The Philadelphia Flyers opened their team’s developmental camp yesterday and I decided to take the task of watching the defensemen closely. But it’s obvious that scouting defensemen isn’t the easiest thing to do when only one of the drills had defense involved. However, the practice did get me thinking of what the future for the defense of the Flyers is and exactly how much depth the team has in that position.
Unfortunately for young prospects, the Flyers are deep with veterans for the coming season. The battle for the 6th defensive spot is always intriguing, but this year it is going to have to be between only two guys. Those guys are Andreas Lilja and Bruno Gervais. And neither of the two are exactly a fan favorite. Lilja brings the always talked about veteran presence, but Gervais brings legs that are 10 years younger. We could end up seeing this turn into a season long battle.
After those two guys, the Flyers have three other groups of defensemen still waiting in the wings. The first group is made up of four guys that you are likely to see in a Flyers uniform when injuries happen this coming season: Marc-Andre Bourdon (pending a signing), Matt Walker, Erik Gustafsson, and Danny Syvret. You wish one of those had a shot at the 6th spot. If anything, Bourdon and Gustafsson are the best the Phantoms have to offer. Don’t expect Walker or Syvret to become the future of the Flyers.
Next we have Blake Kessel and Brandon Manning. These two were actually at rookie camp and stood out the most. I believe that they are the future. Bourdon and Gustafsson may not get their fair chances, but since Kessel and Manning still have developing to do, time is not their enemy.
Lastly we have a group of guys that were all at rookie camp Monday: Nick Luukko, Colin Suellentrop, Reece Willcox, Oliver Lauridsen, and Matt Konan. Of the group, Flyers fans, including Dan, are very high on Lauridsen. He’s not NHL ready yet, but he has a serious up side. He’s a guy that fans are going to want to watch develop. He’s already a horse. The rest of the guys are all wild cards. They are too young to be sure and won’t be seeing AHL action. They may not stay in the Flyers system long enough to get there. That’s just the nature of the sport. Some guys become home grown. Others don’t stick around.
The unfortunate thing is that the Flyers have so many guys that won’t necessarily be able to mature completely in their system. Veteran guys are blocking that path. The Gervais signing may not have been the smartest, but it would have been great had it only been a yearlong deal. Lilja’s contract ends after this season as does Timonen’s but Kimmo may stick around. That would mean that only one roster spot would free up, so only one guy from that second group would make the team with a permanent roster spot.
Rookie camp shows off a lot of young talent, but with how set the Flyers team is already for next season, it’s somewhat of a tease. A lot of the guys are either going to be playing for junior or college teams or are just at camp as invitees who know they have no chance of making an NHL team. But rookie camp is still fun to get to see some hockey in the summer and to get your brain thinking about the future. The Flyers certainly have a lot of guys waiting in the wings, but it’s just not that easy to have so many guys with their development possibly halted.