The Philadelphia Flyers roster hopefuls are starting to run out of runway.
Back at the Flyers’ Training Center on Friday following a 4-2 road loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, head coach Alain Vigneault re-organized his practice groups into, basically, NHL and AHL squads.
Putting in the work today for a Saturday exhibition with the Caps. #BringItToBroad 👊
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 1, 2021
Group A, which practiced on the Flyers ice sheet, was composed of 23 players — the maximum allowable number when opening-day rosters are presented to the NHL just before the regular season begins.
That list includes all the NHL regulars that you’d expect. Up front, 19-year-old Elliot Desnoyers also skated with Group A, as did rookie Cam York and 28-year-old free-agent signing Nick Seeler on the blue line.
Desnoyers Impresses Vigneault
Selected in the fifth round of the 2020, Desnoyers broke out last season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, and was named to the league’s second all-star team. After undergoing offseason hip surgery, he spent most of the summer in Philadelphia, working with the Flyers’ training staff. And while he was just easing back onto the ice when rookie camp got underway earlier in the month, he has caught coach Alain Vigneault’s eye during main camp.
“Every time he steps on the ice, he gets noticed,” said Vigneault after Friday’s practice. “Extremely hard worker, very enthusiastic.”
Desnoyers travelled to Boston and took warmup at TD Garden on Thursday, but was scratched from the Flyers’ final game lineup. He could potentially see action in one of the team’s final four exhibition games.
“Everything he does, he does hard, so we wanted to put him with all the veteran players,” Vigneault said. “We’ll see here, our discussions with management, what happens here moving forward.”
Frost Has Work To Do
In his first game action since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last January, center Morgan Frost did not put his best foot forward. Kevin Hayes‘ recent abdominal surgery has given the 22-year-old rookie a golden opportunity to seize a top-six role. But Frost had a tough outing against the Bruins. He was 3-for-9 on faceoffs and managed just one shot on goal in 15:16 of ice time.
Frost logged nearly six minutes on the power play in a penalty-filled game. He was on the ice for both of Joel Farabee‘s power-play goals. But he finished as a minus-one for the night thanks to Jake DeBrusk‘s even-strength marker for Boston, late in the second period.
“I thought Morgan, in the rookie games, you noticed him; he was really good,” said Vigneault on Friday. “I thought yesterday — again, we’re playing against a pretty strong team and it was his first NHL game in quite a while. So I thought, 5-on-5, he was all right.”
That doesn’t mean the audition is over. Far from it.
“You have to be patient,” Vigneault cautioned. “I think he’s working extremely hard. He’s going to continue, obviously, with Kevin (Hayes) being out at this time, to get a look here in these next exhibition games.”
What does Frost need to do?
“We expect to see some progression,” Vigneault said. “He was all right yesterday, but he didn’t do anything that stood out. We do see a tremendous amount of potential there and hopefully he can put it together.”
Seeler Sneaking Into Defense Conversation
Further down the lineup, journeyman Nick Seeler drew in for his second preseason game on Thursday. Tuesday night, he skated on the left side with partner Egor Zamula, who scored one of Philadelphia’s two goals. Thursday, the 28-year-old was paired with 2018 fifth-round pick Wyatte Wylie.
“I’m excited to be here and excited for the new opportunity,” said Seeler, who was signed to a one-year, two-way contract by the Flyers when free agency opened on July 28.
Seeler didn’t play at all in the 2020-21 season. He was placed on unconditional waivers and had his contract terminated by the Blackhawks last January. All told, he played just six games with Chicago after being acquired on waivers in February of 2020.
“Anytime you get to play, especially when you haven’t played for a while, I’m getting the reps and getting more and more comfortable,” he said after Thursday’s game. “Even the first game of preseason, as the game went on I got more and more comfortable with the puck in my decision making. And the battle level is always going to be there. So it was nice to get another game under my belt.”
A Minnesota native, Seeler was originally drafted by the Wild in the fifth round in 2011 — when Chuck Fletcher was the team’s general manager.
“We’ve known each other since I was 18 years old. He drafted me out of Eden Prairie High School,” Seeler recalled. “We have a really good relationship and mutual respect between each other. He’s always treated me really really well, so I jumped at the opportunity to come play for him again.”
The Road Ahead
The Flyers will finish out their home preseason schedule with games against the Washington Capitals (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET) and a return match against the Bruins (Monday, 7 p.m. ET). Then, they’ll play the New York Islanders in Bridgeport, Connecticut (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET) before facing the Capitals again in Washington on Friday, October 8.
The NHL’s 2021-22 regular season begins on October 12. The Flyers will open their season on October 15, at home against the Vancouver Canucks.