So far this offseason, Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher has ensured that the team we will see at the start of the 2021-22 season will look vastly different to the one that left us disappointed in 2020-21. By trading for Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Cam Atkinson, Fletcher not only brings in new key pieces to the squad (as much as Ristolainen may be lamented, he is “key” in that they gave up a first round pick for him and he could seriously help or hinder the team), but clearly is attempting to change the sentiment in the dressing room. All three players are considered leaders, and based on Fletcher’s comments, that was something he felt the team was lacking in last year.
To this end, with the moves Fletcher has made, the top six and defense seems to be all but shored up. Barring any further moves, the 2021-22 Flyers are looking to be organized as such:
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
JVR/Farabee - Hayes - Atkinson
Provorov - Ellis
Sanheim - Ristolainen
York - Braun
However, this still leaves a fair amount of uncertainty in the bottom six. With Nolan Patrick gone, the Flyers suddenly find themselves with a need for a depth center (unless they are willing to play Morgan Frost at 3C, which a combination of inconsistency and injury last year meant they haven’t been in the past). There are also plenty of prospects knocking on the door to the NHL that may warrant a starting place on the roster in October.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the locks; guys who are definitely going to be there:
It is truly hard to the Flyers moving on from Laughton after he signed a 5 year, $3.0 million AAV deal to stay in Philadelphia. On top of that, he’s just a really good, hard-working depth center that this team needs.
Lindblom was solid in his first full season back after his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma. With a bright future ahead of him, Lindblom is nearly a lock to fill in at 3LW.
Sure, he regressed last season and didn’t look nearly as good as he did in 2019-20, but when the coaches are able to light a fire under Aube-Kubel, he’s one of the most energizing players in the Flyers’ lineup.
Then there are players who are almost certainly going to get time on the roster, though could get moved up or down:
Allison looked really good in his “cup of coffee” in the NHL last season, scoring 7 points in 14 games. Many view him as a sure fire, lock-in NHLer on this roster, however, while it’s very likely he’s on the roster to start the season, it isn’t a guarantee by any stretch. The Flyers may want to give Allison more time to grow into being a professional, but given how well he started his NHL career, he’ll likely be penciled into the lineup from day one.
Frosty the Goal Man has had a rough go of it recently. It was clear in prior years that the Flyers didn’t trust Frost at the NHL level entirely, given he was sent down in 2019-20. Then, as he was called up in January of 2021, an injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
Frost could prove to be key for the Flyers, who now need another depth center (especially one with potential like Frost). Given the uncertainty of the free agent market, and the Flyers’ lack of cap space, Frost may be forced into a full time NHL role even if he isn’t ready for one (which in fairness I believe he is ready).
Bunnaman will likely be the team’s 13th forward, but he will also probably get game time if players are in need of rest. For that sort of role, Bunnaman is fine.
Lastly, there are players who are perhaps long shots, but could make an impact if they are called up or put on the roster:
Personally, I really really want to see Foerster in the NHL in 2021-22. In 24 AHL games last year, he scored 17 points with 10 of them being goals. Foerster simply knows how to score, and it is encouraging to see him perform well in the AHL right away.
Desnoyers signed his ELC with the Flyers, which starts in 2021-22, and he played very well for Halifax (QMJHL) last year, scoring 49 points in 37 games. While he’ll almost certainly start his career in the AHL, whether that’s this next season or 2022-23, Desnoyers is the kind of player who could have a very immediate impact in the NHL with his style of play. He could become a second “NAK” for the Flyers in that he’s a pest and will do just about anything to compete for a play. He could really boost the Flyers’ bottom six, if he doesn’t return to play another year in juniors.
Coming over from Sweden, Sandin played well in the AHL last year, scoring 10 points in 26 games. Going into his age 25 season, it is yet to be clear if Sandin has an NHL future, but eventually it is possible he gets a look in the NHL to test his capabilities.