With the Philadelphia Flyers set to open their rookie camp on September 11, one of the biggest questions surrounding the team is whether forward Nolan Patrick will crack the opening night roster this season.
“He’s cleared and he’s good to go,” Hextall said this week about Patrick. But he wants his top pick from the 2017 Entry Draft to earn his spot, rather than be forced into it.
“He’s got to come in and show us that he can help make us a better team and that it’s the right thing for us,” Hextall said. “It’s truly that simple. We’ve got numbers. We don’t have to have him. We’ve got other kids who can play and we have veterans, so we’re in a good position with him.”
Hextall touches on a big problem that the Flyers have heading into camp – too many forwards fighting for a spot on the roster. On the surface, you have the likely locks in Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Jordan Weal, Travis Konecny, and Michael Raffl. You also have veterans that will easily fill in spots along the bottom-six in Valtteri Filppula and Dale Weise.
But the issue comes with filling in those final four spots.
Matt Read, recently-acquired Jori Lehtera, Mike Vecchione, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and two youngsters in Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick make this roster question a bit of an issue. Obviously, getting rid of a veteran like Read, Weise, or Filppula in exchange for opening another roster spot would be ideal, but probably won’t happen.
Hextall is in the same situation this year as he was with Konecny and Provorov last season, but he has some leeway. Lindblom can be sent down to the AHL without being placed on waivers, the same goes for Vecchione. Whether that’s the direction the Flyers want to go to begin the year is yet to be seen, but it could be something to think about.
But Patrick’s destination this season is unknown. It’s either make the Flyers out of training camp or head back to the Western Hockey League and play for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is going to have to play his way onto the roster, showing that he can indeed skate at the level they know he can to show that he is truly 100 percent recovered from the hernia injury.
Hextall has himself a quandary on his hands heading into training camp, but the youngsters, especially Patrick, can make that decision an easy one. Patrick is out to prove that he can improve the team and it’s more than likely that he will.
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