How much of a rebuild the Flyers believe they have to make this summer in order to get back to playoff contention could hinge on how they view the progress of their budding prospects.
There were flashes of brilliance from early 20s hopefuls such as Cam York, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, Ronnie Attard, Owen Tippett and Bobby Brink.
When training camp opens in September, there promises to be a pretty heated competition for jobs, regardless of which coach happens to be running the show.
When Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher meets with the media at the Flyers Training Center on Tuesday morning, no doubt this will be a major topic of discussion.
After Saturday’s getaway day exit interviews, most of the aforementioned up-and-coming talents shared their own thoughts on where things stand after a month or two of games.
Cates, fresh out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, showed some real scoring skill when he was placed on a line with Frost and Tippett. He believes that stint will work in his favor come autumn.
“It (five goals/nine points in 16 games) was obviously big going into the summer, and next training camp, knowing what to expect and what the pace is like, and different things like,’’ Cates said. “What I was focused on was the pace of the game. Definitely didn’t think I was out of place, but I think I could improve this summer and get to playing a little faster. Be able to generate a little more.’’
Attard, a mainstay defenseman at Western Michigan, appeared to struggle in the early going but eventually found his groove and actually spent some time with No. 1 defenseman Ivan Provorov. After a rough minus-5 game at Washington he managed to finish at a respectable minus-2 for his 15-game tenure.
“It is going to be a competitive environment when September comes around,’’ Attard said, “so I am going to have to have a big summer and work on my strength and speed. Be ready to win a job next fall.’’
When paired with Provorov, Attard faced some of the NHL’s top offensive forwards.
“I think that helped me out a lot,’’ he said. “Just learning what to expect for next year playing against some of the best lines. I think that helped me take a step in my game knowing that I can defend some of these players. Just kept giving me more confidence.’’
York, a defenseman from the University of Michigan, also spent some time with Provorov. In that aforementioned Washington game, he suffered a foot injury which put him on the shelf for the rest of the season.
The coaches expressed satisfaction with York’s overall play. A big offseason of training should set him up well to compete for a third pairing on defense.
“It was a crazy year at times,’’ York said. “I think we’re all confident in my abilities and we all know what I can do. Just continuing to progress, have a big summer and do a lot of good things in June. Continue to progress and hopefully become a full-time NHL player, a shutdown defenseman and a guy that’s playing a lot of minutes and on the power play. I have high expectations. I always have and I’m going to continue to feel that way.’’
Tippett, a 23-year-old right wing who came over in the Claude Giroux trade with Florida, only produced four goals in 21 games but generated a lot of scoring chances.
The Peterborough, Ontario native sort of found his rhythm once he was inserted on the Frost-Cates line.
“I think I have been able to find a little bit of my game again; holding onto pucks and creating chances in the offensive zone,’’ Tippett said. “Overall, I like where my game is at leaving off and I am just excited to come back next year.’’
As for playing on the “Kid Line,’’ that too will help if it’s in place next season. There is some chemistry developing between Tippett and Frost.
“I think so,’’ Tippett said. “We played together the majority of the time since I was traded here. I think to have a guy like that where you know his game and you have seen him play growing up, it goes a long way. It makes it easier for chemistry to build when you know where guys are going to be and their style of play.”
Frost, 22, has been striving to make the roster since he was a first-round draft pick in 2017. This year he was shuttled a bit between the Phantoms and the Flyers but wound up playing 55 games with five goals and 16 points.
He looked particularly energized and comfortable the last week of the season. That should help his confidence moving into next season.
“I think it helped a lot, getting the opportunity to play that much,’’ the Aurora, Ontario native said. “I think towards the end of the year was probably where I was playing my best and starting to feel good. I’m happy with that and I think it’s a good building block going into next year.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo frequently gave Frost, who bounced back from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2020-21, good reviews after his playing time increased following the Giroux trade.
“I’m just kind of taking everything I’ve learned and all the experiences throughout the year. . obviously, work really hard in the summer and come training camp next year bring all those experiences,’’ Frost said. “Like I said, take everything I’ve learned and applied and from there just keep on getting better.’’