Hardly anyone was expecting this year’s freshman class to produce a Travis Konecny or an Ivan Provorov, two players who made an instant impact at age 19 four seasons back.
That said, the Flyers were hoping a Joel Farabee, a Morgan Frost or perhaps a Mikhail Vorobyev might exceed pre-season expectations.
Farabee, 19; Frost, 20, and Vorobyev, who turned 23 early this month, have all had their moments.
But none of their performances are going to really help fill the void left by the loss of Oskar Lindblom (fighting bone cancer) and Nolan Patrick (chronic migraine headache condition).
Which leaves the Flyers a bit handcuffed, because they are pretty much up against the salary cap as the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches.
In last Tuesday’s press briefing, general manager Chuck Fletcher acknowledged that all three aforementioned players still have work to do to become NHL regulars.
On the other side of that coin, the play of two other less heralded youngsters – Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Connor Bunnaman – has been a bit of a revelation.
Granted, Aube-Kubel is 23 and Bunnaman is 22, so they’re a little farther along development-wise.
Still, it bears watching whether Farabee, currently with the Flyers, along with Vorobyev and Frost (both back with the Phantoms) will continue to improve.
When he initially was called up from the Phantoms, Frost started off like a house on fire, scoring goals in his first two games. But things quickly leveled off from there.
He eventually went back to Allentown but played well enough to be named to the AHL All-Star Game.
Fletcher gives the impression Frost could be back with the Flyers this year. In all, the Flyers have brought up 10 players who weren’t on their opening night roster, some of them for multiple visits.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re calling up the right players in terms of how they’re playing,’’ Fletcher said.
If Frost keeps making progress, maybe he’s back.
“I think at some point, if he’s the best player he deserves to be here,’’ Fletcher said. “He’ll be here. We have been trying to balance out long-term development versus short-term help for the Flyers and, and, I guess there’s been a lot of juggling.’’
To be fair, both Fletcher and coach Alain Vigneault made it clear in training camp that there would be a “Phantoms Shuffle’’ in the early part of the season.
“I think the players have handled it OK, but at some point certainly yeah that’s something where we’ll have to put our best team out there and whoever’s playing well. . .and I think Morgan, I think he’s had six games since he’s been back.
“The first weekend was a little up and down, a little too high-risk I think for what we like and then this past week it was better and he made a tremendous play on the winning goal the other night and that’s something he can build off of. He hasn’t had a lot of offensive numbers lately so hopefully over the next couple weeks he continues to grow and build that and feel good about his game. You love bringing kids up and they feel good about their game, when they’re in a good spot.’’
Vorobyev is the real mystery man.
He plays out of his mind when he suits up for the Phantoms but then has a bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look in a Flyers uniform.
He has 18 points in 24 games at Allentown, but just three points in 20 games with the Flyers. For his NHL career: Three goals in 35 games.
“The best forward down there by far this year has been Vorobyev,’’ Fletcher said. “Not even close. When he’s down there, he’s a star every game. He was a star again this weekend. That’s why we’ve given him 20 games. He keeps earning it.’’