There are 35 forwards in Philadelphia Flyers training camp this year. Let's get to know them all.
As we did last year, we'll get the locks to make the roster out of the way to begin with. These guys are making the team no matter what happens, and therefore are just in training camp to get back in game shape, learn under their new head coach Dave Hakstol, and hopefully not get hurt.
These 10 players are locks to make the team
In ABC order, they are: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sean Couturier, Sam Gagner, Claude Giroux, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, R.J. Umberger and Jakub Voracek.
That's 10 guys. You might notice a few names we left off of there -- Vincent Lecavalier, Scott Laughton, Chris VandeVelde included. We will get to them below.
Let's run through all 25 remaining players and get to know what they face in this camp, which began Friday morning in Voorhees.
And the other 25...
Brandon Alderson: If Alderson ever plays in the NHL, it would be surprising at this point. The 23 year old was signed by the Flyers as a free agent in the 2013 offseason, in part because of the success he saw as Nick Cousins' linemate in the OHL. He just hasn't put it together at the pro level, though, splitting last season between the AHL and the ECHL -- and only putting up 15 points in 35 games with the Reading Royals. With much-improved depth in Lehigh Valley this year -- we'll get to that below -- Alderson will have an even harder time cracking the Phantoms' roster. He's likely in Reading again.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel: The Flyers' second-round pick in 2014 has blossomed in the year-plus since his selection, and he's quickly shown that he deserves consideration among the team's top-10 prospects. Aube-Kubel likely won't be in the NHL this season, and maybe not even next year. But if last season is any indication -- he finished the season with 60 points in 38 games -- he is going to rip the QMJHL apart this year, and the expectations around him are going to follow.
Cole Bardreau: The Cornell forward signed as a free agent with the team back in March, and he'll embark on his first full pro season this fall ... either in Lehigh Valley or Reading. More on him here.
Tim Brent: Signed by the Flyers this offseason after spending two years in the KHL, the former Duck / Penguin / Blackhawk / Leaf / Hurricane will be AHL depth this year. That's a trend -- there are plenty of guys who were signed to beef up the veteran presence on the Phantoms, with hopes of making them a competitive AHL squad for the first time since they left the Spectrum.
Chris Conner: See above. Signed the same day as Brent, the former Capital will be more veteran depth in the Lehigh Valley.
This is a big year for Nick Cousins. The third-round pick in the 2011 draft became an exciting prospect during his OHL days, when he ran the league as the leading scorer on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In 2012-13, his final OHL season, Cousins put up an absurd 103 points in 64 games. We all thought he was on the fast track to becoming an NHLer.
Now, entering his third professional season, it's clear that he's at a crossroads. The 22 year old had a fine AHL season last year, scoring 22 goals in 64 games. He's grown into a solid AHLer these last two years.
But for guys like Cousins who are pure scorers, they either are able to develop those skills effectively in the NHL or they become career AHL players. There's not much room on NHL fourth lines for offensive dangles. In the final year of his entry-level contract, Cousins needs to keep growing, and prove that he can be useful as an NHL player -- and not just as a top-rate AHL scorer.
Samuel Dove-McFalls: SDM was drafted back in June and will likely not be sticking around Voorhees long. The 98th overall pick is around to get a taste of the NHL before returning to Saint John, where he's a forward for in the QMJHL. He's a self-described two-way center, and he's entering just his third year of Major Junior.
Radel Fazleev: Fazleev is in his second Flyers camp, and he signed an entry-level contract with the team back in May. He'll be back with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen this season, but he's well on his way to becoming an intriguing prospect. We ranked him 19th in our list of the team's Top 25 prospects Under 25 last month.
Tyrell Goulbourne: We've written about Goulbourne a few times this year, and we've been pretty harsh on him, pointing out that he has a tough hill to climb if he wants to be anything more than a fourth-line NHL goon (like Zac Rinaldo, for example). He'll be in the Lehigh Valley this season, and ... well, time to start proving it, TGillz.
OK, maybe it's disingenuous to not call Vinny a lock to make the roster. He will probably, almost certainly, be on the team out of camp. But the guy has a lot to prove this fall. He says he's worked harder this summer after yet another disappointing season in orange and black, and he says he enters 2015-16 in excellent shape.
But for a guy with a big contract who has never lived up to that contract, and for a guy that was on Craig Berube's healthy scratch carousel last year, and for a guy who Hextall has publicly voiced his displeasure about, there's a lot still up in the air.
So while Lecavalier will probably be on the ice come opening night on October 8, there are plenty of questions about his long-term future with the team. He needs to start proving that he's not Bad At Hockey the second he hits the Skate Zone ice in camp.
Taylor Leier: Leier came in at No. 13 on our Top 25 Under 25 ranking this summer, and it's another big year with the Phantoms for him. He had some injury issues with the Phantoms last year, and he's another guy with a decent NHL ceiling, but a long way to go to fulfill his potential. He can't take a step back this season.
Danick Martel: This guy blew the QMJHL to pieces last year, scoring 48 goals and adding 53 assists in 63 games -- enough to earn the tiny, highly-skilled, undrafted winger a free agent deal with the Flyers. Were those numbers the result of an older player beating up on younger competition, or is he a true late bloomer? He'll have every opportunity to show off with the Phantoms, and in this camp, in 2015-16. Let's see what we have in this guy.
Derek Mathers: The 2011 Flyers' draft pick has probably reached his ceiling: he's a big, tough player who is shaping up to be an AHL lifer. Mathers played 40 games with the Phantoms last year (and three with the ECHL's Reading Royals), putting up two assists and 147 PIM. He is what he is.
Colin McDonald: Not to be confused with defenseman Andrew MacDonald, Colin McDonald was one of several organizational depth signings made by Ron Hextall this offseason. He'll be a Phantom, but he has NHL experience under his belt, including just a year ago with the Islanders, so there's a chance he's a call-up option for Dave Hakstol.
Pavel Padakin: Padakin is on an AHL contract this season. He had a decent WHL career, scoring 0.71 points per game over 206 games, but he seems like an NHL long shot. Certainly not on the radar this year.
When he was drafted in 2012, Laughton was the best forward prospect in the Flyers' organization. Since then, he's been overshadowed a bit -- yes, by this most recent draft class and Konecny's presence, but mostly because many expected him to be an NHL regular by now. Maybe that's unfair expectation, though.
Laughton looked good with the Flyers when he was in Philadelphia last season, playing a top-9 role with mostly Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn with some PK time mixed in. His season was derailed in Washington when he took a nasty hit from Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen, and he wound up getting sent down to finish the season in Allentown after he struggled upon his return from injury.
Laughton is blocked right now at the center position by at least four guys on the Flyers roster, so unless he has a great camp, it seems like he'll be starting his season with the Phantoms. That might not be such a bad thing though, because ultimately Laughton is only 21 years old and to be a top-line center in the AHL at age 21 is plenty impressive. We'll be looking for some tangible improvement this season from Laughton, with the hope that, sooner than later, he'll make the call-up decision an easy one for Hakstol.
Aaron Palushaj: The KHL wasn't so good to Palushaj, who you might remember from his time in Carolina or Montreal in the NHL. The right winger played the 2014-15 season with Zagreb over in Russia, and it came out recently that Zagreb had trouble paying it's players. So, there's that. Good reason to come back to North America, where payment is guaranteed -- even if it means riding buses in the AHL.
Michael Parks: The Flyers let their rights to Parks, who the drafted in 2010, expire last month when they didn't sign him to a contract. Now he's back in camp with an AHL deal, and he'll enter his first pro season after graduating from Dave Hakstol's program in North Dakota. Considering the Flyers had five years to sign him and they didn't, his NHL prospects look pretty slim.
Luke Philp: Philp was invited to development camp in July, and he apparently impressed enough to earn another invite to the big camp. He's not under contract, but the organization is clearly giving the 24 year old a look. He scored 30 goals and 52 assists in 71 games with Kootenay of the WHL last season.
Konecny will probably be back with the Ottawa 67s this year. Probably.
He's so damn talented that you really just never know what he's going to show in this training camp. His skills are off the charts, and the Flyers' first round draft choice does have a legitimate chance of making the team out of camp.
Will that mean he sticks in the NHL for the year, or that he's sent back before the first year of his entry-level deal kicks in?
Probably the latter. Probably.
Chris Porter: Like Palushaj, Brent, Conner and McDonald, Porter is just another depth piece. He played 24 games with the Blues last season and gives the organization options when they need a call up from Lehigh Valley, as well as experience at the AHL level.
Jay Rosehill: Guess who's back. Rosehill is on an AHL contract and likely won't play much more, if at all, in the NHL again. That ship has likely sailed for him. We imagine he'll be a strong veteran presence in the Phantoms' locker room this season, though.
Petr Straka: Take a guy like Martel, fast-forward two years, and you have a guy like Straka. He was skilled enough in his final season in the Q two years back to earn a free agent deal with the Flyers, and now, two seasons later, he's grown into a solid, if inconsistent, AHL player. Straka even earned a few games as an NHL call up with the Flyers last season, but he needs to show that the glimpses of impressive speed and finesse he's shown in both the NHL and AHL can sustain over longer periods of time.
CVV will probably be on the Flyers this year, but with guys like Laughton and Cousins and maybe Straka or Martel or Konecny banging on the door, there are no guarantees. He proved himself as a strong fourth-line center last year, and now he reunites with his former college coach in Hakstol this year.
CVV already beat former Flyer Zac Rinaldo for a fourth-line job, and he'll no doubt have some competition this year as well. But he's been a quality fourth-line guy, and with his new two-year contract inked in the offseason, it looks like he'll be around to stay.
Ryan White: Here's a guy who could also challenge VandeVelde for a fourth-line job, or maybe they'll both get spots on that fourth line? Who knows! White split time between the NHL and AHL a year ago and signed a one-year extension with the organization just a day after CVV did back in late June.
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Images: Getty, USA Today, Pat Jacoby