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2020 NHL playoffs: Picking Flyers' top 5 reinforcements among roster in 24-team tournament

2020 NHL playoffs: Picking Flyers' top 5 reinforcements among roster in 24-team tournament

It's uncertain how many players will be permitted on the Flyers' roster during the NHL's 24-team return-to-play tournament. Rosters could expand to 28 players with an unlimited number of goalies but that determination is still being finalized by the NHL and NHLPA ahead of training camps (Phase 3), which are slated to begin July 10.

We gave our predictions for the Flyers' best lineup to open the tournament. As more players make their way back to Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for voluntary workouts (Phase 2), we're going to pick our top five reinforcements for head coach Alain Vigneault during the playoffs.

Let's get into it:

Morgan Frost

If the Flyers go into a mini scoring funk and are desperate for an injection of offense, Frost will be their best card to play.

The 21-year-old center is a lightning strike scorer because of his high-level skill and natural ability to make things happen. When Frost was called up to the big club in November for his NHL debut, he made a bang with two goals (his first being a filthy one) and three points over his opening two games.

Scott Laughton and Derek Grant are versatile players who can slide to the wing if the Flyers need a jolt down the middle from Frost.


Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers training camp hasn't arrived yet, so we don't know how Vigneault will line up his defensive pairs and who will be the odd man out.

Say Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers get the nods over Gostisbehere, No. 53 might be the most talented seventh defenseman you'll find in the 24-team field.

Similar to Frost, Gostisbehere has the makings of a spark plug with the way he elusively transitions the puck. He endured a regular season to forget, playing in only two of the Flyers' final 26 games, but the guy isn't far removed from a 65-point 2017-18 campaign.

Not a bad club for Vigneault to have in his bag.

Nate Thompson

Although it's not a definite by any means, Thompson appears to be the forward that would come out to open a spot for James van Riemsdyk, who is now healthy after breaking his right index finger in March.

What makes the 35-year-old Thompson such quality insurance for the Flyers? The trade deadline acquisition owns 62 career playoff appearances, has played in an Eastern Conference Final and a Western Conference Final, can win faceoffs and help kill penalties.


Connor Bunnaman

Bunnaman, who really caught the eye of the Flyers in camp and the preseason, did exactly what the club wanted from him as a fourth-line center when his number was called.

The 22-year-old rookie was smart, reliable and noticeable in limited minutes. He has good size (6-3/214), sneaky offensive ability and was a plus-7 in 21 games this season.

The only reason he was sent down to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in late February was because the Flyers gained the experience of Grant and Thompson at the deadline.


Carsen Twarynski

Another rookie, the 22-year-old Twarynski is a good winger to have at one's disposal because he plays an effort-based game.

If Vigneault needs him, he'll know exactly what he's getting in Twarynski, who exemplifies a bottom-six style and moves well for his size (6-2/206).


Don't forget ...

Nolan Patrick, whose status is very much unknown for the 24-team tournament after the 21-year-old missed the regular season with a migraine disorder. However, if Patrick is able to join the picture, the Flyers would suddenly be a whole lot deeper.

Alex Lyon, who is the Flyers' third goalie. If Carter Hart or Brian Elliott were to sustain any injuries, Lyon's importance would grow significantly.

Mark Friedman, who could be the Flyers' eighth defenseman. Vigneault liked what he saw from Friedman during the 24-year-old's six games with the club.

Andy Andreoff, who is a physical 29-year-old winger with 173 games of NHL experience.

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Flyers Talk podcast: Is this team convincing us in round robin of NHL playoffs?

Flyers Talk podcast: Is this team convincing us in round robin of NHL playoffs?

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra and Jordan Hall discuss the team's climb in the round robin.

From the Flyers' best line to what's ahead, let's dive in:

1:00 — Exciting times for Flyers fans

5:55 — Who has been the most impressive on the second line?

11:55 — Something we've noticed with the Flyers' first-line production

16:05 — Has this two-game stretch convinced us if we weren’t convinced already?

22:10 — What did we think of James van Riemsdyk being scratched? Big deal or no?

27:50 — Speaking of lineups, would we keep the same D pairs vs. the Lightning?

 33:00 — What we like and dislike about the Lightning matchup

 40:00 — The matchup could do a ton for Carter Hart's confidence

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Jakub Voracek out, James van Riemsdyk back and more changes as Flyers aim to win round robin

Jakub Voracek out, James van Riemsdyk back and more changes as Flyers aim to win round robin

With the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed up for grabs Saturday, the Flyers' No. 1 line will look differently and the reason for why is unknown.

What we do know is Jakub Voracek will not play in the Flyers' round-robin finale against the Lightning at Scotiabank Arena.

"He's not available," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday in a video interview, "that's all I can say for tomorrow."

As we learned during training camp when Voracek was absent from a scrimmage, there will be various levels of weirdness, uncertainty and inevitable speculation when a player is unavailable. Because of a mutual agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to respect an individual player's right to medical privacy during this time, clubs are not allowed to release specifications for any injuries/illnesses in the return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Naturally, time will tell about the severity of or length of time needed to return for Voracek's undisclosed absence.

Regardless, not having Voracek hurts the Flyers' chances to win the round robin. If the Flyers beat Tampa Bay, they'll secure the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which is slated to begin next Tuesday. If the Flyers lose to the Lightning, they'll settle for the No. 2 seed. The team has won its first two round-robin games by a combined score of 7-2 over the Bruins and Capitals.

Update: What Flyers fans need to know for round-robin finale, 1st-round matchups

When the Flyers started rolling in November of the regular season, Voracek was one of the club's best players. Since Nov. 1, the facilitating winger had 47 points (eight goals, 39 assists) and a plus-14 rating in 58 games. He finished the regular season with a team-best 44 helpers, 56 points and a plus-14 mark in 69 games.

"Jake's got a unique skill set, a veteran guy that's been around and has played in some big games," Matt Niskanen said Friday in a video interview. "We'll welcome him when he comes back. In the meantime, keep chugging forward with the guys we have."

The Flyers will chug forward with 20-year-old rookie winger Joel Farabee climbing to an exciting spot in the lineup. He'll play on the first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, while James van Riemsdyk will return to the lineup after being interestingly scratched for the Flyers' 3-1 win Thursday over the Capitals. Connor Bunnaman, a 22-year-old forward who will likely be an extra come the first round if the Flyers are healthy, played in van Riemsdyk's place.

"It was less about benching James than looking at the big picture," Vigneault said. "Yes, James had been OK, just OK so far, after having in my estimation a real strong training camp. But I wanted to get Joel in, I also wanted to get Bunny in at some point, and I felt with the opposition, that it was the right time. Probably less to do with benching, more to do with the big picture."

The 31-year-old van Riemsdyk will join the third line. Vigneault is known to communicate with his players when they're taken out of the lineup or there's a notable change. The two-time 30-goal scorer wouldn't disclose the message between the player and coach, but van Riemsdyk was positive Friday, taking everything in stride.

“With those types of conversations, generally like to keep those in-house," van Riemsdyk said.

“For me, I look back at my career and playing in the playoffs and all these things, I’ve had success doing that in the past. My approach is going to stay the same and try to be the best player I can be and maximize every day. That’s always the way I approach things no matter what, I love the game. We have a great team and have a great shot this year, so my motivation and approach remains consistent day in and day out. No matter if you have a day that doesn’t go your way or if you have a day where things are going well, you go to the next day and you have to do it all over again.”

On the defensive side of things, Shayne Gostisbehere will draw into the lineup for Robert Hagg. Vigneault and his coaching staff had wanted to get Gostisbehere some action in the round robin. They trust the 27-year-old defenseman who could give a boost to the Flyers' power play, which is 0 for 8 through the round robin. Expect to see Hagg back with Justin Braun when the first round begins.

Here is the Flyers' lineup for Saturday's round-robin finale:

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Joel Farabee
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Connor Bunnaman-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Shayne Gostisbehere-Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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