The NHL offseason is quickly coming to an end. The regular season begins on October 14th when the Flyers face the LA Kings. Coming off a successful season, the Flyers made a few additions to the organization that should help with depth. What the Flyers did over the offseason was set the stage for an organization-wide competition. A competition to determine who makes the Flyers regular roster and possibly which young guys make themselves known as NHL ready players.
Before you read about the bottom six, make sure you check out the predictions for the top six.
The bottom six players on the roster are arguably just as important as the top six. It’s depth. A team rolling out two effective lines and two lines full of grinders probably won’t do very well in the long run. It’s obvious that Dave Hakstol puts as much responsibility on his bottom six as he does the top two lines. The biggest competition through the Flyers pre-season will be for who fills in the bottom six spots this season.
The 3rd and 4th lines may be the hardest to predict, especially with so many offseason additions and NHL ready prospects.
Dale Weise – Nick Cousins – Matt Read
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Boyd Gordon – Chris VandeVelde
Extras: Scott Laughton
These lines could be changed throughout the season, or even as early as training camp.
Weise is one of the newest additions to this roster after signing a 4-year deal worth a total of 9.4 million dollars. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, Weise was a member of the Montreal Canadiens, where he was known as a gritty bottom-six guy who can use his size and speed to make an impact in front of the net. After 56 games last season for Montreal, Weise managed to net 14 goals and add 12 assists. After being dealt to the Blackhawks at the deadline, Weise only managed 1 point in 15 games. Weise played in 4 playoff games with the Blackhawks, but was not content with the minutes he was getting.
“I played like five minutes a night,” Weise said. “It’s pretty tough to do anything when you play so little. It was a new experience for me.”
As an expected replacement for Ryan White, Weise has more of a skill set that Hakstol can utilize. With his speed, physicality, and aggression, Weise is a great addition that could play on any unit for this offense. Weise is already excited for the upcoming season and is excited to get a more consistent role with the Flyers.
— Dale Weise (@daleweise22) July 20, 2016
Cousins was drafted by the Flyers in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft. In 2014, Cousins had a minor 11 game stint with the club but wasn’t given a lot of ice time, which resulted in him not being able to produce any points. After being sent down to the Phantoms later that season, Cousins managed 56 points in 64 games. In 2015, Cousins was called up again after 38 games with the Phantoms. In 36 games with the Flyers during the 2015-2016 season, Cousins was only able to manage 11 points. With steady linemates and more regular playing time, Cousins could do a lot more.
For a while, the third line was a revolving door with players being moved. Vinny Lecavalier was traded after spending stretches of games in the press box. Inconsistency from R.J Umberger and anyone who played on his line lead to a bit of experimentation. Cousins forechecking doesn’t get as much attention as it should, but one thing is for sure, this kid can score on breakaways and loves being a part of the big moments in any game. Hopefully, Cousins can produce better numbers with increased minutes and a consistent line. I expect Cousins to get between 11-20 goals this season if playing close to 82 games.
Read is about to enter his 6th season as a Flyer. With this age (30) and cap hit of 3.62M, Read needs to be able to find more ways to contribute. In 79 games last season, Read produced 11 goals and 15 assists. Read has shown flashes of skill and scoring ability, but like Brayden Schenn, inconsistency has been a big issue. There will be a few games where he looks great, and then he will follow it up a stretch of forgettable games. In the last two seasons, Read has played 159 games and has only found the net 19 times. Read is expected to be a source of secondary scoring, with his recent record, Read may have to compete pretty hard to keep his spot on this roster.
Bellemare is a depth positional player that may not put up the points but does a lot for the team in other ways. In his 2015 campaign, Bellemare managed 14 points in 74 games on the 4th line. However, Bellemare’s value comes from his posession ability and defensive play. Bellemare is quick and plays with a lot of grit. He is a smart defensive player that accumulates a lot of minutes against top lines in closing moments of a game. Bellemare is also very effective on the penalty kill because of his defensive awareness and ability to control the puck in heavy traffic areas. Hakstol loves his 4th line, and Bellemare is a depth player for this defensive system.
Gordon is another recent Summer signing by Ron Hextall. The 32-year-oldar old center most recently played with the Arizona Coyotes. In 65 games last season, Gordon only managed 4 points. Gordon was not signed to this team to a goal scoring difference maker. Gordon was signed because he is a perfect depth signing that will free up some of our top offensive players. Gordon is great with face-off’s and a is superb penalty killer which means Claude Giroux shouldn’t have to worry as much about his defensive game. Instead, Gordon will take on competetion that Umberger or Gagner or Lecavalier couldn’t so that the top lines can focus more on scoring.
If Boyd Gordon takes 5 dzone faceoffs a game away from Giroux and Cooter this is huge. 10 more combined Ozone faceoffs from 28/14 yes please
— Big Sammy (@BroadStBullshit) September 2, 2016
VandeVelde was only able to score 2 goals and add 12 assists in 79 games played last season. Although expectations may never be high for VandeVelde, he plays on a vital line for this Flyers team. Since the 4th line plays such critical minutes in this system, VandeVelde needs to get stronger on both ends of the ice. VandeVelde will need to work on his consistency, or he may find himself victim to sitting a couple of games since the Flyers have an abundance of forwards that could possibly take his spot.
VandeVelde’s spot is up for grabs too. He hasn’t done much to prove he should be in this lineup and there are a number of AHL players who should get a chance. The only reason VandeVelde starts on the 4th line is because of veteran status and a bit of University of North Dakota favoritism.
Laughton was another victim of the offensive revolving door, with inconsistent minutes and linemates. In 71 games last season, Laughton managed 21 points, only netting 7 goals. As an extra, I simply mean that with the abundance of forwards, Laughton will most likely be flipped around the lineup this year depending on play from players such as Cousins, Read, and Raffl. Laughton is a gritty forechecker who can make his way to the net, and with his deadly shot, we should see an increase in production, if he gets a steady spot.
Lyubimov is a veteran forward of the KHL who was recently signed by Hextall this off-season. Recently playing with CSKA Moskva, Lyubimov managed to put up 14 points in 52 games, but what’s impressive was his 8 points in 10 games for Russia’s World championship team. In his junior years, Lyubimov totaled 110 points in 138 games. Depending on his performance in training camp, he may have a shot at getting in the lineup. Could be a serious candidate to replace VandeVelde on the 4th line.
Besides Provorov, Konecny is the most anticipated prospect in the organization. In the beginning of his 2015 season with the Ottawa 67’s, Konecny put up 45 points in 29 games. He was then traded to the Sarnia Sting where he scored 56 points in 31 games. Konecny will have to prove his worth in training camp to make this team. If he doesn’t make the team, he will be sent back down to juniors, there’s no dropping to the AHL this season. With Hextall’s philosophy of patience, I would not be surprised to see him in juniors for another season, although fans would love to see him make the final roster.
Conclusion: Hopefully the Flyers have finally put an end to the revolving bottom six. With the number of talented forwards, though, this could be another season of trying to find chemistry among the bottom six. If Travis Konecny forces his way into the lineup, he could ruin this whole prediction in the most exciting way.
editors note: I also think Jordan Weal could make it somewhere in this bottom six but not a lot of people seem to agree.
Next up: We predict the defensive line-up/pairings!
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