With a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Flyers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. This didn’t come as a surprise. At eighth in the Metropolitan Division and 29th in the league, the Flyers haven’t been playoff-level in a while. (Perhaps not even at all this season.) But even with the postseason out of reach, the next 15 games are far from meaningless. Because now, the Flyers have a new goal: scouting out future talents.
Last season, the Flyers were eliminated in game 49 of 56. In game 50, they had just one new face with the team – Wade Allison. This time around, the lineup is saturated with up-and-coming players – Cam York, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Owen Tippett, and Ronnie Attard. Of course, the influx of young players is partly attributable to several injuries to NHL regulars. But perhaps it’s also a sign of the Flyers’ brass realizing that they might as well get a head start on a much-needed “retool”.
With that being said, has anyone performed well enough thus far to earn a spot on the team next season? Let’s take a look at how the Flyers’ newest additions are doing.
Flyers Focus on Future
NHL-Ready: Cam York
Of the Flyers’ younger talents, Cam York is one of the longer-tenured. Though he has fluctuated in and out of the NHL, he’s putting together a strong case for staying with the team. During the course of this season, York has gone from a possible third-pairing option to a top-pairing partner for Ivan Provorov. He now shoulders over 20 minutes of ice time on the regular, and plays an integral role quarterbacking one of the powerplay units.
As a whole, everything just gets noticeably easier for the Flyers with York on the ice. He has been very effective in an offensive sense, since he particularly excels at both skating and passing. He’s able to easily maneuver through the neutral zone, a problem that the Flyers have had difficulty solving. His long-range breakout passes are incredibly accurate, leading to better chances off the rush. And though it’s nearly impossible to get the Flyers’ powerplay going at this point, York has distributed the puck well on the man advantage, and is a much sounder defensive option than Keith Yandle in that role.
York does room to grow in some areas. He’s not the biggest defencemen (or the most physical), so winning battles along the boards and in front of the net will be key to his continued success at the NHL level. But with every game he plays on the first pairing, he gains more confidence and develops more chemistry with Provorov. (It’s worth noting that Provorov recorded three points in the Flyers’ last game, perhaps indicating that he’s beginning to find the stability he needs to become more of an offensive force again.) At this point, it’s hard to say how the lineup will look next season – but York’s work should earn him a shot at the second pairing, at the very least.
Borderline: Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett
Morgan Frost has been with the Flyers for more games than any of the other players on this list. He has three points during his current 10-game stint, and scored 10 points through 40 games this season. Earlier on, he appeared error-prone, often taking unnecessary penalties. Now in a third-line role with extra responsibility on the power play, Frost seems to have found his rhythm. He’s a consistent contributor, though the stats may not show it. He generates chances on the rush, and is playing a much cleaner game.
Owen Tippett, on the other hand, took a very different path to the Flyers. He joined the team around the trade deadline, when the Florida Panthers traded him in a package for Claude Giroux. After seven games with the Flyers, he has an assist, but is still looking for his first goal. That fact is a bit misleading, as Tippett’s shot – along with his speed – is one of the more NHL-ready parts of his game. However, Tippett will need to work on his decision-making, as he’s prone to turnovers and errant passes.
Overall, Frost and Tippett haven’t shown quite enough to prove they’ll be fixtures when injured forwards return. But they will certainly still be in the conversation of top prospects – and will likely get called up quickly if they don’t start next season with the Flyers.
Too Early to Tell: Noah Cates, Ronnie Attard
Noah Cates and Ronnie Attard are the newest prospects with the Flyers. Both joined the team after the ends of their respective college seasons. Cates has looked promising in his first two NHL games, displaying a level of hockey intelligence very reminiscent to that of York. He did not look out of place in the lineup, and was able to produce several chances in a top-six role. Attard made his debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. He settled into a third-pairing role, alongside Nick Seeler. His possession metrics were about average, but he was on ice for three Maple Leafs goals.
Of the two, Cates’ transition from college to the NHL level has seemed smoother. However, neither Cates nor Attard has played many games with the Flyers. It’ll take a while before anyone will be able to accurately gauge what role either might play in the future.
Final Thoughts on Flyers Future Talents
It’s no secret that the Flyers haven’t had much luck drafting and developing stars in recent years, so tempering expectations is necessary. The players included in this article probably won’t end up being elite. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t become solid contributors to the Flyers’ future. In the young players the team has brought up to close out the season, fans have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the building blocks that will be around for years to come. And if anything, the organization’s move of bringing up so many prospects at once may signal willingness to consider any and all options to fix the Flyers’ problems.