raffl has promise, but it always seemed to us like a stretch to make such a large jump.
From the Swedish Elite League to the NHL would be a big jump in and of itself for somebody who's never played in North America, and from Allsvenskan to the NHL? He's probably a top call-up option, but starting his North American career with the Phantoms just seems like the right move.
That leaves two guys left on the Flyers roster battling for one roster spot: Scott Laughton and Chris Vandevelde. Laughton is the no-brainer option at this point, but is it really that obvious that he'll beat out Vandevelde for the job?
The spot remaining is on the wing, and we've been led to believe that Laughton will make this team as a center if he does indeed make it. The Flyers could find some way to ship off Adam Hall, but he's an important faceoff man and a seemingly perfect fourth-line center. (Do you want Laughton on the fourth line anyway?) Chances Laughton leaps over Sean Couturier, Vincent Lecavalier or Claude Giroux on the depth chart are ... well.
It's just hard to see where Laughton would fit at this point if he's not moving to wing.
That leaves us with Vandevelde. At age 26, he's a real head scratcher, and not much more than a grinder even at the AHL level. He's only played 28 NHL games. He'd have to be a fourth-line winger if he winds up making the team, and that would push Max Talbot up to a third-line role.
Maybe that's what happens here. I don't know. One preseason game left.