On the night in which the NHL’s 113-day lockout ultimately ended, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren traveled to upstate New York to catch the Phantoms in Adirondack.
After the game, Holmgren gave good friend and Phantoms coach Terry Murray - a veteran NHL coach of 1,012 games - a heads up as to the players he might be interested in if the lockout were settled.
A deal was brokered between the NHL and NHLPA within hours of that conversation.
For Holmgren, a shortened season means an abbreviated, week-long training camp. The roster won’t feature upwards of 50 players battling for jobs, as has been a September staple of the past. Instead, with a significant number of jobs already filled, it will be slim.
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Holmgren said he is “probably unlikely” to call junior prospects - like 1st rounder Scott Laughton or Nick Cousins - down from the OHL, though he hasn’t decided for sure.
“We still haven’t settled on who is going to come in from the Phantoms, other than the obvious guys,” Holmgren said on Monday. “There are some guys who played well down there that could perhaps get looks here in a short training camp that we’re going to have. Then, we’ll see.
“Ice time is always up for grabs. That’s a good thing, competition.”
The obvious guys? Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo, Brandon Manning, Harry Zolnierczyk and Eric Wellwood have all seen NHL action. Erik Gustafsson (ankle) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion) are both hurt, which is a blow to the Flyers’ defense since they were both candidates for the opening night lineup.
Still, Holmgren made it sound like there were a few players who may not be obvious choices that will still get a chance.
Since the Flyers need help on defense for the time being, my guess is that list would include Oliver Lauridsen, the big Danish d-man. Danny Syvret is also a possibility - and he has 59 NHL games under his belt.
Up front, I think players like Rob Bordson and Tye McGinn have impressed the heck out of the Flyers’ brass with their play this season and could deserve a look. Jason Akeson is an interesting name, since he was originally demoted to the ECHL, but he’s rebounded to post 13 points in just 19 games, the Phantoms’ third-best points-per-game (.68) mark.
Center Ben Holmstrom is out for the year after a gruesome knee injury.
Even with the Phantoms in the middle of their season, Holmgren seemingly wouldn’t hesitate to take as many players as needed to battle in training camp. It isn’t much of a balancing act.
“It’s about the Flyers,” Holmgren said. “I think Terry Murray and his staff down there, they understand that. When I saw Terry after the game, I kind of identified some players that he might lose if this thing gets done. The team that’s probably going to suffer the most is (ECHL) Trenton. There’s some players in Trenton that have been playing, they’ll get shuffled up to Glens Falls and fill some spots.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said the training camp roster would include whatever it takes to “make sure we’re ready to win the first game of the year.”
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