Predicting the Flyers Line Combinations for Opening Night, 7 days before Rookie Camp
One more week. All we have to do is get through another Eagles preseason game and we will finally have some sort of Flyers hockey back with Rookie Camp set to kick off on August 28th. There are a few players participating that will look to make impacts on the big club this season. Morgan Frost, Cam York, Wade Allison are all young, skilled players looking to carve their way into the Flyers’ lineup.
Here are my early predictions as to what the Flyers’ line combination might look like come October 15th.
James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier – Joel Farabee
We all know JVR plays better when he’s playing up in the lineup, surrounded with more skilled players. Pairing a finisher like JVR with an elite, two-way player like Sean Couturier is a combo that I would like to see. Add in the 21 year old who led the Flyers in goals last year and this could be a sneaky good line. Farabee is coming off a career high 20 goals in 55 games last season with the Flyers. His quick, deceptive shot, only seems to be getting better by the year and would be a great fit with JVR & Couturier, who both had 20+ assist last year.
JVR gets a lot of hate from the fan-base (I am guilty), but he’s a better passer than most people realize.
Oskar Lindblom – Kevin Hayes – Travis Konecny
AV gave Oskar Lindblom some breaks in-between games last season, allowing Oskar an extra day of rest after coming back from beating Ewing’s sarcoma. In those games after his rest day, you could tell the break really helped Oskar. He looked faster, fresher and showed that elite, relentless fore-checking ability. With a full off-season of training, I do think we’re going to see Lindblom return to 2019 form for the Flyers.
(He lead the Flyers in goals (11) before he got diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in the middle of December of 2019)
Hayes had core muscle surgery done in late May, the reported recovery time was 5 weeks, giving him enough time to get ready for training camp in September. Hayes might’ve not had the best year last year but knowing what he was dealing with, 12G-19A-31P in 55 games isn’t awful by any means. Konecny is another player who didn’t have a great season to his standards, but still put up 11G-23A-34P in 50 games. Lindblom’s tenacious fore-checking and ability to finish loose pucks in-around the net, with Konecny, who likes to shoot, is something I have to see. Hayes’ knack for being able to pass/be the shooter could be a really nice balance for this line.
Claude Giroux – Morgan Frost – Cam Atkinson
Now, I can already hear some people asking “Why is Claude Giroux on the Flyers’ 3rd line?”, “Why is Oskar Lindblom on the 2nd line”, “He’s not the 2nd best LW on the Flyers.” The more and more I talk about line combinations with my co-host, Danny Diemer, the more I find myself not really caring about the “lines label”, I’m more interested in the fit. I could switch Giroux and JVR, but I really like the chemistry Giroux & Frost had together in Frosts’ first NHL stint. I could switch Atkinson with Farabee but I want Giroux to have that sniper he’s been missing for all these years.
Obviously, I have Frost winning the 3C spot out of camp and giving him two veteran leaders will be really helpful. We all know how good of a play maker Giroux is, his hands and elite vision is something we’ve all been marveling over since he’s been with the Flyers. Pair that up with Frost, a player who you can argue has some of the best hands on the team and Atkinson, a shoot-first guy and you could have yourself a pretty scary line.
Scott Laughton – Nate Thompson – Wade Allison
Ideally, Laughton playing on the wing is where I personally would want him. We all can agree that he’s better suited for a wing role anyway. Chuck Fletcher talked about being harder to play against over the summer and while the additions of Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen certainly help with that, so does Nate Thompson. He might not be the most skilled player and yes, sometimes he’s used a littleeeeee more then we would all like, but he’s a fine 4C for the Flyers. He helps on the PK, he brings a veteran presence on the 4th line and is a decent fore-checker.
I talked about reeling in the expectations in on Wade Allison a bit in my last article. While I still stand by this, Wade certainly brought energy to the Flyers when it was so badly missing, there’s no doubt. His 4G-3A-7P in 14 NHL games combined with his 4G-5A-9P in 10 AHL games, showed he can play in the pro league. If he has a good camp and wins a spot (I think he will), starting him on the fourth line wouldn’t be the worst thing. He brings energy, finishes all of his checks and has a lethal shot to compliment all of that. Pairing guys like Laughton and Thompson, who are both grinding type of players that create chances, with a guy like Allison who can shoot, is something I could get behind.
This line would hit everything in their way and have the scoring finesse to go along with it.
13th forward: Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
This one is pretty simple, Chuck finally got a guy for Provorov. I can’t wait to watch #9 & #94 together out there patrolling the Flyers’ blue-line. We saw how the addition of Matt Niskanen two off-seasons ago helped Provorov’s game, allowing him to branch out more into his offensive game. Can only imagine what the addition of Ryan Ellis, one of the NHL’s best right-handed defenseman, might do.
Really excited to see how these two mesh together in training camp, one of my favorite story-lines.
Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen
Sanheim is the only arbitration case left now, with Zadorov’s agreeing to a deal with the Flames today (1 year at $3.75). The Flyers only have $4.031 left in cap space right now and while I don’t think Sanheim will get anything crazy, he’s due at least a little bit of a raise from $3.25. We all know Chuck likes to have his cap space during the season for transactions, but after Sanheim gets signed, there won’t be much. Is there another move coming? We shall see, things have been oddly silent. Maybe that’s just the dead of the off-season getting to me.
Obviously, I’m assuming Sanheim gets signed and doesn’t get traded, so I have him next to Rasmus Ristolainen. We saw Sanheim – Myers play some really good hockey in 2019 before the covid stoppage. Then we saw them struggle heavily in the playoffs, then again last season at times. You can pull out any chart you want and scream about Ristolainen but he’s certainly better than Phil Myers.
I have mentioned on previous articles that I think Sanheim is best suited with a strong, defensive-minded defenseman that allows him to takes the offensive risks. We saw Sanheim play some of his better hockey last season (wasn’t much, I know) when paired with Justin Braun. While I think Braun is a fine bottom pairing defenseman at this stage of his career, he’s not going to be able to play Top 4 minutes anymore, not at a high level at least. Bringing in Ristolainen, a younger (26) defensive-minded defenseman who will allow Sanheim to jump up into the play more.
Now, I could see this pairing either being really fun or I could see it being an absolute mess for the Flyers. One of the main critiques you’ll get about Ristolainen’s game is his defensive lapses and inability to cleanly exit his zone. It’s the same problem Flyers fans have with Sanheim. We’ve seen Sanheim turn the puck over in his own zone, get shoved off pucks, fall face first into the boards in his own zone, we’ve seen it all with #6. Our hope, I’m sure along with Chuck Fletcher’s, is we’ve have seen the lowest of lows from Sanheim and adding Ristolainen to the team, in a reduced role, will benefit both sides.
Gives Sanheim that partner who can clear the porch and be the physical presence, allowing him to show off his offensive abilities.
Keith Yandle – Justin Braun
The Flyers went out and nabbed Kevin Hayes’ best friend, Keith Yandle in FA to a 1 year deal worth $900,000 that includes a full NMC. Yandle brings vital veteran leadership on and off the ice and helps on the PP for cheap. I talked about how Braun played fine last year and for how god-awful the defense really was, I don’t think Braun was bad at all. Still think he can help this club out in a bottom-pairing kind of role.
Now, I have thought about the idea of Cam York just having too good of a training camp to send him back down to the AHL. Ideally, York starts out in the AHL, getting top 5 v 5 minutes and playing as the QB on the PP. But, we’ve seen York only get better and better each season, knocking down all expectation I personally had for him last year. Most likely, York starts in the AHL but he’s not going to be there very long, he’s just too good.
* If York blows doors off camp and takes a spot*
Provorov – Ellis
Sanheim – Ristolainen
York – Yandle
I’m not sure if Yandle has ever played on the right side in his career, so please fact check me on that. If not, I’d rather the 34 year old veteran play in a spot where he may not be fully comfortable than a 20 year old rookie. They’re not going to take out Yandle with his iron-man streak still going strong at 922 consecutive regular season games since March 26, 2009, so Braun comes out and in goes York. This pairing does scare me defensively, thoug in a third-pairing role, I think they’d be fine together.
Who else but Carter Hart would be between the pipes on Friday, October 15th for the Flyers. With a new and hopefully improved defense, I’m looking for Hart to have a really solid year.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images