After roughly two weeks of training camp, six preseason games, and plenty of experimentation with the line combinations, the Flyers’ opening-night roster is set.
The team will carry 20 healthy players (12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goaltenders) and an injured Kevin Hayes into its first game of the season on Oct. 15 against the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center. General manager Chuck Fletcher made his final roster cuts of the preseason on Monday before the 5 p.m. deadline, loaning defenseman Cam York and center Jackson Cates to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL). Winger Garrett Wilson has also been assigned to the Phantoms.
On Sunday, Fletcher placed defenseman Nick Seeler on waivers for the purposes of assigning him to the Phantoms. Seeler cleared waivers and will report to Lehigh Valley.
Although Hayes (abdominal surgery on Sep. 21, out six to eight weeks) is listed on the opening-night roster, a Flyers spokesperson said he will not be ready to play by Oct. 15.
Head coach Alain Vigneault said he would have liked to carry more players on the roster into opening night, but because of cap constraints, the team must be creative with their active roster. After all, the Flyers start the season with a four-game homestand and can call players up from the Phantoms if injuries occur.
“If the cap situation wasn’t there, I’d prefer to have seven Ds and 13 forwards,” Vigneault said on Sunday. “But cap situation comes into play, especially at the beginning; we’re at home and we could save some money for down the road.”
In the hours leading up to the deadline, the Flyers claimed forward Patrick Brown off of waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights. Brown, 29, has played 33 NHL games (two goals, one assist) spanning five years for the Golden Knights and the Carolina Hurricanes. Most of his experience comes at the AHL level, where he has played 403 games, primarily for the Charlotte Checkers. In 2019, Brown won the Calder Cup while captaining the Checkers.
Capable of playing center or wing, Brown appeared in four games last season for the Golden Knights and nine games for their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights (three goals, five assists).
Prior to signing with the Hurricanes as an undrafted free agent on April 14, 2014, Brown played four seasons at Boston College. While there, he overlapped with Hayes for all four years and winger Cam Atkinson for one. At BC, Brown won two Hockey East Championships and the 2012 National Championship.
Brown’s arrival impacted the fate of left-winger Wilson, who made an impression on the Flyers’ coaching staff in three preseason appearances and was in a position to make the opening-night roster. For two periods of the Flyers’ preseason road game on Oct. 5 against the New York Islanders and the entire game at the Washington Capitals on Oct. 8, Wilson skated on the fourth line with center Nate Thompson and right-winger Nic Aubé-Kubel.
Now, Brown figures to slot into Wilson’s spot as the fourth-line left-winger. They could also decide to move Thompson to the wing, where he has played before.
If the Flyers want to call Wilson up in the future, they will need to sign him to an NHL deal. Wilson is currently signed to an AHL-only contract.
The Flyers hit the road for the first time during the 2021-22 season with a three-game western Canada trip starting on Oct. 27 against the Edmonton Oilers. If Fletcher decides to call players up for the stretch, Seeler or Adam Clendening would be top candidates for the seventh defenseman role.
If the six-to-eight-week recovery timeline for Hayes is still accurate, he may not be available for the road trip. The Flyers may elect to call up Wilson, Cates or even center Morgan Frost, depending on his progress with the Phantoms, if the team wants to travel with an extra forward.