Roster spots up for grabs and more in 3 observations on Flyers camp


VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers are a week into training camp and one game into their preseason schedule.

With each day and game, the club's 2021-22 season-opening roster takes greater shape.

Which players are vying for final spots?

Let's get into that and more in our latest three observations Wednesday from camp.

The extras on defense

It's likely the Flyers' seventh defenseman spot will boil down to Nick Seeler and Adam Clendening. Egor Zamula or Cam York, two of the Flyers' top defensive prospects, would have to completely knock the door down and force the Flyers' hand. In other words, they'd have to force their way into the lineup. Wyatte Wylie is also in the mix, but similar to Zamula and York, the 21-year-old has little pro experience (21 games).

The Flyers will want their young prospects playing — not sitting as extras — to start the season, especially with the challenges in player development over the last year and a half because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Flyers also have a new coaching staff down at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, led by first-year head coach Ian Laperriere. Having their top prospects play key parts in setting a new culture with the Phantoms will be important to the Flyers.

The big club's six defensemen are pretty much set for opening night on Oct. 15, barring something totally unforeseen happening.

"Cam York or Z, for example, if they're not in on a regular basis, well, you'd rather have those guys play on a regular basis," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday. "What does that mean? It means we have six exhibition games, we're going to take a good look at how the guys are doing."

The 28-year-old Seeler was drafted in 2011 by Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when the two were with the Wild. Seeler, who has 105 games of NHL experience, played in the Flyers' preseason-opening, 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night. The 28-year-old had three blocked shots and a plus-1 rating in 17:10 minutes.

“I saw a lot of fight and a lot of bite," Vigneault said postgame Tuesday night. "He comes to play. When he doesn't have the puck, he fights hard to get it. He blocked quite a few shots tonight. For me, getting a first impression of seeing him in a game, I liked what I saw.”

Clendening and York will make their preseason debuts Thursday night against the Bruins at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET/TNT), while Seeler will also be in the lineup for his second game.

Clendening, who turns 29 years old next month, played a career-high 31 games for Vigneault's 2016-17 Rangers.

York, the Flyers' 2019 first-round pick, has a chance to prove he'll be ready when called upon. The same goes for Zamula, who scored a goal Tuesday night. York scored a goal in his rookie game and also in the intrasquad scrimmage last Sunday.

More: Another injury to a Flyers prospect, roster evaluation continues vs. Bruins

"Cam's been good," Vigneault said. "I liked Cam at rookie camp. He's going to get an opportunity to come in, play some games and show us what he can do. With Sam Morin — who we had basically penciled in as a seventh or eighth defenseman — not being here, there are some possibilities on defense and we'll see what happens here moving forward."

The extras at forward

With injuries to second-line center Kevin Hayes and roster candidates Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski, Connor Bunnaman is in the driver's seat to grab the Flyers' 13th forward spot to begin the season.

The 23 year-old provides good size and positional versatility, given he can play the wing if needed. Vigneault trusts Bunnaman, who won a role in the club's 2019-20 season-opening lineup. He has logged 39 games over the past two seasons and played four games in the 2020 playoffs.

Morgan Frost is looking to solidify his lineup spot at center in Hayes' absence. He'll make his preseason debut Thursday night and will try to fend off the rest vying for a lineup spot.

Other names to keep an eye on as the exhibition games continue: German Rubtsov, Jackson Cates, Linus Sandin, Maksim Sushko and Isaac Ratcliffe.

Given the Flyers' tight cap situation in a flat-cap world, they may carry only one extra player at forward and on defense to start the season. We'll see how things shake out with long-term injured reserve statuses.

'He's caught my attention'

Speaking of forwards aiming to climb the organizational depth chart, 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster could be climbing faster than many anticipated. He has impressed since development camp.

The shoot-first winger will play his second preseason game Thursday night. The 19-year-old's preseason debut Tuesday night was on the quieter side, but one would think he'll feel more comfortable in Game 2. The Flyers are giving him a good look. The Phantoms are his most likely landing spot.

"Any young player that comes to camp has got to get our attention, right?" Vigneault said. "If you want to make this team, you've got to go out and play to your strengths and play to your abilities. In Tyson's case, I'm looking at from what I saw last year at Christmas during that short little time when we were preparing for the season, and what I'm seeing now and what I saw at rookie camp, and I see definite strides the right way. There's definitely solid improvement on his part.

"I'm looking at the other guys and obviously everybody in the first two games is basically getting an opportunity to get in. But I want to see him again. He's caught my attention, he's caught my coaches' attention, so we'll see what he can do here moving forward."

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