From Monday to Tuesday, the Flyers’ roster dropped from 51 to 42 players. From Tuesday to Wednesday, the roster will undergo an even greater transformation as it shrinks from 42 to about 24.
The Flyers played back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders. With those games finished and one more preseason game to go, coach Alain Vigneault wanted to get the roster as close to opening-night form as possible.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Vigneault said he hoped he and his staff wouldn’t have to make the decisions themselves.
“The players usually make them for us by how they play,” he said. “So whoever’s grabbing our attention by their performance, whether it be in a positive way or a negative way, they make the decisions for us.”
A Flyers group made up mostly of prospects faced off with a veteran-laden Islanders team and lost 3-0 in Bridgeport, Conn. But there were still winners — the individual Flyers who showed they deserve a roster spot.
“I’ll obviously sit down with Chuck and his crew and see what they’re seeing from up top,” Vigneault said. “We’re seeing it from ice level. But there’s definitely a few decisions here we have to make moving forward.”
Clendening vs. Seeler
For the first time since they joined the Flyers and started training camp, Adam Clendening and Nick Seeler played together, forming the third defensive pair. With little time to build chemistry, Seeler said he didn’t know much about Clendening’s style of play, but he hoped that they would “feed off each other well.”
While they played as teammates, looking to help the Flyers win, they also played as competitors. As Vigneault narrows his roster, the two new Flyers are the main names in the conversation for the seventh defenseman job. Both bring different attributes to the position.
“Seeler’s a little bit better skater,” Vigneault said. “Seems to be a little bit more physical. Adam is a little bit more of a puck-mover. So we’ll see how that sorts itself out.”
Both players took one shot. Seeler also blocked a shot, while Clendening showed some snarl in one particular scrum. Clendening said Seeler was an “easy guy to skate with” and felt they both played solid.
Clendening also has a prior relationship with Vigneault from when he played for the Rangers. He felt that went “pretty well,” and feels he’s shown he’s become more well-rounded since then.
While Vigneault remained coy postgame about who has the edge in this battle, both Seeler and Clendening will hope they made a lasting impression in Bridgeport.
“They were both playing hard,” Vigneault said. “It was a physical game out there. You had to pay a price to make a play and you had to move your feet. I thought both of those guys did that tonight.”
Bunnaman tries to burst the bubble
Connor Bunnaman has not been impressed with his own performance this training camp. He’s looking for more consistency and more confidence as he tries to show off his versatility. Nevertheless, his name is in the conversation for the 13th forward spot, according to Vigneault.
“We’ve got a couple different options that we’re looking at here at the moment,” Vigneault said.
Bunnaman had the chance to play next to Nic Aube-Kubel and Nate Thompson, two guys he said he has good chemistry with on and off the ice, as he tried to prove he’s the on-the-bubble player who should be given the final roster spot. However, Bunnaman finished a minus-1 and did not attempt a shot on goal.
Thompson said he thought Bunnaman was “pretty solid,” bringing energy and creating chances for his linemates. He described him as a “north and south kind of player” who can get in on the forecheck and protect pucks.
Bunnaman, however, is far from the only forward who has made an impression.
After a training camp where he has been locked in with Cam Atkinson and Oskar Lindblom, Derick Brassard found himself between two new faces Tuesday. The team delegated a certain number of veterans to play each night while Vigneault experimented with combinations and evaluated players.
As a result, Brassard’s line shifted, even throughout the game itself. He started the night playing between Scott Laughton and Tyson Foerster before Vigneault moved Gerry Mayhew up and switched Foerster to a line with Isaac Ratcliffe and Cal O’Reilly. Vigneault also rotated Bunnaman and Garrett Wilson in between veterans Thompson and Aube-Kubel. Bunnaman played with Linus Sandin and German Rubtsov when he wasn’t with the veterans.
Vigneault said he decided initially to move Wilson up because he “thought he was skating well” and wanted to see him with a “big, big line.” He also liked Mayhew’s game, so he made a switch. Vigneault said there are a “few guys” in competition for that last forward spot, but he did not specify who.
The defensive pairings stayed consistent in comparison to the changing forward lines.
By Thursday, Vigneault’s thoughts about his experiments will be revealed when the roster is cut to 24 or 22 people.
The Flyers have a day off following the two back-to-back games. They will return to play Friday when they play their final preseason game, a 7 p.m. contest against the Washington Capitals. It will be held at Capital One Arena and will be aired on NHLN and NBCSP.