Flyers Prospects’ Odds of Breaking Training Camp on NHL Roster – The Hockey Writers

Training camp and the preseason can feel monotonous, but one of the most exciting developments for any team — especially a rebuilding one — is watching their prospects take advantage of their best chance to make a positive impression. Even a strong September doesn’t guarantee an NHL job. From physical concerns to veterans blocking their spot, not every prospect has a chance to make their team out of camp, and fewer have a chance of making an immediate impact.

Fortunately for the Philadelphia Flyers, they have both a quality prospect pool and some intriguing youngsters knocking on their door – many of them have already gotten their feet wet in the NHL. But making a team out of camp for the first time is always special as they make their transition to becoming regulars.

With training camp rapidly approaching, here’s a look at where some of the team’s top prospects stand in their hopes of taking the ice at Nationwide Arena six weeks from now. This list will only consider players eligible for the Calder Trophy, meaning they must be under 26 years old and with fewer than 20 NHL games under their belt (or six-plus games in multiple seasons).

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s a lock, Foerster is close to where Cam York was last fall — just don’t bomb camp and you’re in. Of course, that’s exactly what York did (only to wind up being an NHL regular just a few months later); proof that you never know what to expect.

That being said, Foerster feels like a safe bet to be a Flyer out of the gate. He was an American Hockey League All-Star in 2022-23 and led the Lehigh Valley Phantoms with 48 points. In an eight-game Flyers cameo, he looked NHL-ready both on the scoresheet (seven points in eight games) and with his overall play, as he finished with a 51.69% expected goals share, and the Flyers outscored their opponent 10-9 with him on the ice at 5-on-5. The team has an abundance of right-wingers, but one of them should be able to slide over to the left. The 2020 1st-rounder has lived up to the hype so far. Now, it’s time to see what he can do in a large NHL sample.

Tyson Foerster Philadelphia Flyers
Tyson Foerster, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though he only played in 12 NHL games last season, Ersson is the clear front-runner for the backup goalie job. Read between the lines of head coach John Tortorella’s comments last year, and it’s clear Sandström was mainly backing up Carter Hart because he wasn’t waiver-exempt, and Ersson was. That’s still the case, but given Sandström’s underwhelming season (-11.8 goals saved above expected) and Ersson’s strong work (1.7 goals saved above expected), that may not matter anymore.

Cal Petersen is in the mix as well, but unless he returns to 2020-21 form overnight, he’s likely to be buried in the AHL. Ersson has starter-level potential; it’s time to see if the 23-year-old Swede can start to realize that in the show.

On The Cusp: Elliot Desnoyers, Emil Andrae, Ronnie Attard

One thing that hurts a forward prospect’s odds of making the opening-night lineup is if they are labeled a “top-nine or bust” player. There’s a point of diminishing return between giving a player NHL minutes and putting them in a place to succeed. For many highly skilled forwards, it simply isn’t worth playing them on the fourth line, where they likely won’t be in a position to utilize their offensive talents.

Desnoyers isn’t one of those players, but he isn’t lacking upside, either. After finishing 11th in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring in 2021-22, Desnoyers finished his first AHL season with just four fewer points than Foerster. The 2020 5th-rounder can play both center and on the wing and also kill penalties. His strong defensive track record should be a significant feather in his cap, especially on a Tortorella-coached team.

Elliot Desnoyers Philadelphia Flyers
Elliot Desnoyers, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Andrae is the only player mentioned on this list who doesn’t have at least one full season of playing pro in North America (although he did play 10 games for the Phantoms at the end of last season), but he’s high in the pecking order for a reason. Andrae finished tied for fourth in scoring on HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League and plays a smooth game with and without the puck that should translate excellently to the pros. He’s only 21, but he has been competing against men in the SHL and Allsvenskan (Sweden’s top two pro leagues) for half a decade. It’s not if he pushes past Nick Seeler or/and Marc Staal but when.

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Attard didn’t have a “bad” 2022-23 season. He led all Phantoms defensemen with 32 points, which put him seventh among rookie blueliners in the league. However, given that he actually made the Flyers’ initial roster, it’s a bit disappointing he only got into two games last season. Attard doesn’t have to be a finished product, but unlike most other players on this list, there’s pressure for him to make his mark in camp since he’s no longer waiver-exempt.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: Bobby Brink, Olle Lycksell, Adam Ginning

Brink probably has one of the highest upsides of anyone on this list. After all, we’re talking about a former NCAA points leader who scored at the same clip as Desnoyers last season, but he fits into that “top-nine or bust” status and he’s clearly No. 2 on the right-wing prospect pecking order behind Foerster (not counting Matvei Michkov, of course, who is still under contract in the KHL). Given that he missed the first four months of last season due to hip surgery and is on the smaller side at 5-foot-8, 166 pounds, Brink is probably better off getting some seasoning as the Phantoms’ top forward.

Bobby Brink Philadelphia Flyers
Bobby Brink, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It might not be fair to say Olle Lycksell is also top-nine or bust, but he’s definitely a tweener. The 24-year-old Swede has skill. He scored 45 points in just 53 AHL games last season, a higher point-per-game pace than Foerster. But he doesn’t have the defensive pedigree or versatility of a Desnoyers, the high-end ceiling of Brink or Foerster, and is both on the older and smaller side (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) for someone with just eight uninspiring NHL games under his belt. Like Andrae, he also carries strong career numbers in Sweden, but there isn’t an obvious fit for him in the lineup. He doesn’t have to make the team for camp to be a success, but the next month is a huge one for Lycksell’s future.

Speaking of Swedes, it’s a win for the Flyers that Adam Ginning is even this high on this list. Though he was taken 50th overall in 2018, Ginning failed to make meaningful progress for a while. His defensive game has never been questioned, but that is no longer enough to carry a prospect to the NHL. Expectations were slim to none when Ginning reported to the Phantoms for his first season in North America last fall.

But whether it’s the smaller rink size or being a late bloomer, Ginning took a step forward last season. He improved his play with the puck without sacrificing his defensive skill or physicality. It was enough to earn him a one-game call-up in April, and Ginning made the most of it, recording a 64.93% expected goals share. The Flyers have ample depth on the left side, but he’s likely to play at least a few NHL games at some point this season.

Long Shots: Everybody Else

There will almost certainly be a few other young players who impress the Flyers at camp, but they almost certainly need more seasoning before they’re ready for the big time. Michkov and Cutter Gauthier (still at Boston College) would be in the Inside Track category if they were signed to NHL contracts. Ivan Fedotov would fall into the So You’re Saying There’s a Chance section if he came over to North America, but the odds of that happening aren’t looking great.

Making the opening-night lineup is only step one for a prospect, of course. It’s more important what people are saying after the season ends than before it. But a Flyers fanbase looking for excitement certainly wouldn’t mind anyone on this list being a source of it, and cracking camp with the team is a great place to start.

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