With training camp now upon us for all of the NHL’s 31 teams, and the season quickly approaching, here at Broad Street Hockey there’s an excitable buzz around the beginnings of what will surely be a unique NHL season. 56 games? Different divisions? Taxi squad?!
All of these changes will surely impact clubs over the long (though not as long) course of an NHL season, though perhaps the most interesting tidbit of that is the notion of the “taxi squad”.
What exactly is a taxi squad? Well we saw something similar put into place with Major League Baseball’s shortened season, and a similar concept will be implemented here in the NHL. Essentially, the taxi squad is a group of 4-6 players that will be allowed to practice with the NHL team as “reserves”, but won’t count towards the team’s cap hit. The full details are below:
The taxi squad facilitates ease of access to players for a number of reasons, the foremost being the slightly uncertain situation regarding the AHL. Their season is set to kick off on the 5th of February, meaning there will be a gap between then and the NHL’s start. Additionally, pulling players to and from the AHL could prove tricky given protocols, and having a pool of available talent that can practice with the NHL club means that less risk is involved.
We can predict, for the most part, who will be part of the opening day 23 man roster, as they’re all part of the current training camp roster.
Out of the training camp roster, I think this is the most likely 23 man roster to come out of that (I can see the Flyers not wanting to carry that many defensemen, so there’s flexibility for another forward to be added, likely Morgan Frost):
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Connor Bunnaman, Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Michael Raffl, James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek
It is likely that the taxi squad will be made up of players who are also at this training camp. It’s also important to consider that, potentially, the Flyers will want to keep players on this taxi squad who wouldn’t otherwise have a season to return to (i.e. players who are on European clubs), though this isn’t really the case with any one particular player on the training camp roster.
So who is likely to wind up on this taxi squad? Here’s a guess:
The rules state that one goaltender must be on the taxi squad if there are less than three goaltenders on the 23 man roster. I can’t see a situation in which the Flyers carry all of Carter Hart, Brian Elliott, and Lyon on the roster, so I think Lyon ends up on the taxi squad, which makes sense. He is the most experienced of the remaining training camp goaltenders.
Like I said before, I can easily see a scenario where Frost makes the 23 man roster from training camp, and isn’t put on the taxi squad. Though, in truth, I believe Mark Friedman will have a larger role with the Flyers this season, and it would make sense for the Flyers to carry him if that is indeed the case.
I believe at some point, Zamula will get NHL playing time this season, and given the later start date of the AHL, I think Zamula will definitely make the taxi squad. Whether he stays there beyond February is a different question, but I think he’ll be there at the start.
Laczynski makes sense for the taxi squad as he’s a known quantity at a time of uncertainty. Coaches have seen him in the NHL before, and know what to expect when they call him up, and having him close by in a pinch will be useful for the organization.
I think eventually Morin will see playing time at LW in the AHL, but for the time, I’m sure the Flyers will want Morin practicing with them and getting NHL level coaching for playing wing.
Having came over with a few SHL seasons’ experience in his belt, Sandin is a good taxi squad option for the Flyers since they’ll be able to truly see where he stacks up in their NHL depth chart. I don’t think Sandin would be the first call up from the taxi squad, but at this point, he certainly belongs there.