Knowing the coronavirus pandemic could affect a team’s makeup, the NHL is considering expanding rosters from 23 to 26 players and adding taxi squads for the upcoming season, which could start as early as Jan. 13.
For the Flyers, that will improve the chances of some prospects trying to earn roster spots. Forwards Morgan Frost, Carsen Twarynski, Tanner Laczynski, Linus Sandin, Connor Bunnaman, and Wade Allison are among the candidates in the mix.
Wingers Twarynski and Laczynski have been working out and skating at the team’s Voorhees practice facility for more than two months.
“It’s been a weird year for everyone, and I’m excited to get back to it,” Twarynski, 23, said of the upcoming season. “It’s a reality for me that this is my contract year and I can’t make any excuses. I have to go out there and I have to make the team and establish myself – and not only have a good year to help the team but to further my own career. I kind of have a lot at stake here.”
Laczynski, 23, a sixth-round pick in 2016 who starred at Ohio State and is entering his first pro season, got to Voorhees early “to get a leg up on everything. Obviously, I haven’t played since March. I know it’s going to be tough to make the team, and I got here early to show them I want to put in the work to make it.”
Twarynski earned a spot in the Flyers’ opening-night lineup last season as a 21-year-old and spent three stints with the team, collecting one goal and a minus-2 rating over 15 games. The hard-nosed 6-foot-2, 205-pounder also had seven goals in 31 games for the AHL Phantoms.
His brief NHL time “made me a little more comfortable” with the challenges ahead, Twarynski said after working out in Voorhees on Monday. “I have relationships with the guys and knowing things that go on around the rink and certain schedules [helps]. At the same time, it’s hard to make it and even harder to stick. Last year was a reality check for me and the fact I made it shows I’m capable of playing there. Now I just have to take it to the next step and give them a reason to keep me in the lineup.”
Laczynski played center and both wings at Ohio State, where he had 143 points and a plus-49 rating in 138 career games over four seasons.
“I think I play a pro-style game,” said Laczynski, a 6-1, 205-pound Illinois native who is rooming with Twarynski in Voorhees. “I feel I’m strong enough and that’s one of my biggest assets. I can play with big, strong players. The biggest adjustment for me, obviously, will be the pace. But I’ve adjusted to the pace before in World Juniors. The game against Canada – as far as speed, those are similar to NHL games – and I feel I’ve adjusted and done what I could. I think that’s the biggest thing moving forward for me – keeping pace. That’ll come just with time.”
Camp might start Jan. 3 and there is a possibility that teams will not play any exhibition games. That’s not a lot of time to get ready if the season starts Jan. 13.
“I think most guys have been taking care of themselves during this layoff and staying in shape,” said Twarynski, a third-round selection in 2016. “You may not have exhibition games to prepare your legs, so you have to be prepared before that.”
“Nothing is similar to games and game pace,” Laczynski said. “But at the same time, everyone is just excited to be playing hockey again.”
All teams, he noted, “are on a level playing field, and guys haven’t played games for a while. I think the game pace will come back quickly because they’re talking about playing a lot of games in a shorter amount of time.”
Oskar Lindblom and Robert Hagg returned from Sweden and are the latest Flyers to surface in Voorhees. … The AHL season isn’t expected to start until at least Feb. 5. ... According to BetMGM, Carter Hart and Sean Couturier are 50-1 to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. The favorites are Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (5-1) and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (6-1). Claude Giroux is 80-1.