Yesterday, we took a look at the 35 forwards who started training camp with the Flyers, breaking down their odds of being on the NHL team when camp breaks in early October. Today, we'll be doing the same for the 21 defensemen on the camp roster, giving a brief rundown of where they stand now and what the most likely outcome is for them this season in terms of where they stand in the Flyers' plans.
Let's get to it. To mix things up a bit, we'll be putting these guys into a number of groups, and they'll be listed alphabetically within each group.
In other words: guys who are, barring a trade, going to be on the Flyers' final roster.
Michael Del Zotto, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, and Mark Streit. You know and love them already. Next.
In other words: guy who is almost certainly going to be on the NHL roster but could find himself off of it if something unforeseen happens
Evgeni Medvedev: With a $3 million contract in hand and the potential of losing him altogether if put on waivers, it is admittedly pretty tough to imagine a scenario in which Evgeni Medvedev doesn't make the Flyers' roster. In fact, I would guess that it's at least as likely, if not moreso, that the 33-year old Russian ends up being one of the team's best defensemen as it is that he doesn't end up playing a role here at all.
But even so, Medvedev -- as our own Charlie O'Connor mentioned on Twitter the other day -- is probably the team's biggest wild card this season (arguably, short of head coach Dave Hakstol). There's a chance he ends up impressing from Day 1 and sticks in a top-4 role all season, and ends up being more than a one-year stopgap. And there's also a chance that he just comes in and looks completely lost, can't adjust to the North American ice and style of game, and flops big-time in camp and in the preseason.
If the latter scenario happens, and if one or more of the young guys impresses, doesn't Ron Hextall at least have to think about waiving him? Sure -- they'd either be losing him to another team on waivers or eating a multi-million-dollar cap hit in the minors if they did so. But it costs the same to have him sit in the press box anyways, and if they still thought he was salvageable it'd make more sense to see if he can get used to the North American style for a bit in Lehigh Valley than it would be to have him sit around as a replacement, at least at first.
Again, this is all highly unlikely. But given the lack of commitment the team has to him beyond this year, it's not out of the realm of possibility. There's such a wide range of possible outcomes with Medvedev; you could realistically consider "not making the team" to be the worst-case scenario.
The probably-here-but-it's-possible-he-doesn't-make-it guy
In other words: guy who is likely to make the NHL roster but is probably the most likely to be left on the outside looking in if someone else impresses and he doesn't
Radko Gudas: The throw-in on last deadline's Braydon Coburn trade, Gudas comes to the Flyers after two-plus years on Tampa's NHL team. He didn't play a single game for the Flyers after the trade, though, as he was still recovering from knee surgery earlier in the year. Gudas, 25, was mostly a bottom-pair player for the Lightning and was an occasional healthy scratch there, but he's pretty likely to make the NHL roster even if he's not a lock to be in the lineup every night.
With that said, it's possible that Gudas -- having never played a game in orange and black before -- isn't someone the Flyers feel a need to keep around. And with his salary cap hit being just under $1 million, the Flyers could bury him at the AHL level with a miniscule cap penalty (around $41,667 against the yearly cap). If the team wants to keep one or more of its prospects at the NHL level, Gudas may just be the one whose presumed roster spot ends up getting taken because of it.
The replacement prospects
In other words: younger players who have some AHL time and could still be considered prospects but likely aren't going to be more this year than injury call-ups.
Mark Alt: Alt made his NHL debut last March when the Flyers were several men down due to a number of injuries. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract after two years on the Phantoms. He'll be sent to AHL camp to compete for top ice time with the organization's other high-end defensive prospects, and he'll be fighting this year to earn a second contract with the organization. While it's unlikely at this point that he becomes much more than filler at the NHL level unless he just tears it up at Lehigh Valley this year, he gives the team another option in the event of an injury on the NHL team.
Brandon Manning: If you're looking for one guy who may be the team's de-facto injury call-up player between now and whenever Hextall decides that the prospects are ready to start getting NHL time, there's a pretty good chance that's Brandon Manning. (Especially since that was basically the role he served last season.) The Flyers clearly like what they have in Manning, since they signed him to a one-year extension before last season even ended and he was arguably the Phantoms' top defenseman last year.
But this is his
third fourth contract with the Flyers, and he still hasn't established himself as more than a replacement guy. With the team's long-term picture on the blueline only getting more and more crowded, he may be playing for a chance in another organization after this season.
The top prospects, non-AHL-eligible
In other words: guys who we're all very excited about but cannot be sent to the AHL, meaning they will either need to stick with the NHL roster or be sent back to juniors after training camp.
Ivan Provorov: This is probably the most intriguing storyline we'll be following in all of training camp. From the moment he got to Philadelphia, we've heard so much about the maturity that Provorov has, and that's before we get to just how friggin' good he is at hockey. He was one of the WHL's best defensemen last year at 17/18 years old, he wowed everyone at development camp, and by all accounts, there was little doubt that he was the best player at the team's rookie camp last week.
Hextall has talked over and over about how the team isn't going to bring prospects up until they're ready. But he and the staff also can't shut up about how impressive Provorov is, and really, can you blame them? It's entirely possible that the staff sees him as NHL-ready right now, or at least will by the end of the preseason. All eyes will be on him for the next few weeks, that's for sure.
Travis Sanheim: Sanheim has said that his goal is to make the NHL roster this year, which isn't surprising. With the rise in his stock over the past year, the team very well could see him as NHL-ready now, though it wouldn't be surprising if they thought he may need a bit more work outside of the NHL. Much like it did with Morin last summer, Sanheim's non-eligibility for the AHL may force the Flyers into a decision with two choices they aren't thrilled with -- either keep him at the NHL level where he's close to ready but may not be 100 percent so, or send him back to the WHL where he's spending the entire year feasting on overmatched juniors players (and playing for Canada's World Juniors team).
In any case, though, last season Sanheim was sent back to Calgary fairly early in camp. This time around, one has to imagine he'll at least be around at least until the preseason ends.
The top prospects, AHL-eligible
In other words: other prospects who we're very excited about who can be sent to the AHL when or before camp is over.
Shayne Gostisbehere: If you'd asked Flyers fans at this time last year where they thought Shayne Gostisbehere would be at this time this year, many of them probably would have guessed or at least hoped that Gostisbehere would be coming off of a season in which he came up to the Flyers midway through the year and stuck there for good. Instead, after a very brief call-up in October to cover for multiple injuries on the blue line, Gostisbehere tore his ACL in November and didn't play again.
It seemed clear that of the team's available prospects last year, Gostisbehere was the one they believed to be closest to NHL-ready (which makes some sense, given that he's at least two years older than each of the other "big five" members). How much does the injury set back that timeline?
You'd have to think that unless he just blows everyone's doors off in the preseason, the team is going to want him to get some action at regular-season speed in the AHL before he gets another crack at the Flyers' roster. Heck, he did blow everyone's doors off last preseason and the team still sent him to Lehigh Valley, and seemed prepared to keep him there for much of last season before the injury. Still, this preseason will be his first in-game action in almost a year, so we'll have our eyes on him.
Robert Hagg: As I mentioned in his 25 under 25 piece, Hagg -- despite by most measures being the least heralded of the team's top five defensive prospects -- comes into this camp with a bit of a leg up on his fellow top prospects, in the sense that he's spent a full year at the AHL level playing against professionals. He's someone who could possibly be closer to the NHL than we may think.
At the same time, of the team's top five defensive prospects, he may be the one who's least likely to break camp with the Flyers. He's still trying to become a more consistent player and bring the good parts of his well-rounded skillset to the table every night, and it's unlikely he'll get much time with the Flyers until the team believes he can and will do that.
Samuel Morin: To think, at this time just under a year ago we were legitimately discussing the potential for Samuel Morin to be sticking around with the Flyers at the NHL level. Alas, that was most likely due to the fact that the team only had two options -- to keep him in Philadelphia or send him back to juniors. With Morin being a very intriguing prospect but one who still needs a lot of work, and with the Flyers being able to send him to the AHL for the first time this year, it'd be very surprising if that wasn't where he ended up come early October -- likely alongside Gostisbehere on a pairing (at least for as long as they're both there).
The other prospects
In other words: younger guys, but ones who may not be as highly-regarded as prospects as the other guys, and who will likely be fighting more for AHL ice time this year than any shot at the NHL.
Maxim Lamarche: An undrafted free agent signing from the summer of 2013 following a solid overage year in the QMJHL, Lamarche has spent most of his time in the Flyers' organization at the ECHL level. He managed to play just 12 games for the Phantoms last year, and it's unlikely he even gets in that many this year.
Nick Luukko: Taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, Luukko finally finished up his final year at Vermont this past year and was signed by the Flyers to an AHL deal in June. (Curiously, the Flyers' training camp roster lists him as having an NHL contract, but there's been no announcement at any point about that being the case.) In any event, like with Lamarche, it's hard to see him getting much ice time anywhere other than Reading.
Christian Marti: The big Swiss defenseman was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Flyers earlier in the offseason. Marti is big and can skate well, but dealt with some injury issues this past year in the Swiss league. He's an unknown and an interesting project, and he'll likely be competing for a back-of-the-roster spot at the AHL level.
Jesper Pettersson: The team's final draft pick in Hextall's first draft as general manager back in 2014, Pettersson -- who was drafted as a double-overager -- spent all of his first year in America with the Phantoms. He was an occasional scratch, but got in the lineup fairly regularly, picking up 51 games with the team. As an undersized player (the team's official roster lists him at 5'8") who doesn't bring much in the way of offense at this point (only seven points in those 51 games), Pettersson will have to try and carve out a role using his speed and toughness to make it as a full-timer.
The AHL vets
In other words: guys who were signed this past summer mostly to provide a veteran presence for the young AHL team and who will likely not push for a roster spot at camp.
Davis Drewiske: The soon-to-be-31-year-old Drewiske spent several years in the Kings' organization under Hextall, and spent all of last year playing for the Montreal Canadiens' AHL affiliate in Hamilton. He has NHL experience, so he gives the team a potential call-up option if necessary.
Logan Pyett: Pyett signed with the Flyers on an AHL-only contract earlier this summer, and he comes here after spending the last two seasons in the KHL. Prior to that, Pyett spent four years playing for the Red Wings' AHL team, and another year after that in Connecticut in the Rangers' system.
In other words: the one guy here who
doesn't have a contract. didn't have a contract until Monday afternoon, when the Flyers signed him to an entry-level deal.
Phil Myers: Myers, who's 6'5" and just 18 years old, went undrafted this past June in his first year of draft eligibility. Clearly the team is a bit intrigued by him to bring him in here, but with him having posted just eight points in 60 games last year for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, it's unlikely his presence here is meant as anything more than an experience for him. It's likely he'll be someone the team will have its eye on in the Q this year, though.
Photo credits: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports (Gudas); Derek Leung, Getty Images (Sanheim); Elsa, Getty Images (Morin); Pat Jacoby Photography (Pettersson)