With one last practice before the opening rosters are due, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault ran his team hard.
Around and around the rink, the Flyers whose roster spots are assured and the hopefuls skated, while Vigneault yelled and tapped his stick. The players enthusiastically joined in the tapping when Vigneault decided they were done with conditioning and sent them into their break day.
“I think it’s good, especially now when we have a couple days off before we play our next game,” forward Oskar Lindblom said. “It’s not the most fun you can do — but still, it’s great to do.”
The Flyers will return to practice Tuesday. In the meantime, they’ll do some team bonding with dinner and golf in Atlantic City, according to center Derick Brassard.
While they bond, the staff will be making decisions. By 5 p.m. Monday, Vigneault and his staff must submit the names of the players who will take the ice in the team’s season opener Friday night at home against Vancouver. The Flyers are currently carrying 23 active players, but both Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher have said they may go down to 20 players for opening night.
Four players are still involved in position battles. Jackson Cates and Garrett Wilson are competing for a forward spot, although Wilson has seemed to have the edge in practice. He also played in the final preseason game, while Cates did not. Nick Seeler and Cam York are competing for the seventh defenseman spot. However, there may not be a seventh defenseman spot at all if the Flyers start with 20 players.
If he had his choice, Vigneault said he’d prefer to carry 13 forwards and seven defensemen. But the reality is, the Flyers are working with limited cap space.
Defensemen take a breather
For the second day in a row, the defensive pairings looked a little funky compared to how they’ve looked all training camp. Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Ellis took their second maintenance day in a row.
Through camp, Ellis has joined Ivan Provorov in the first pairing, with Ristolainen in the second pairing with Travis Sanheim. With both of them out Saturday, the third pairing split up, with Justin Braun in the first and Keith Yandle in the second. Sunday, the first and second pairs condensed, with Provorov and Sanheim together, and Yandle and Braun the second pair. Seeler and York were the third pairing.
Vigneault said he expects Ristolainen and Ellis back Tuesday.
“Just bumps and bruises that you get, and we’ve got a full week here to make sure our full personnel is as close as you can be when the season starts,” the coach said.
Out of sight, not out of mind
After getting cut before the final preseason game, Morgan Frost went back to Lehigh Valley and renewed his campaign for an NHL roster spot.
In his first game back with the Phantoms, Frost starred in a 4-3 overtime preseason victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Down by one goal in the third, Frost scored on a one-man advantage on a delayed penalty to send the game to overtime. Just 16 seconds into overtime, he netted the winning goal off an assist from Tyson Foerster. Frost also assisted on the first Phantoms goal, scored by Max Willman.
Frost gained attention at developmental camp and rookie camp in September after he came back from a long recovery from shoulder surgery looking strong. When second-line center Kevin Hayes underwent surgery, the Flyers had Frost practice in his place for most of training camp.
Fletcher said he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw. Knowing Frost had not played since the second game last season, he expected him to be further back.
Even so, Frost was included in the cuts Wednesday. Both Fletcher and Vigneault explained they would like him to get more playing time and start with the Phantoms. Frost’s teammates shared words of encouragement, telling him to just go down there and do his thing until it’s time for him to come up.
That’s what Frost did, and it was noticed. Although Vigneault said he hadn’t talked to coach Ian Laperrière, he had heard about the goals and said Frost, as well as all the others on the Phantoms, are expected to use their time in Lehigh Valley to prove they deserve to be a Flyer.
Egor Zamula is skating again after a groin injury suffered during training camp. Vigneault gave the medical team a shout-out for his quick return. ... The NHL season kicks off Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins followed at 10 p.m. by the league’s newest teams, the expansion Seattle Kraken vs. the Las Vegas Golden Knights. ... The Flyers play in the 17th NHL game of the 2021-22 season.