When it comes to the Flyers, you already know that guys like Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Maxime Talbot are sticking around to start the season. Hell, the first six of those guys will make up who plays on the top two scoring lines for Philly.
What about the rest, though? Jody Shelley is sitting out to start the season thanks to being Shana-banned, but the competition for other spots on the bottom two lines is tight. With Simmonds and Talbot assuming two of those starting spots in the bottom six, the race to win a job is tight. Guys like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Andreas Nodl, Blair Betts, and Zac Rinaldo are all in the mix.
Coach Peter Laviolette has his work cut out for him but Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi thinks he’s got an inside line on who has the edge to start the year in Philly. Apparently youth will lead the charge in Philadelphia.
Barring a trade, it’s likely two of the following three forwards will make the team: Schenn, Couturier and Matt Read.
This trio is interesting because Schenn has virtually been anointed the third line center job already. Couturier and Read are curious because Couturier will get nine games to show if he’s NHL ready now. If he shows rookie worries and a lack of poise, he can go back to the QMJHL and junior hockey. Read is a college free agent out of Bemidji State in Minnesota. He impressed in his run through the AHL briefly last season and has been doing the same again this year. Conceivably, if Couturier gets sent back to juniors, Read can come back from the AHL to take his spot.
Giving Couturier a shot in the kind of atmosphere surrounding the Flyers with sky high expectations means they think a lot of the kid, even more so if he stays. As for guys like Rinaldo, Betts, and Nodl you’d have to think that Betts will be the fourth line center while Nodl is essentially competing with Read. Rinaldo would be assuming Shelley’s role as an enforcer/agitator if he makes the team.
The Flyers’ forward lines look pretty simple when broken down:
van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Jagr
Hartnell – Briere – Voracek
Talbot – Schenn – Simmonds
Couturier/Rinaldo/Shelley – Betts – Nodl/Read
From this perspective, it would seem unwise to put an 18 year-old rookie on the fourth line where he’s just not going to get a lot of minutes, but then again we’re not coaching the Flyers either. It would be possible that Couturier gets to run on the third line, but having two rookies along with Simmonds would be an awful lot of fun to see work out there.
The choices aren’t going to be easy for Laviolette as he’s got some solid young talent here, but developing them into being better NHL players might take precedence here. Guys like Nodl and Betts are fine as role players and defenders and could be better served doing just that.