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Predicting the Flyers’ opening night lineup as Training Camp begins

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Flyers lineup

Philadelphia Flyers Training Camp kicks off on Thursday and we are just 22 days away from opening night. The Flyers got some bad news on the injury front earlier this week, leaving some holes in their opening night lineup.

Kevin Hayes and Wade Allison will not be in the lineup for at least the first few weeks of the season. Samuel Morin, who was in the mix as the Flyers’ seventh defenseman, is also out for six to eight weeks after knee surgery.

With Training Camp opening, let’s take a crack at projecting the Flyers Opening Night lineup. There are sure to be plenty of changes over the next three weeks, but let’s see how it goes.

Flyers lineup: Forwards

The Flyers have their biggest questions up front.

Hayes is set to miss six to eight weeks, leaving a huge hole down the middle. That has ripple effects up and down the lineup. Do the Flyers move Claude Giroux back to center? Is Morgan Frost ready? Is Scott Laughton an option? Are Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson roster locks now?

There are a lot of combinations that make sense in the Flyers’ forward group. A lot of the players I have projected in the top nine can be interchangeable, to a certain extent.

Let’s get to it.

First Line

James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier.- Joel Farabee

This was the Flyers’ most-used forward combination last season –– by far. According to Money Puck, this line played over 222 minutes together.  The next highest trio was the classic Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek line with 121 minutes together.

Familiarity and chemistry will go a long way in determining the Flyers lines, Alain Vigneault stressed this week. This trio not only has the familiarity and chemistry, but they complement each other as well.

Couturier is the Selke candidate at center to carry play, JVR can put the puck in the net, and Farabee’s motor never stops running –– his shot isn’t bad, either.

Reuniting this line also moves Farabee to right wing, filling the gap in the depth chart that Wade Allison’s injury caused.

Second Line

Claude Giroux – Morgan Frost – Cam Atkinson

The second-line center role is Morgan Frost’s to lose with Kevin Hayes injured. Frost has had a few years to find his game at the professional level, but unfortunately suffered an injury of his own last season. Now, he’s back for another Training Camp and he has a spot in the lineup with his name on it.

The combination of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier can be dynamic, but splitting them up may help Frost out some. Giroux can take some of the more difficult faceoffs, if needed, and plays a strong two-way game. Atkinson is solid in both ends as well and can be the shoot-first winger with the two playmakers.

Frost and Giroux played a bit together during the rookie’s 19-game stint in the 2019-20 season. Frost centered Giroux and Travis Konecny (who we’ll get to) for 92 minutes. The young center also had JVR and Tyler Pitlick as his wingers for 32 minutes.

Third Line

Oskar Lindblom – Scott Laughton – Travis Konecny

Travis Konecny may very end up in place of Joel Farabee or Cam Atkinson in the top six, but right now we’ll pencil him in just down in the lineup. He was inconsistent at times last season and needs to bounce back to his All-Star form the year prior. Placing him on the third line may also open up more offensive opportunities and lesser opponents to go against.

Is Scott Laughton a center or left wing? Well, we’re going with center for now. He’s the player on this line –– and one of a few in the entire lineup –– that is the most locked in. Laughton is a role guy that can slide up and down the lineup, but the third line seems to fit him best. It may be at left wing with a veteran center, or perhaps to help out Frost.

Lindblom is a bit of a mystery. He could end up on any of the four lines and I wouldn’t be surprised. For now, I see him fitting best as the third-line left wing. That is very flexible, however.

Fourth Line

Derick Brassard – Nate Thompson – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Derick Brassard signed in late August and Nate Thompson signed in July as depth forwards. The injuries to Kevin Hayes and Wade Allison make them near locks for a roster spot.

Brassard could end up being the third-line center if he impresses in Training Camp and the preseason. The fourth line seems more likely if the Flyers are willing to play him at wing.

Thompson is back and seems destined to be the team’s fourth-line center with Hayes out. He could get outplayed by a young kid who surprises, but the veterans have the upper hand.

Alain Vigneault is expecting a lot from Nicolas Aube-Kubel this season. Still, I don’t see him starting any higher than on the fourth line. The potential is there for him to move up the lineup, but we’ll have to wait and see.


Flyers lineup: Defensemen

The defensive group is a lot simpler.

First Pair

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Ivan Provorov is the Flyers’ No. 1 left defenseman for yet another year. Last season, Provorov (and the rest of the defense) took a step back, which coincided with the loss of Matt Niskanen.

Provorov still might be a top-pair defenseman, he just needs another top-pair defenseman by his side. Niskanen raised Provorov’s game and the Flyers are hoping that Ryan Ellis does the same.

Second Pair

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Travis Sanheim survived the offseason and is back for another season on the second pair. He’ll have a tall, right-handed defenseman wearing yet again, but this time it’s a new face: Rasmus Ristolainen.

Sanheim settled down a bit towards the second half of last season and looked more like himself. A normal Training Camp and schedule should help Sanheim into the top-four defenseman that he can be.

Ristolainen is the wild card on the Flyers’ defense. He could make the most of a change of scenery and become a beast on the right side, potentially a top-pair guy. However, his metrics in Buffalo could’ve told the correct story and Ristolainen could end up on the third pair. It won’t be too early in the season, though, the Flyers want to put Ristolainen in a position to succeed.

Third Pair

Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

Keith Yandle’s ironman streak is on the line and I believe it’ll continue on opening night. Cam York and Egor Zamula are knocking on the door, but Yandle will hold them off for now.

Justin Braun is locked in as the Flyers’ third-pair defenseman on the right sdie. He was forced to play above his head on the top pair last season and actually held his own. If the top-four defensemen can be top-four defensemen, Braun should be able to hold the fort in a more limited role.


Goalies

Carter Hart – Martin Jones

This is the Flyers’ goalie tandem.

Carter Hart is looking to bounce back and prove that he’s a No. 1 goalie that he’s supposed to be. He couldn’t find his game last season, but a full offseason and Training Camp should get him back on track.

Martin Jones has been consistent as he entered his 30s. Unfortunately, that consistency has been an .896 save percentage. The Flyers are hoping that goalie coach Kim Dillabough will help him find his game again. Jones can be a solid 1B to Hart’s 1A if he can do that. If not, hopefully, Hart can be a workhorse. Either way, the Flyers are going to be using both Hart and Jones in a busy 82-game schedule.


Projected Flyers Opening Night Lineup

James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier – Joel Farabee
Claude Giroux – Morgan Frost – Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom – Scott Laughton – Travis Konecny
Derick Brassard – Nate Thompson – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

Carter Hart
Martin Jones


Photo: Heather Barry Images

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Ryan is a proud graduate of Monmouth University. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers for the better part of a decade at various outlets, including Sons of Penn and Broad Street Hockey. Ryan has also worked for NHL.com and NBC Sports Regional Networks. Whether it's a GIF, quick stat, analysis, or long-form column, he's got you covered.

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[…] is going to play where. Now that Nolan Patrick is gone, does that open the door for someone like Morgan Frost to center the second line? The Flyers are already dealing with injuries as Kevin Hayes and Wade […]

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