A month ago, forwards Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison looked forward to training camp with the Flyers after battling injuries that kept them sidelined early last season. Finally, they could make a push to earn a spot on the team’s opening-night roster.
One week into training camp, however, and they’re out for the indefinite future.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday that it was his “understanding” that Laczynski, who recently recovered from surgery in April on a torn labrum in his right hip, is likely to get surgery on his left hip, too. Laczynski was added to the Flyers’ injury report on Sept. 25 with the tweaked hip and is “pretty much” expected to miss the season, Vigneault said. The hip is Laczynski’s latest in a series of injury misfortunes dating back to training camp last season when he was recovering from core muscle surgery.
“He came to camp last year,” Vigneault said. “He was hurt. Played a couple of games in the American League. Came back with us, got hurt again ... very unfortunate. I think the people in the organization think very highly of him, but I haven’t seen him play very much. He’s been injured.”
A four-year player at Ohio State, Laczynski made his pro debut in 2020-21 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after rebounding from the aforementioned core muscle injury. There, he played 14 games and registered 10 points (six goals, four assists). He was called up to play for the Flyers in April, but he injured his right hip in his fifth game with the club and his season came to an abrupt close.
Meanwhile, Allison sprained his right ankle in the Flyers’ second rookie exhibition game against the New York Rangers on Sep. 19 when he fell awkwardly into the boards. According to Vigneault, Allison is in the process of discussing whether he needs surgery with another doctor. Before their injuries, Allison was favored to win the third-line right wing spot and Laczynski could have provided depth in the bottom six.
“I talked to [Laczynski] a little bit yesterday and same kind of thing with Wader,” forward Scott Laughton said. “I think two guys that are knocking on the door and get hit with a little bit of bad luck. You never really wish that on anyone and it’s tough for those guys, but I think it makes you stronger down the line. It [stinks] right now for them and not being able to try and push for a spot, but at the same time, you put in the work, it’s gonna work out for you at the end of the day.”
Allison underwent ankle surgery during training camp last season and didn’t make his NHL debut until April 15 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 14 games, Allison had seven points (four goals, three assists). The Flyers’ 2016 second-round pick also tore his ACL and separated a shoulder while playing at Western Michigan.
Big club candidates
Blocking a centering pass with your face in a preseason game is one way to make a positive impression on the Flyers’ coaching staff.
That’s exactly what defenseman Nick Seeler did in Tuesday’s loss to the New York Islanders. After taking a puck to the face, he continued to defend the front of the net until the zone was cleared. The 28-year-old, paired up with Egor Zamula, played 17 minutes, 10 seconds and finished with three blocked shots and two hits. At Wednesday’s practice, Seeler was bumped to Group A, which was comprised of the players most likely to skate with the big club this season.
Seeler, forwards Connor Bunnaman, Jackson Cates, and Tyson Foerster and defenseman Adam Clendening were some of the notable names that participated with Group A. Foerster replaced winger Cam Atkinson, who took a maintenance day and did not participate in practice. Cates swapped in for center German Rubtsov, who was listed to participate with Group A but instead skated with Group B.
While the lineup is by no means the guaranteed opening-night roster, it provides insight into the state of the depth chart and whom Vigneault may want an extra look at. Vigneault said that both Foerster and Seeler will be the only Flyers who dressed for the preseason opener against the Islanders to play on Thursday on the road against the Boston Bruins.
“We think that Tyson gives us the opportunity to have a second power-play unit,” Vigneault said. “We tried him yesterday. We’re going to try him again tomorrow. And really liked the competitiveness of Seeler. A couple things that I know Yeosy’s [assistant coach Mike Yeo] has been talking to him about stick placement. So he’s got some experience in the league, and we need to get a good read on him.”
The big club group spent a portion of practice working on the power play and penalty kill. Morgan Frost slid in for the absent Atkinson on the second power-play unit and Foerster took Frost’s role as the extra man rotating in for Derick Brassard. Foerster, the Flyers’ 2020 first-round pick, registered a power-play goal on a shot from the slot.
“I see definitely strides the right way,” Vigneault said of Foerster’s development. “There’s definitely solid improvement on his part. And I’m looking at the other guys, and obviously everybody in the first two games is basically getting an opportunity to get in. I want to see him. He’s got my attention. He’s got my coaches’ attention, so we’ll see what he can do moving forward.”
Seeler spent time on the Flyers’ penalty kill in practice and blocked a Sean Couturier shot from the right faceoff circle. After spending the 2019-20 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Seeler signed with the Flyers as a free agent on July 28. Seeler has a notable connection to the Flyers — he was a 2011 fifth-round pick by the Minnesota Wild, whose general manager at the time was current Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. Seeler has played 105 NHL games through three seasons, and throughout that span, he has registered two goals, 10 assists and a minus-2 rating.
Out of sight, not out of mind
Absent from the top group at Wednesday’s practice was defenseman Cam York, who skated with the Flyers prospects in Group B.
When defenseman Keith Yandle was signed to a one-year deal this offseason, it became clear that York would have to dramatically outperform the 15-year NHL veteran to make the roster out of training camp. However, with defenseman Samuel Morin out for the next three to six weeks after undergoing surgery to have loose bodies removed from his right knee, there could still be room for York on the roster at some point this season if not out of camp.
“Cam’s been good,” Vigneault said. “I liked Cam in camp, at rookie camp. He’s going to get an opportunity. He’s one of the guys that’s going to play [Thursday]. So he’s going to get an opportunity to come in and play some games and show us what he can do. With Sam Morin, who we had basically penciled as our seventh or eighth defenseman, not being here, there’s some possibilities on the fence, and we’ll see what happens.”
Vigneault added that he would rather have a young defenseman like York or Egor Zamula play consistently in Lehigh Valley rather than serve as the seventh defenseman with the Flyers and sit out as a healthy scratch. However, Vigneault said he will continue to evaluate the depth chart through the remaining exhibition games.
After battling back from a bout with COVID-19, forward Scott Laughton struggled to find his footing with the team in late February. Now, after a full offseason of training, Laughton said he feels healthy again. “I stayed off the ice until later on and tried to build back the muscle and everything that I lost,” Laughton said. “I’m back to my normal weight that I’m usually at. I feel good. I feel full again. I just felt really weird at the end of last year. Almost weak and a little bit frail.” ... The Flyers are headed to Boston to take on the Bruins at TD Garden for their first preseason away game. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and the game will be televised on TNT.