Derick Brassard becoming key depth addition as likely third-line center

The Flyers signed Derick Brassard late in the offseason, but he could become a key addition with Kevin Hayes out.

When the Flyers signed Derick Brassard just over a month ago, he was viewed as nothing more than a depth piece. Perhaps a safety net in the bottom six. Now, after the injury to Kevin Hayes (and less so Wade Allison), Brassard is looking more and more like a necessary signing.

The 34-year-old forward had the best years of his career with the New York Rangers under Alain Vigneault. From 2013 to 2016, Brassard missed just five regular-season games. He recorded 163 points (64 goals, 99 assists) in 241 games for the Blueshirts. In recent years, Brassard has become more of a defensive-minded center with his play-driving taking a dip.

The Flyers are hoping that Brassard can find some sort of success again with Vigneault behind the bench.

On Day 1 of Training Camp, Vigneault spoke about the decision to use Brassard at center in Hayes’ absence rather than versatile forwards Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton.

“When I look at our team, Brass, I wanted to see in the middle because for me, he plays his best hockey in the middle,” AV said last week.

“We’ll see how everyone reacts and see if there’s chemistry with guys on the ice, a lot of new faces. Probably going to take a little bit of time,” he continued. “For now, I think everyone is slotted into areas that they should be to help contribute to the team.”

Early on in Training Camp and the preseason, it’s looking like Brassard has carved out a nice role for himself.

Brassard has been on the Flyers’ third line with Oskar Lindblom and fellow newcomer Cam Atkinson in training camp. The line was noticeable (in a good way) in Tuesday night’s preseason opener.

“I feel like we had some looks,” he said after the overtime loss. “We were just talking about it after the game. I think as a team we have got to improve every day and that is why we are playing these games.”

“We have three more games to get ready for the first game of the season and that is the only thing that matters,” Brassard said. “I think everyone needs to make sure they are doing everything they can to be ready for the first game.”

Brassard won 13 of 19 face-offs on Tuesday, including one back to Egor Zamula in the second period that opened the scoring for the Flyers. The center picked up an assist on the goal and finished the game with one shot on goal and three hits.

After Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage, Vigneault stressed the importance of chemistry. Brassard and Aktinson have been playing together in camp and they have some history as well.

“The things that we’re trying to see right now is who does have chemistry with one another and who’s going to make this team, the best possible team. I know [Brassard and Atkinson] go way back,” Vigneault said Sunday. “I’ve liked both of them. Both the energy that they’ve brought and the enthusiasm they’ve brought so far. Like I said, we’re going to try different things during camp. Putting those two guys together during exhibition is definitely one of the things that we’re going to look at and see how they do.”

Oskar Lindblom is riding as the left wing with Brassard and Atkinson. He’s excited to play with the two veterans.

“Two great players and two great guys,” Lindblom said. “They’ve been around the league for a good amount of time, too. Just trying to find momentum in our game and find a shot up there. Probably going to take some time, but we’re on a roll. Pretty good right now.”

The line certainly was rolling on Tuesday night with Brassard in the middle.

Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault made a savvy decision to sign Derick Brassard on August 25th. The offseason seemed as if it was over after getting the big three (Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson), but Fletcher kept adding depth pieces that are going to be important to the Flyers’ success this season.