VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s safe to say the Flyers’ coaching staff has some challenging roster decisions to make before Monday’s 5 p.m. NHL deadline.
One may have already been made Wednesday when coach John Tortorella announced the two goaltenders dressing for his team’s season opener on Oct. 12 at Columbus are Carter Hart as number one and Samuel Ersson as No. 2.
That leaves Felix Sandstrom and Cal Petersen (who cleared waivers) as odd men out and likely to start the season for the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
There are still some choices to make at forward and defense.
Up front, rookie right wings Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster are still in town, as is defenseman Egor Zamula.
On the back line, both Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning already have been moved to the Phantoms.
They both had a good training camp, according to Tortorella.
Overall, the competition for jobs in training camp has been at or above expectations, Tortorella said.
The Brink and Foerster situation typifies that. Both have shown flashes of NHL talent.
“I’m just not sure where it will end up Monday,” Tortorella said after a morning workout at the Flyers Training Center. “You can ask me that question when we analyze things on Monday.”
Brink has been a pleasant surprise so far.
“Everyone has to believe in themselves,” Brink said. “To make the team you have to believe in yourself. You just have to put your best foot forward. I haven’t been told anything yet.”
He has played multiple years for Denver University as well as a year for the Phantoms (and 10 games for the Flyers), so the 22-year-old is not exactly a kid anymore.
“I think I’ve played well (in the preseason),” he said. “I think I’ve made a good showing. Ultimately the decision is not up to me where I play. My goal in the camp was to make the team. But it’s not my decision to make.”
Back in 2017, Travis Konecny was in a similar situation to that of Brink and Foerster. He was a first-round draft pick who made the NHL at the tender age of 19.
“I think they’ve done a great job up until this point. . .the first thing is, you have to get noticed,” Konecny said. “Be in the eye of the right people and make sure that you’re putting yourself in the right spot. I think they’ve done that to this point. And they’ve both played really, really well.
“You just have to look at it like you’re on the team, you belong here and treat it that way every day. Don’t overthink it. It’s too late to worry about it. Just keep competing.”
It’s been an interesting training camp, to say the least, starting with defense.
“I think it’s another year in the process for them,” Tortorella said. “It makes our decisions not only now but going forward more interesting at that position, defense.
“But in their process (Attard, Ginning) they need to go and play. Does that stop them from coming back here? No. You know that position, defense, is going to be looked at all year long. They’re in that equation for sure. I think we’re going to have a very good defense this year.”
The wild card in all this is veteran Marc Staal, signed during the offseason. It’s already been made pretty clear the 36-yearold won’t play every game; in fact, he could turn into a part-time player and serve as a mentor behind the scenes.
“We’ve already stated publicly we don’t want to have kids lose ice time,” Tortorella said. “Marc is going to be a mentor. I know he’s already grabbed a couple guys after practice and worked on some things with them.
“Marc’s going to play but that’s what I kind of have to referee. Is he getting in the way of the development of a guy? Those are things I can’t forecast, we’ll just see how it goes.”
Rookies Emil Andrae and Zamula are “expected to be on the opening night roster and if they are, will compete for playing time.
“He (Andrae) has some feistiness to him,” Tortorella said. “I thought he played well in spots in the exhibition games. He’s one of those guys that is going to play a role somewhere along the way.
“Right now we feel he (Andrae) and ‘Z’ (Zamula) will stay and we’ll see what happens. Some of the guys who went down, there were no negative conversations. I want to keep eight right now and then we’ll see how the season plays out.”
Zamula has done little to hurt his cause.
“He’s still inconsistent in certain areas,” Tortorella said. “But he’s hard to look (past) with all his reach, he sees the ice really well. But sometimes he’s too slow in making that play. I’m not sure if he’s looking for another play. I said to him, ‘if you see that play, let’s get going.’ Just the quickness of it, that’s the key at that position.”
It looks like Zamula, if he plays, could be paired with Travis Sanheim for the early part of the season.
Keep in mind, Zamula is no longer waiver-exempt.
“We just don’t want a practice player at that age (23),” Tortorella said. “Those are decisions management and coach have to talk about, where we think he’s going to be as far as minutes. Waivers play a part because you don’t want to lose your asset either.
“I believe in playing your kids. It’s part of the process where we’re at right now with our team. We need to know where these kids are and take some lumps with it along the way.”
Tortorella wouldn’t commit to a definite number of defensemen he will keep around for opening night.
As for the goaltending situation, Tortorella said the picture is rather clear.
“So ‘Hartsy’ is our guy and ‘Ers’ is backing him up,” the coach said. “That’s where we’re at. They’re one and two. We’ll see what happens from there.”