NEW YORK – Thirty-nine NHL games one year do not guarantee a free pass the following season.
Taylor Leier is finding this out the hard way in the Flyers’ current training camp.
Leier, who played in Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over the Islanders at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, would appear to be in a dogfight for a job.
General manager Ron Hextall said as much before the game.
“I think he’s been OK,’’ Hextall said. “I don’t think he’s done anything to hurt himself. But I’m not sure he’s done anything to stamp it (a place on the team).’’
There’s plenty of competition for jobs on the third and fourth lines. Figure Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal, Michael Raffl are givens, and then there are Oskar Lindblom, Jori Lehtera, Scott Laughton, Dale Weise and new hotshot Mikhail Vorobyev.
“We’ve got some hard decisions to make,’’ Hextall said. “Which is a good thing. Taylor is a good player, we know that. He’s got to show us something in those last few games, which a number of guys do.’’
Leier, 24, would have to clear waivers in order to be sent down to the Phantoms.
Asked if he feels confident he can earn a spot, Leier replied: “Absolutely. I think confidence is the key for me to play at my best. My mindset doesn’t change, whether I play a full year like last year – I was up and down two years ago. Usually my mindset is pretty much the same.’’
Leier’s speed makes him a valuable penalty killer but his work last year on the PK was, like most of the team, not all that distinguished.
“There are no guarantees, maybe a couple exceptions like Jake (Voracek) and ‘G’ (Claude Giroux),’’ Leier said. “Spots aren’t guaranteed for anybody, really. I’m excited for the challenge. I think it’s good that we have a competitive group here.
“That makes for a good team. When the roster gets decided, it’ll be a competitive group.’’
Leier said he added seven pounds over the summer while maintaining a strong fitness level. He’s at 184 now and says this is the first time he’s been over 180.
Coach Dave Hakstol liked what he saw from Leier in this game.
“I thought he fought hard tonight,’’ Hakstol said. “I thought he was noticeable. There wasn’t a lot of PK time but he did a good job in that role. I thought he played a hell of a game tonight.’’
Leier dove in front of a shot at the end of the second period and needed a moment to get up. But he was back out on the ice for the first shift in the third period.
“I think you saw that (sacrifice) in every part of his game,’’ Hakstol said. “There was a physicality to his game, he had a real purpose.’’
Flyers goaltender Alex Lyon was scheduled to start but apparently suffered a lower-body injury in the warmup session, which forced Anthony Stolarz to play the whole game.
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a goal by James de Haas at 13:24 of the first. David Quenneville (cousin of Chicago Blackhawk coach Joel Quenneville) tied the score in the second, but the Flyers then ripped off four straight goals from Carsen Twarynski, Phil Varone, Danick Martel and Jori Lehtera.
The Flyers play their fourth game in as many days on Wednesday when they visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They have a complete day off on Thursday. . .Hextall said he will separate the Flyers and Phantoms roster on Thursday prior to Friday night’s game against the Islanders at the PPL Center. . .Hextall on Laughton, who has been playing at wing as opposed to center: “He’s been really good. His competitiveness, his speed, his shot, his tenacity. He looks very hungry. It shouldn’t hurt him if he goes to the middle. He can always go back to wing. Very good player.’’