It has begun! NHL training camp has opened for the Philadelphia Flyers, and coach Alain Vigneault has given us a preview of what the possible forward lines may look like. Of course, this is only Day 1, so players not in the top 12 will still have their chance to sneak in there.
The forward line combinations from Day 1 of camp are as follows:
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk – Morgan Frost – Joel Farabee
Oskar Lindblom – Derek Brassard – Cam Atkinson
Scott Laughton – Nate Thompson – Nicolas Aube-Kubel
If these lines stick to begin the season, the Flyers will have many threats throughout their lineup, making for great matchups every night. Keep in mind, this is a look at the lineup without a couple of crucial faces who would have competed for spots right away. We will come back to that in a bit.
Seen as more of a power-play specialist, James van Riemsdyk is a bit of a surprise to be elevated. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good player who had a great season. However, as he gets older and the league and team get younger, we will probably see his playing time decrease slightly. A good reason he could be playing in that role is that line could use some veteran leadership. Joel Farabee is a 21-year-old entering his third NHL season, while Morgan Frost is 22 years of age with 22 games of NHL experience. Van Riemsdyk has been in the league now for 12 years and 2020-21 was his most productive season offensively, looking at points per game. With line juggling set to happen as players become healthy or hot and cold streaks come into effect, expect him to get looks with different linemates as well.
What would shock most people is where Cam Atkinson is slotted in. Many believed that he would fit in on the first or second line, as he is one of three natural right wingers in this lineup. That, in turn, should’ve bumped Farabee over to the left wing where he is most comfortable and push van Riemsdyk down to the third line. Vigneault may have the impression that in today’s day in age, a deeper team is more effective, so there is a scoring threat out there all the time.
If Atkinson does indeed start lower in the lineup, he will have to adjust to the playing time. While in Columbus, the lowest his playing has dipped in a season has been 17:51 average time on ice (ATOI). The average third-line player will typically receive around 15:00 or less ATOI. Along with Atkinson, Scott Laughton will also have to get used to a bit less ice time, as he had the eighth-most ice time from a forward on the team last season. He will be a dangerous fourth-liner if he sticks there in the lineup.
Frost gets his shot. After missing significant time due to injury, he is back and may be given a significant role. One man’s loss is another man’s gain. With the second line center spot up for grabs for the first month and a bit, he will look to continue where he left off in 2019-20, where he broke into the league and recorded seven points in his first 20 games. He could be a breakout candidate with a high ceiling and low cap hit in a more prominent role with better linemates.
There are three names worth mentioning from the forward group that recently sustained significant injuries: Kevin Hayes, Wade Allison, and Samuel Morin. After a terrible season, this is not the way the Flyers wanted to go into the season, down some bodies. Hayes, a great two-way player, was set to center the second line and build off of a great second half with the club. After sustaining an injury that should keep him out for six to eight weeks, he will have to pick that back up upon his return. A quicker start is what he and the team need when he re-enters the fray.
Allison and Morin were looking to finally get a good shot at making the Flyers’ opening night roster, as both broke in with their most NHL games played in a season in 2020-21. Allison, three years younger, got the call late, as he finished up his season with the team and laced them up for 14 games, producing seven points. A natural right winger, he was set to compete for a spot on the right side—as previously mentioned, there are only three right wingers in that lineup, as it’s shown. An undisclosed injury will keep him out for now, but hopefully not as long as the other two guys.
Morin is an interesting option, as he finally got into more than five games in a season with the Flyers. With spots available up front, he would’ve received a good look in training camp if it wasn’t for his injury that would also keep him out for six to eight weeks. Morin brings a different presence to the lineup when he is in. A big body who is tough, he will hit and be physical every night. If his offensive production came around, he would be a great addition to this Flyers lineup, especially on nights where they know it’s going to be tough sledding.
The first line remains the same, but time will tell if it stays the same. Giroux is on the back nine of his career and showing signs of regression—meanwhile, Konecny fought injuries and inconsistency last season, forcing Vigneault to shuffle the lines. Couturier is the pillar that holds this line together, and the team is hoping that they can once again form a formidable top line. With so many closely skilled players, it’s not hard to see different combinations throughout the season if something isn’t working. Once Hayes and Allison return from injury, we may see old linemates reunited or new combinations.