Updated: Friday, September 29, 2017, 3:44 PM
General manager Ron Hextall has to make some interesting and difficult roster decisions before the Flyers board a plane to San Jose on Monday afternoon.
The Flyers have 25 healthy players in camp and need to trim their roster to 23. They will open their season Wednesday in San Jose.
Assuming Hextall keeps seven defensemen and 14 forwards — the goalies will be Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott — here are some of the questions the fourth-year GM faces:
Does he keep six rookies? That would be a club record to start a season.
The rookies still in camp: center Nolan Patrick; left wingers Oskar Lindblom and Taylor Leier; and defensemen Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, and Robert Hagg.
It appears Patrick will start the season as the No. 2 center, with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds as his wingers. Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft, has three assists and a plus-3 rating in his six exhibition games.
Lindblom looked like a roster lock early in camp, but he has not played in two of the last three exhibition games. It seems he is headed for a spot on the third line, but the fact he hasn’t played much lately has opened a sliver of doubt about whether he will start the season in Philadelphia. Lindblom, who is waiver-exempt if the Flyers send him to the Phantoms, has a goal and an assist while playing in four preseason games.
Leier, who has scored two preseason goals and has played on only three games, is on the bubble.
Sanheim, Morin, and Hagg — in that order — have had impressive camps and have shown they belong. If one of them (Hagg?) is sent to the Phantoms, it won’t be because of his performance.
Should Hextall keep all three rookie defensemen and try to send Brandon Manning or Andrew MacDonald to the Phantoms?
If all three rookie defensemen make the team, the Flyers’ D will have five players with less than two years of experience. Is that a recipe for disaster (especially early in the season), or will it help in the long run?
Manning scored a goal and played well in Thursday’s 5-1 exhibition win over Boston.
Will winger Matt Read be the one forward trimmed from the roster?
It might come down to Read or Leier.
Read is coming off a poor season (19 points in 63 games), but has had a solid camp. If sent to the Phantoms, he would almost assuredly clear waivers because of his steep cap hit ($3.625 million). The Flyers would get $1.025 million of relief from that cap hit if he is sent down.
Leier would probably clear waivers if the Flyers tried sending him to Lehigh Valley, but it would be a risky move. He is 23, and his speed makes him a natural fit in today’s NHL.
If the Flyers feel Leier will only be an extra (read: scratched) player and won’t crack the bottom two lines at the start of the season, they might try to send him down to Lehigh Valley. But if they feel he is ahead of veterans such as Jori Lehtera and can play on the fourth line, they might keep him.
Sunday’s final exhibition game will sort things out.
The Flyers, who are 3-1-3 in the preseason, will practice in Voorhees on Saturday at 11 a.m.; they will finish their preseason by hosting the Islanders on Sunday at 5 p.m. … Alex Lyon, who will handle most of the Phantoms’ goalie duties, played well in the preseason with the Flyers, including Thursday’s win over Boston in which he stopped 31 of 32 shots. He said the performance boosted his confidence and will be beneficial if the Flyers need to recall him during the season. … Travis Konecny leads the Flyers with six preseason points, and he and Sanheim top the team with three goals apiece.
Read full story: For Flyers' GM Ron Hextall, tough roster decisions loom