It was only a Flyers intrasquad game, but it was important to finalize roster and lineup decisions -- and help determine which players will be on the taxi squad or start the season with the AHL’s Phantoms.
Playing at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since March 10, Team White rallied past Team Orange, 4-2, on Sunday night. The game was played without fans, but (sometimes obnoxiously loud) crowd noise was pumped into the arena, public-address announcer Lou Nolan was in midseason form, and Gritty danced on a platform while wearing a face shield.
But the lasting impression was this: Center Nolan Patrick is ready for Wednesday’s opener against visiting Pittsburgh.
Patrick, who missed last season with a migraine disorder, has arguably been the Flyers’ best player in training camp. He scored a second-period goal Sunday, set up a handful of quality chances, and, in general, showed no ill effects from the long layoff.
“It’s been obviously nice to be back,” Patrick said. “It’s been a really long time. No one ever wants to be out that long, but this is really exciting to be back with the team and be around the guys.”
Wednesday will be his first NHL game in 650 days.
The Patrick line, with James van Riemsdyk (and sometimes Max Willman, who played well) and Jake Voracek, buzzed around the net all night.
“I’ve played with both of them quite a bit (in the past),” Patrick said. “I think we just kind of read off each other.”
All four of the Flyers’ lines played well, and Kevin Hayes had two goals for the Orange.
Of the players trying to earn a roster spot, Morgan Frost, playing center and left wing, had a noticeably strong game and helped his case. Center-winger Connor Bunnaman, among the players battling for the 13th forward spot, and right winger Linus Sandin also were solid.
Team White got late breakaway goals from Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk during the three-on-three portion to snap a 2-2- tie.
Based on scrimmages during camp, here is the Flyers’ probable lineup for Wednesday’s opener:
Line 1: Sean Couturier centering Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny.
Line 2: Hayes centering Claude Giroux and Joel Farabee.
Line 3: Patrick centering van Riemsdyk and Voracek.
Defense: Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun, Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers, Robert Hagg and Erik Gustafsson.
The extras will be sorted out over the next couple of days. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who was on the “unable to play” list Sunday, is virtually out of the running to be in the top six for the opener. Defenseman Mark Friedman figures to make the team as an extra.
It will be interesting to see if left winger Samuel Morin, a converted defenseman who threw his weight around Sunday, makes the 23-man roster (doubtful) or taxi squad. Head coach Alain Vigneault has called him a “work in progress” in camp.
Right winger Tyson Foerster, the Flyers’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in October, was thrilled to get a look-see in camp .
“I think it was huge for me to get in here and see everything around the city and come to the Skate Zone [in Voorhees] and train here and get better with the guys,” he said before the scrimmage. “It was very important to get down here after a long nine months of just training at home and get to know these guys and skate with them.”
Foerster is ticketed to play in the OHL, which has said it will not allow checking if games are played this season.
Foerster turns 19 on Jan 19 and is ineligible to play in the AHL at that age. But Vigneault said there was a chance he plays with the Phantoms this year, an indication that the rules may change this season because of the pandemic.
“I’m not sure if the OHL is going to go this year, but definitely if they are not, he is going to be around here and who knows, might start in the American League,” Vigneault said. “Time will tell.”
Foerster, who had a goal in an earlier scrimmage, said the play at camp was “a lot faster. It took me a couple of days to adapt to the speed and the pace. I think I have been here for a week, so I have kind of adapted and I think I am doing perfectly fine.”
Aube-Kubel also scored for the White. ... Carter Hart stopped Wyatte Wylie on a penalty shot. ... Vigneault on fourth-round draft pick Zayde Wisdom: “I’ve been impressed by him, his skating ability, his feistiness in one-on-one battles. ... After the scrimmage, a practice shootout was held and no one scored until Michael Raffl beat Brian Elliott with a slap shot in the ninth round. Elliott and Hart combined to stop 17 of 18 shootout shots.