"Glue guys are so important,'' Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was saying the other day, which is as good a reason as any to explain why 28-year-old Corban Knight survived another day of cuts Tuesday.
The Flyers sent 22-year-old Nicolas Aube-Kubel and 21-year-old Philippe Myers to Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, reducing to six the number of cuts still needed to begin the season on Oct.4 with 23 players.
Knight, remarkably, remains. On the surface, he doesn't fit the profile of what the Flyers purport to be building – a youth-infused lineup. His age is old in hockey's timeline; his six years of mostly minor-league experience suggest a player who has taken his shot already and settled into a nice lifestyle at the AHL level.
But Knight has worked like hell to change that narrative, and the Flyers brass has apparently taken notice.
"This is definitely desperation time for a lot of guys, and that's the way I'm looking at it,'' he said after Monday's exhibition loss to the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center. "I know I have a good opportunity here right now. And I'm just trying to do what I can to make an impression.''
Here's the impression he is working on: Knight must convince the Flyers he is their best option as a fourth-line center, to play up, to play down, to even miss a few games and return to the lineup unaffected. He has been paired often this camp with Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl as a fourth-line preview, sometimes playing at center, sometimes at wing. He and good friend Laughton have also worked effectively on the penalty kill – perhaps the Flyers' most glaring weakness last season.
His advantage over the kids is that he knows how to do this better than they do, has prepared for this via his roles with the AHL Phantoms over the last two seasons, and through just plain old maturity.
Amid players too young to legally share a postgame beer with him, Knight offered a template for playing and acting like a pro. Be on time. Be versatile. Be unselfish. Don't let the moment become too big for you.
"There's a lot of things that go into it, but I think a glue guy is a guy who is reliable,'' he said. "It's a pretty high compliment. It's a guy who maybe the guys look to in a time of crisis. Or when a big play needs to happen. It's not always the big flashy play. It's a play that a lot of times goes unnoticed. So that's my take on it. A guy who everybody relies on, and trusts, and knows that he's not going to take the easy way out.''
The Flyers have two exhibition games remaining: Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Rangers, and Saturday night in Boston. With Aube-Kubel gone and surprising Carsen Twarynski seemingly headed back to the Phantoms soon to get consistent playing time, Knight will have to win a job over 24-year-old Tyrell Goulbourne and players who have been in the NHL more recently, and for longer stints: Jori Lehtera, Jordan Weal, and Taylor Leier.