One of the most intriguing story lines in the Flyers' training camp, which opened Friday in Voorhees, is the battle for the third-line center spot.
Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton are the favorites. Rookie Mikhail Vorobyev, a prospect from the AHL's Phantoms, is an interesting dark horse, and 19-year-old Morgan Frost is the player with the most upside, but is considered an extreme dark horse.
"We obviously have quite a bit of information on Scotty at that position, and Jordan Weal is going to get a real good opportunity and some time up the middle right away," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Vorobyev is coming off a solid year in the American League, where he's elevated every part of his game. He certainly has an opportunity to make himself a part of the conversation, and that's going to be dictated by his play. The same with any of the young guys.
"That's one area," Hakstol added about the No. 3 center spot, "we certainly have to answer through competition in camp. There aren't that many areas that leave that door wide open, but that's one area we have to answer."
Starting Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders, the Flyers will have eight exhibition games to figure it out. They play games Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, including the first three against the Islanders.
Weal, playing primarily at wing, was a disappointment last season (eight goals, 21 points) after scoring eight goals in his final 19 games the previous year.
The Flyers are hoping a shift to center, his natural position, will ignite him.
"I'm real excited to get the opportunity," Weal, 26, said. "I've played there [center] my whole life. You're more of a distributor. If you have speed and maintain it through center ice, you can make plays and distribute. At wing, it's more starts and stops and waiting for the puck. At center, you can dictate a little more."
Laughton, 24, was used at wing and center last season and collected 10 goals and 10 assists.
"I worked really hard again on my game," said Laughton, who trained with several Maple Leafs this summer and worked on finding areas to score and make plays. He also trained in Florida with Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux. "Just tried to get better as a player and continue to grow as a player. I'm still kind of young in this league. It's going to be a competitive camp and I have to step up my game. I know that."
Frost, who had 112 points in juniors last season, would have to wow the Flyers to be considered NHL-ready.
"Let's see how training camp goes," Hakstol said. "He's coming off a good year in the OHL and doing everything right. Let's just let him play the game during camp and see where he is at. It's a huge step for a young center man. I don't want to kick a door open for anyone, and for sure I don't want to close the door for anyone. That's what camp is all about."