The Lehigh Valley Phantoms playoffs’ may have come to a halting end at the hands of a sweep from the Toronto Marlies last week, but there’s plenty to look forward to for the players.
For most, it will be another shot at the Calder Cup, but for a select few it could mean a season with the Philadelphia Flyers. These are the players closest to the cusp that could make the Flyers’ roster out of training camp, listed by highest chance of making the team.
(Note: Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom weren’t included since they are close to NHL locks at this point.)
With Valtteri Filppula and Matt Read’s contracts expiring, Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera subject to demotions to the Phantoms or regular healthy scratches and Taylor Leier caught in no man’s land, there are some openings in the Flyers’ bottom six. The team can fill one of those holes, in-house with Aube-Kubel waiting first in line.
The Flyers’ second round pick in 2014 got off to a slow start in his rookie year in the AHL in 2016-17. He scored just 18 points in 71 games and his NHL future was in question.
Aube-Kubel changed that around this season, doubling his goal total to 18 and scoring 46 total points in 72 games. He also did that with barely any power play time.
On the other hand, though, Aube-Kubel doesn’t kill penalties — an area Philly greatly needs to improve and will look to address this offseason. The 22 year old has also gotten in some disciplinary incidents, facing three suspensions, including one in the postseason.
As long as the Flyers don’t add multiple wingers in the offseason, a spot on the Flyers definitely seems in the cards for Aube-Kubel. A strong training camp will be necessary, though.
Where does Sam Morin go in this exercise? He played just 20 games between the AHL and NHL this past year, but there was logically a spot for him before he tore his ACL in the playoffs. Morin doesn’t expect to be back until February 2019 at this point.
When the then-23 year old does return, he’ll be susceptible to waivers and the team won’t want to risk him to a claim. But at the same time, the Flyers should be in the midst of a playoff push and likely wouldn’t want to test a player that hadn’t played an actual game in nine months.
Morin, in effect, will be with the Flyers next season. His playing status, though, will be better re-visited in January.
Morin’s injury and Myers’ strong play in the postseason, has likely pushed Myers’ chances a little higher on this list. The 6-foot-5 blueliner played a ton of minutes in the playoffs and scored seven points in 14 games as a 21-year-old rookie.
He also formed a dynamic duo with Travis Sanheim, though Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has always been hesitant to play youngsters together.
Then, there’s also the believe among Flyers beat writers that the team could move a blueliner in a trade. Of course, that defenseman could be replaced from the outside, but Myers is the top Phantoms blueliner in line for a promotion.
Much like Sanheim before him and Aube-Kubel with him, it’s going to come down to a very important training camp for Myers. General manager Ron Hextall has always been reluctant to give roster spots to rookies — especially ones with just one year of AHL seasoning under their belts.
I’m not as high on Lyon as a lot of Flyers fans. In his NHL games, I saw more of a third-string/tweener option than a full-fledge backup. He had some strong games, but had a chance to really make a case for himself and faltered against the Pittsburgh Penguins in March.
I know we can say the same for Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, but Lyon’s best games in the NHL came when he didn’t see a lot of tough chances.
But even throwing all of that out the window, there’s a lot working against Lyon becoming a full-time NHLer.
First, the team would have to find a taker on Neuvirth. When healthy, the Czech native can be solid, but he’s usually the farthest thing from healthy. It’s hard imagining any team giving up any asset for a backup that can’t be relied on for months out of the season in a bloated market.
Second, even if the Flyers find a taker for Neuvirth or buy him out, does the team trust him for 30 games if Elliott gets injured? I’d have to imagine not and Hextall would want to upgrade the backup position, not take a gamble.
There is always the chance Lyon beats out Neuvirth for the backup spot and the veteran gets demoted, though.
My guess is Lyon will be re-signed (he’s a restricted free agent) and will settle into the same role he had last year as the first call-up over Carter Hart.
If the Flyers don’t upgrade their third-line center position or bring back Filppula, there could be a spot for Vecchione on the fourth line, assuming Scott Laughton is promoted and Jori Lehtera is demoted, a healthy scratch or moved to the wing.
Vecchione impressed in his rookie year with 40 points in 65 games, but unlike Aube-Kubel, did it on the first line and with power play minutes. Hextall never saw him as a worthy recall, promoting Danick Martel, Tyrell Goulbourne and Oskar Lindblom before him.
As I hinted at before, it would take a lot to fall in the right direction for Vecchione to make the Flyers.
Vorobyev is in the same spot as Vecchione, and the only way the Russian makes it over Vecchione is if all the stipulations take place and Vorobyev has a stronger camp.
It doesn’t help that Vorobyev played just 67 total games while adjusting to North American ice. Hextall will likely prefer the 21 year old marinating a little more in the AHL.
I do believe there is an NHL future for Vorobyev, though, and he could see some big-league action as soon as next season as an injury recall as long as he continues to progress.
Every list needs a dark horse and Brennan is this one’s.
The 29 year old has played 53 NHL games, but none since the 2015-16 season. At this point, most consider him a valuable farm hand in helping to develop prospects and bring skill to an AHL roster.
If the Flyers don’t bring in an outside defenseman and Myers disappoints at camp, the New Jersey native could be the next man up.
Like the other players at the bottom of this list, everything would have to fall right for Brennan, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
I hesitated putting Goulbourne on this list — and I think it’s a long shot that he does play a game with the Flyers next season — but I think there is an alternate universe’s timeline where Goulbourne could play in Philly next season.
Let’s say Hextall strikes out on bringing in a winger in free agency or trade, there’s an injury in training camp and Aube-Kubel disappoints in camp. We already know the Flyers are higher than most on Goulbourne after he played nine games with the team this past season. What if the team also, incorrectly, views a good portion of the Capitals and Knights success on players like Ryan Reaves and Tom Wilson?
Goulbourne fits that mold and has a little bit of skill, after scoring 10 goals last season between the regular season and playoffs.
The 24 year old, however, is a restricted free agent and isn’t guaranteed a contract with how many prospects the Flyers have drafted lately. Mix that in with the unlikelihood of Goulbourne impressing over Aube-Kubel, Vecchione and others, and this probably isn’t all too realistic.