The playoffs are now a long shot for the Philadelphia Flyers. But that shouldn’t mean that the team will lack a sense of purpose as its plays out its last 13 games of the very strange 2020-21 NHL Season.
Case in point: Wade Allison’s NHL debut on Thursday, in the Flyers’ 2-1 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With that flow, he fits right in.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 15, 2021
Allison looks like he could be the younger cousin of Scott Hartnell. Or Jakub Voracek. Or Gritty.
About Wade Allison
Selected in the second round by the Flyers in 2016, Allison has power-forward size at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, although his development path through the USHL and four years at Western Michigan University doesn’t particularly lend itself to building a rough-and-tumble playing style.
In his 11:13 of ice time on Thursday, he showed a motor that ran hot and enough of a nose for the net that he finished the night tied for the team lead with four shots on goal.
Allison started the game on the left side of the fourth line, playing with Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom. The period was barely half over when he found himself getting power-play time alongside Voracek, Claude Giroux and Joel Farabee.
His best scoring chance came midway through the game, when he was denied by Tristan Jarry on a tap-in try.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 16, 2021
“Couldn’t buy a goal,” said Vigneault after the game. “He had some great opportunities, but couldn’t buy one tonight.
“Hopefully, next time he can buy one.”
“It’s been a long road,” said 23-year-old Allison, who had his share of injury troubles during his college days. “There have been a lot of ups, a lot of downs, but I did it. It’s pretty cool, something I’ll remember forever, something that nobody can ever take from me. It’s pretty special.”
Laczynski Carving Out A Role
Allison’s debut came four games after another 23-year-old, Tanner Laczynski, made his NHL and Flyers debut. Originally selected in the sixth round in 2016, 169th overall, Laczynski also went the college route. He spent four years at Ohio State before also signing his entry-level contract before this season began.
Laczynski’s ice time has bumped into double digits during the last two games. Seen as more of a defensive specialist, Vigneault has been using him in shorthanded situations since his first night. Take out Washington’s 3-for-3 performance on the power play last Tuesday, and the Flyers have been perfect on the P.K. in the other four games since Laczynski’s debut.
In addition to seeing what he has in prospects like Allison and Laczynski, the general manager also needed to make an assessment by season’s end on three key free-agent prospects.
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RFA Evaluation Time Begins
The list begins with goaltender Carter Hart. He will be a restricted free agent after his entry-level contract expires at the end of this season.
A year ago, it looked like the Flyers were going to have to break the bank to properly compensate an emerging goaltending superstar. This season has been much bumpier for the 22-year-old. He has been playing better since his week-long re-set at the end of March, but Thursday marked not just one of his better performances of the season, but also his first win in nearly a month — since March 18 on Long Island.
For Nolan Patrick, also 22, this season has been positive following his lengthy battle with migraine disorder. He has appeared in every game this season but one, and after a scary moment when he was hit in the head by a puck on Thursday night, Alain Vigneault reported Friday that Patrick seems to be no worse for wear.
Patrick’s currently on a one-year contract worth $874,125. At season’s end, he’ll be a restricted free agent who needs one more year of service before he’s eligible for arbitration. It’ll be interesting to see if Fletcher commits to a multi-year deal.
Four years into his Flyers career, Travis Sanheim will be eligible to file for arbitration at season’s end. With just two goals this season, he isn’t producing as much as he has in the past, and like most of his teammates, he has had his defensive lapses. But the 25-year-old is averaging a career-high 21:43 of ice time this season, second on the team behind Ivan Provorov.
Sanheim is finishing a two-year bridge contract that carries a cap hit of $3.25 million. Fletcher has now arrived at the crossroads where he needs to decide whether to avoid arbitration and offer a long-term deal, or be prepared to see Sanheim potentially leave as an unrestricted free agent in two years’ time.
The Flyers have now slipped to sixth place in the NHL’s East Division as they head home for back-to-back games — Saturday against the Capitals (12:30 p.m. ET) and Sunday against the Islanders (6:30 p.m. ET).