PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Even though he played primarily a new position – right wing as opposed to the left side – Joel Farabee was one of the Flyers’ best offensive players in the preseason.
Oh, you wouldn’t know it by the stats, but he was in the middle of more scoring chances than any Flyers player, with the possible exception of Kevin Hayes.
He didn’t score, but he played solid defense, forechecked like crazy, hit the post at least five times, and was robbed by goalies like Henrik Lundqvist.
He played so well that, after the Flyers’ exhibition game against the Rangers on Sept. 26, new coach Alain Vigneault said if Farabee wasn’t in the lineup for the regular-season opener Friday “it’ll be a surprise.”
But the Flyers trimmed Farabee from the roster because GM Chuck Fletcher wants him to get some AHL seasoning and because they couldn’t fit him under the cap unless they made a corresponding move.
Having Farabee develop in the AHL isn’t a bad move. There’s always a chance the former Boston University star will play well with the Phantoms and be recalled in, say, two months.
Maybe much sooner.
Still, you can understand the 19-year-old’s frustration at the demotion.
“It’s pretty disappointing. I thought I had a good camp,” he said in a low, emotional voice after Thursday’s practice in Prague. He is still with the team, but will be sent to Lehigh Valley, along with Phil Myers, after the Flyers return on Saturday, Fletcher said.
“At the end of the day, they want me to develop, so I’m excited to go the Lehigh and play for Coach (Scott) Gordon, and I think we’re going to have a really good team down there," Farabee said.
Said Fletcher, whose team opens the season Friday against Chicago: “The reality is, he had a very good camp, especially for a 19-year-old. I just think the best place for him to start his career would be the American League. He can get bigger minutes and a bigger role, and start to get that pro experience that you need to be successful eventually in the NHL.
“Joel is going to be a very good player for our franchise for a very good time … (But) we want to get him here when the time is right. We’ll see how his play goes, but he had a tremendous camp. I thought he showed very well.”
Winger Carsen Twarynski almost made the Flyers last season. After being sent down to the Phantoms late in camp, he struggled at the outset, shook up that he didn’t stay with the big team. (He rebounded and made the roster this year.)
How does Farabee not let the demotion affect him?
“You just have to stay mentally tough,” he said. “I took it pretty hard, but I’m not too worried.”
As for Myers, Fletcher called his camp “decent,” and added that “the coaches had him outside the top six (on defense) and it just made sense to send him down to start. I’m sure he’s a player, again, who’s going to have a very good run with our team. I think we all believe he’s going to be an NHL defenseman, and probably in the near future. But we have some veteran guys here. We have some good players. Some guys had a good camp, too. Robert Hagg, in particular, had a good camp. Big Sam Morin got better as camp went on. There’s a lot of competition."
For now, Fletcher said he’s not leaning toward placing any players on the long-term injured reserve list, such as Nolan Patrick. That would give them cap space to add a player like Farabee.
“It’s not a place to park players to circumvent the cap," Fletcher said of the LTIR list. “It’s a place where players who are legitimately injured long-term can be place so you can replace them.”
Players placed on LTIR must miss 10 games and 24 days.
Fletcher said there was a possibility Patrick, who is battling a migraine disorder, would be able to play before those conditions were met. “We’ll see next week when we get back,” he said. “LTI isn’t the perfect solution. I try to avoid it.”