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Flyers youth took center stage in first preseason win

Starting off the preseason with a bang.

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Flyers kicked off their preseason last night with, well, perhaps not quite a commanding win over the Bruins, but it was at least a win. Like the first rookie game last weekend, it took a little while for everyone to get going, and special teams time made establishing much flow difficult for stretches, but the Flyers got some good looks, and made the most of their opportunities, and were able to come away with a 2-1 win. And, carrying momentum from their pair of wins in those rookie games, it was the younger Flyers that did the heavy lifting in this one.

Felix Sandstrom got the start and played the first half of the game, and he was perfect in that stretch, stopping all 17 of the shots he faced, and weathering well four Bruins power plays, including a brief 5-on-3. He looked comfortable for the most part, and was able to bail the skaters out of a few dodgy situations when they were struggling to break the puck out of their own end (in that way, they were really looking to be in midseason form).

The Flyers—in an admittedly pretty satisfying turn of events—got their scoring from the Cates brothers. Noah Cates opened up the scoring for the game with a goal on the 5-on-3 power play (a power play that on the whole, and for the first time in approximately a millennium, was moving the puck around well and looking quite dangerous).

He really got going from the second period onward as well, driving offense more distinctly and showing a nice bit of chemistry Tyson Foerster, particularly on the power play.

Speaking of Foerster, his game was a bit quieter relative to what we saw from him last weekend, but he was still able to bring a bit of flash. We got a couple of looks at his one-timer as he was set up on the power play, and he made one really nice play through traffic, late in the game, and got a nice scoring chance out of it, even if he wasn’t able to convert on it.

The game winning goal came, then, from Jackson Cates after a nice bit of work from a couple of defensemen—Ronnie Attard was able to get the puck up-ice and into the offensive zone nicely and the Flyers were able to get a bit of a cycle going, getting the puck up to Egor Zamula for a shot from the point, and then Cates was in just the right spot in the slot to deflect that shot in.

And that’s still not the end of our list of standouts. Cam York delivered his usual level of strong contributions to the team’s transition game. Morgan Frost was tied for the team lead in scoring chances (with the Cates brothers). Olle Lycksell continued to flash in his shiftiness, set up a really nice scoring chance for Foerster in the slot from behind the net, and got a nice scoring chance of his own on a power move to the net, and showed that he’s not struggling to hold up physically at this level.

We also saw a fair bit of physicality—Wade Allison came to Antoine Roussel’s defense (with closer to a half-fight) after he was leveled by an open ice hit, and then Hayden Hodgson dropped the gloves after he dished out a big hit along the boards.

Now, did we particularly need to see anyone getting into fights in the very first game of the preseason? Not particularly. As fans and outside evaluators, it doesn’t much move the needle. But for a team that is heavily building around and putting a premium on toughness this season, that physicality and willingness to engage in a bit of rough stuff will likely go a long way in making a strong impression on a management group looking like magpies for this kind of thing.

So it was the youth movement again leading the charge, and while we do want to add a couple of qualifiers to this—it was the first preseason game and we want to avoid making any massive sweeping assertions based on that, and also by pure volume in the ratio of young players to veterans in this game, the younger players had a better chance of standing out—the doesn’t negate the good work that these players did. There was a lot to like from these performances, and strong first impressions for a lot of players who are fighting to make the team out of camp.

And what are we to take from that? It’s still early, to be sure, but the kids are already starting to make management look a bit silly. The team aimed to go a bit older, bringing in veterans through proper signings and PTOs as the insurance for an already battered team, but in the early looks, those players—Anisimov, Roussel, Belpedio, even Grosenick—didn’t pop quite as much as we might have expected, especially up against a Bruins team that was largely young players as well.

Now, the commitment to these players is low, and having them here for a bit of added competition in camp certainly isn’t a bad thing, but the kids are more quickly showing their merit. And if things continue to trend in this way, it’s going to be hard to justify not embracing the youth movement for this season.

The team thinks they can be competitive and win some games and plans to build for that? Okay, the higher skilled rookies are going to give you the best chance of accomplishing that.

And if it’s looking like things are going to be rough again? Great, let’s get as many prospects NHL reps so the team is in a better position to rebound next year (with a shiny new high draft pick in tow, ideally).

We’ll see how things shake out as we get deeper into the preseason, but this was about as strong of a first look as we could have asked for from a healthy percentage of the Flyers’ prospect group.