4 things to watch for in Flyers 2018 preseason

Philadelphia Flyers NHL Nolan Patrick

Rookies reported on Monday, the veterans arrive on Friday and the first exhibition game is on Sunday.

The Flyers don’t waste time, do they?

They play five preseason games next week and eight total by the end of the month before the regular season opens on Oct. 4 in Las Vegas.

To get you prepared, we have highlighted who, and what, to focus on over the next couple of weeks as players battle for roster spots, lines are tinkered with, and as many as five goalies rotate in and out of the net.

The kids

Last year, the Flyers opened the season with five rookies, which tied a team record. This year, there’s a chance they might not even have one.

Don’t worry, there are a handful of highly-touted prospects at camp, which include future-No. 1-goalie Carter Hart, forward Morgan Frost, and defenseman Philippe Myers, knocking on the door. However, barring a string of injuries to veterans or one of them proving they are ready for the NHL now, it’s likely none of them will begin the season in Philadelphia.

Hart needs at least a year with the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and Frost is probably headed back to juniors for one more campaign. With veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald slated to miss the first two weeks of the regular season with an injury, Myers has a chance to break camp with the team. Still, general manager Ron Hextall would probably prefer Myers to play 20 minutes a night with the Phantoms rather than six-to-seven with the Flyers as the seventh D-man.

The second-year players

The Flyers received good years last season from a group of rookies that included forwards Nolan Patrick and Oscar Lindblom, and defensemen Robert Haag and Travis Sanheim. Keep an eye on each of them, especially Patrick, to look more comfortable this fall.

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, entered camp last year recovering from offseason surgery. This year, he is 100 percent healthy and had a strong second half of the season. He is expected to center the second line between marquee free agent addition James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. 

The injured

Unfortunately, this list is already long. As mentioned, MacDonald is out until at least mid-October. First-line center Sean Couturier, who finished runner-up for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward, injured his knee in August and is not scheduled to see game action until the last couple of preseason contests – but should be set to go for the regular season.

Wayne Simmonds had pelvis surgery in the offseason and might be brought along slowly. And what would this section be without mentioning both goalies? Starter Brian Elliott and backup Michael Neuvirth each ended last season battling injuries, and we don’t have to remind anyone how crucial their health is to the team.

The third-line center battle

It is the most intriguing position storyline for the preseason. When Hextall let Valtteri Filppula walk as a free agent and didn’t trade or sign someone to replace him, it left a big void at the third-line center spot. The GM is confident an in-house candidate can adequately fill the vacancy.

Players vying the job include veterans Scott Laughton, Jori Lehtera, Jordan Weal, and rookies Mikhail Vorobyev, Mike Vecchione, and Frost. Laughton and Weal are considered the frontrunners.  

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