Sorting out the Flyers' forward logjam

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Sorting out the Flyers' forward logjam

NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden brands itself as the world’s most famous arena.

For a handful of Flyers, the corner of 33rd and 8th Avenue in Manhattan will be one last audition on arguably the league’s biggest stage with the coaching staff and management prepared to make their biggest round of cuts Thursday.

It has been the most competitive camp at the forward position since Dave Hakstol took over as head coach in 2015. My projected group had 16 forwards to choose from, but the head coach believes it’s even deeper.

“My list is a little bit longer than that,” Hakstol said Wednesday. “The job of putting that list together has been made tough with some good performances through camp. Some are veterans battling for those jobs have played well and there’s young guys that are pushing that deserve another look.”

Here’s how it shakes out at the midway point of camp. 

No-brainers (10)
Claude Giroux
Sean Couturier
Jake Voracek
Nolan Patrick
James van Riemsdyk
Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny
Jordan Weal
Scott Laughton
Michael Raffl

Raffl hasn’t exactly wowed, but he’s been steady having played just one preseason game. I don’t believe Raffl is in jeopardy of being sent down either as another team would claim him in all likelihood. In the final year of a contract, I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Flyers trade Raffl for a future draft pick as I don’t see a contract extension coming. 

Looking real good (1)
Oskar Lindblom

Lindblom has had a very strong camp starting with the prospects game, and if he hasn’t solidified his job he can do so with a strong effort against the Rangers Wednesday night. However, I’m not quite ready to say Lindblom is a shoe-in with other veterans still pushing hard for a roster spot.  

Making a strong case (3)
Mikhail Vorobyev
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier

Right now, I actually prefer Vorobyev as my third-line center over Weal, who would be my fourth-line center or call it 3-A and 3-B. Vorobyev has a higher offensive ceiling and has shown a commitment to playing responsibly in the defensive end of the ice. Aube-Kubel brings a fourth-line energy and a physical presence coupled with a blistering shot where he could contribute some much-needed offense in a bottom-six role. Leier had a very strong effort in the 5-1 win against the Islanders on Tuesday. 

Veterans on the bubble (2)
Dale Weise
Jori Lehtera

I think we know what both players are at this stage of their careers. If one of these two were to make the team, I’d lean toward Lehtera since he has a knack of knowing where to be on the ice and can kill penalties, it’s just a matter of getting there. I can’t imagine there’s a trade market for either guy, but it’s not unimaginable that both players are placed on waivers for the purpose of being sent down to Lehigh Valley to start the season since the Flyers have plenty of salary cap flexibility. 

Impressive, but Lehigh bound (3)
Carsen Twarynski
German Rubtsov
Danick Martel

Twarynski and Rubtsov have really impressed during this training camp and shown how much difference a year makes from age 19 to 20, which provides promise that we’ll see that improvement with Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe this time next year. Twarynski and Rubtsov need to show they can carry their strong preseason into their first year at the AHL level, where hopefully the upward trend continues.   

Simply haven't shown enough (3)
Cole Bardreau
Mike Vecchione
Tyrell Goulbourne

I expected a stronger push from Bardreau and Vecchione, who played 10 minutes in his only preseason game Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. Bardreau had an outside shot of making the big club but a poor effort in the preseason opener set the tone.

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Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has found a new job in the NHL. 

Hextall has been hired as a part-time advisor to hockey operations for the Los Angeles Kings, the team announced Wednesday.

Fired by the Flyers in November after a poor start to the 2018-19 season, Hextall, a former goalie who played 489 games with the Flyers, served as general manager for four-plus seasons.

At the time, then-president Paul Holmgren said, "it has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team."

The Flyers did not win a playoff series under Hextall, going 165-128-58 and losing twice in the first round.

The team relieved head coach Dave Hakstol of his duties in December. Chuck Fletcher took over Hextall's position, and he hired Alain Vigneault in April as head coach.

Hextall said in November he was "proud" of the groundwork he built as general manager, and that he believes the team is "poised to do something great." 

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Joel Farabee climbing, Samuel Morin's complex case, more in Flyers stock watch

Joel Farabee climbing, Samuel Morin's complex case, more in Flyers stock watch

The Flyers are two games into their seven-game exhibition slate.

The competition for jobs will only heat up with three games in the next five days.

"We've got some decisions to make," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said last weekend. "That's what you want in camp. You need surprises, we need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That's how your team gets better and we're going to give them an opportunity to do that."

Who's trending up? Who's trending down? Let's take a look at the stock of those players who could impact the staff's decisions:

Stock up

Joel Farabee

From rookie camp to now, the heralded prospect has done everything to fuel his roster case. He's exhibited skill, smarts and, most importantly, his effort. Farabee has put the whole package on display and the 19-year-old winger has been impossible to not notice.

In the preseason opener Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Farabee showed impressive burst to create some quality scoring chances during a game that featured a lot of rust from both sides.

"Farabee, I think everyone can see the skill set," Vigneault said afterward. "I didn't think he was as good tonight as what I've seen, but some of that had to do with the opposition. I like that kid. I like his skill level. I like that he can play in tight. I think we've got a good young player there."

Farabee's stock is rising, too, because it appears he'll get a game with the big guns Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, two players he excelled with during the opening days of camp.

German Rubtsov

Rubtsov's steady and cerebral game has impressed the coaching staff and front office. The 21-year-old center's defensive strengths were well-documented entering camp, but he's beginning to grow into his offensive upside.

The 2016 first-round pick scored two goals in the rookie game and was recognizable in both of the preseason games.

If he's not winning a bottom-six job now, he's showing he can be relied upon as one of the first call-up options throughout the season.

Stock down

Samuel Morin

Morin's camp is an interesting case study. It's tough to make out how he's done. He hasn't necessarily hurt himself, but he's a 2013 draft pick and the Flyers' current regime really likes mobile defensemen that skillfully push the puck up ice and jump into the play.

Morin is a 6-foot-6, stay-at-home kind of blueliner. My gut just tells me the Flyers are much higher on guys like Philippe Myers, Egor Zamula and maybe even Mark Friedman.

We'll have to see if the Flyers carry eight defensemen. Right now, Morin is probably their eighth and he would have to clear waivers to go to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Isaac Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe is an exciting prospect with a 6-foot-6 frame that can belie his superb skill.

His strengths were accentuated in junior hockey but they'll take some time to translate at the pro level. He's had difficulty standing out because there's much less time and space with the puck in the NHL.

The 20-year-old goal-scoring winger works hard and will learn how to better utilize his size to produce offensively at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in 2019-20.

"My main focus is trying to get rid of those junior habits," Ratcliffe said Monday. "Some of those pull and drag moves at the blue line while coming into the zone — a big part of the game, trying to push the pace coming up, you're playing against the best defenders in the world here. Even in some of the practices here, I can still feel it trying to creep back into my game. I'm trying to focus on using my size a little bit more and try to dominate using my reach and strength getting around defensemen rather than try to maneuver the puck around them."

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