The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t do much this offseason in regards to upgrading their roster. Instead, they are hoping that players returning from injuries, young players stepping up, and a new head coach to tighten things up will be enough to get the team back into playoff contention.
What is being focused on here is the young players who need to take steps forward and have big seasons, especially since they are at critical points in their careers. Let’s take a look at three of them now.
Morgan Frost has a lot of pressure on him and supposedly a big opportunity to prove himself next season. The Flyers re-signed him for $800,000 and he will have to prove he is worth keeping around and part of the solution before he may run out of chances.
Frost has had a tough and unfortunate start to his career as he has repeatedly had obstacles thrown in front of him through his prime development years. First COVID threw off his season in 2020 before he played just two games in 2020-21 and suffered a season-ending injury.
The hope last season was that Frost would be able to come in and cover for Kevin Hayes who was injured, but instead didn’t even make the team and was called up at a later date once injuries really started to pile up. He settled in on the third line, scoring just five goals and 16 points in 55 games for the Flyers. Most of the season was a struggle, but once he was put on a line with Owen Tippett and Noah Cates, something clicked. It’s not great, but three goals and eight of Frost’s points were scored in the last 17 games of the season.
Chuck Fletcher had this to say about the Flyers’ 2017 first-round pick, “Up front, we have a lot of young players. We have to see if they can play. We have a lot of young players that require waivers at some point, players like Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett, and (Wade) Allison, (Tanner) Laczynski, (Hayden) Hodgson, and (Isaac) Ratcliffe. These kids need a chance to play. They need a chance to earn a spot. As an organization, we need to see where they’re at, so you know what we have going forward.” Frost should begin the season on the third line, but he must increase his production and be more consistent while staying healthy. Ideally, he will play well enough to earn top-six time at some point and confidence from the management and his coaches.
Tippett, like Frost, has struggled to get his career going, but for different reasons. The Florida Panthers drafted him and constantly had a strong lineup where he found it tough to make it regardless of how well he played in junior or the American Hockey League (AHL). As part of the Claude Giroux package, the Flyers got Tippett back and stuck him on the third line where as I mentioned, he found chemistry with Frost.
There is a much better opportunity in Philadelphia for Tippett as he enters what should be his first full NHL season at age 23. He is also a former first-round pick in 2017 and was mentioned by Fletcher as one of the young players who will get a better opportunity this coming season. The Flyers have two strong top-six players at right wing, so it will be more difficult for Tippett to move up without an injury to someone. That being said, he can still be effective on the third line as he showed after coming over to the Flyers last season.
Tippett has been praised for his talent and has a quick release. Power-play time and more opportunity in the offensive end can provide him with the ability to grow and perform up to a level where the Flyers hope he can. Next season will be big for the young winger, and I’m betting that he will take a big step forward.
You may not have expected to see goaltender Felix Sandstrom in this group as he has only played five games at the NHL level, but there’s a reason. Originally it was expected that Ivan Fedotov and Sandstrom would be competing for the backup role on the Flyers. But unfortunately for the Flyers and Fedotov, that will have to wait another season. The role should now go to Sandstrom but may hurt him and the team since there won’t be the same level of competition there was expected to be when Fedotov was in the running too.
Sandstrom started five games for the Flyers at the end of last season and went winless despite putting up a .910 save percentage. Considering he closed out the five games with a 3.23 goals against average, that showed the sheer number of shots and scoring chances against. That will be tightened up with John Tortorella coming in as head coach, as he stresses defense and the teams he coaches usually work hard and play well defensively.
Sandstrom is 25 years old, which is around the time goaltenders typically start coming into their own and pushing for spots in the NHL. With a golden opportunity for just one season, a solid performance will either allow him to stick around in Philadelphia or be traded somewhere next season and have a similar opportunity to play in the NHL. Regardless, an improved team defensively should help with his growth and development. The lack of spots available in the NHL for goaltenders makes it a big year with this kind of opportunity for Sandstrom.
I’m counting on all three players to improve as they will all have the chance to succeed in 2022-23. Fail and the vulnerable Flyers may just have to move on from them. A big part of the success of the team depends on these young players stepping up and contributing.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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