The kids carried the Flyers for several weeks early in the season. Remember?
Left winger Oskar Lindblom was blossoming into one of the team’s best two-way players.
Goalie Carter Hart was looking like an All-Star.
Winger Joel Farabee and center Morgan Frost were contributing, and defenseman Phil Myers was steady on the back end.
Right winger Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov, who are both just 22 years old despite being in their fourth seasons, are still thriving. But several other young players are going through growing pains, leaving it up to the veterans to pick up the slack.
Lindblom, of course, is a different story from the other scuffling players. He has a rare bone cancer and is undergoing treatment at Penn.
As for the others, Hart has looked like Bernie Parent on home ice and Bernie Sanders in road games.
Frost went goalless in his last 16 games with the Flyers and was sent to the AHL’s Phantoms, and Myers has had some jittery moments in recent games.
Farabee, 19, has one goal in his last 27 games heading into Saturday and you wonder if he, too, will be sent back to Lehigh Valley. Coach Alain Vigneault made it sound as if he’s here to stay.
“I’d like him to score [more] and get a little more confidence, but he’s got a lot of attributes,” Vigneault said. “There are a lot of things he does with the puck and without the puck that we like, so we’re going to stick with him.”
When Frost was sent back to the minors , Vigneault said that if he couldn’t play in the top nine in Philadelphia, he would rather he get valuable minutes in the AHL.
Farabee recently was dropped down to the fourth line, but Vigneault said he was remaining with the Flyers (for now) because they also use him on the penalty kill. In addition, he has been used sparingly on the power play.
To his credit, Farabee – who was named the top NCAA freshman in the nation last season after collecting 17 goals and 36 points in 37 games at Boston University -- has not let his slump affect his work ethic or hustling play.
The Flyers just returned from a six-city, 12-day road trip, played on Wednesday, and were supposed to have an off day Thursday.
Instead, Farabee was one of the few players who showed up in the gym.
“He definitely wants to do well,” Vigneault said. “He’s a young player, and he’s probably played more hockey now than he did all of last year. You don’t play a lot of games in college.”
Farabee has been in 39 games this season (35 with the Flyers, four with the Phantoms), which is already two more than he played with Boston University as a freshman.
He says he isn’t playing differently since returning from a three-game NHL suspension for a violent hit. That said, he hasn’t been as noticeable since returning and managed just eight shots, total, over his last eight games.
“I’m just trying to simplify things. Play smart, play good defense, and the opportunities will come from that,” he said.
Farabee’s time on ice also decreased in each of his last seven games heading into Saturday – from 16:37 to 16:10 to 14:44 to 12:48 to 11:06 to 10:21 to 9:49. He had no points in those seven games and only a couple of good scoring chances.
“For a young player, energy-wise, it might be a little more challenging because of the number of games and the traveling," Vigneault said. "But he’s handled it fairly well. Obviously, he has a long way to go as far as reaching his full potential, but I see a good mindset. I see a good work ethic. If I don’t, I’ll put him back in his place.”
“He’s a real smart player and he’s shown it every game – whether it’s the offensive side or the defensive side,” right winger Jake Voracek said. “Even if he isn’t scoring, he still contributes in a big way because of his hockey IQ and the [plays] he makes. The scoring will come together.”
Like Farabee, Voracek was just 19 when he broke into the NHL. He had nine goals and 38 points for Columbus that season, bulked up in the offseason, and became much more productive.
Farabee, a 6-foot, 181-pounder who entered Saturday with three goals and 12 points,plans to put on weight and spend a lot of time in the weight room this summer.
“He needs to get a little bit stronger so he’s tougher in those one-on-one battles in our league. There’s a lot less room,” Vigneault said.
“You’ve got to fight a bit more to get yourself open,” he said. “The defenders are really good at staying on you. It’s tough to put on weight during the season. … Next year, I want to come in a little heavier, but obviously not too heavy. Right now, I just have to work with what I’ve got.”