With the prospect of a shortened 2020-21 NHL season seeming more and more likely, the Philadelphia Flyers enter crunch time with some unanswered questions. One of the main areas in question is the bottom six. One can easily get lost in all of the possible third and fourth line combinations. While there are NHLers available to fill these spots, there are also some intriguing prospect options to explore.
Let’s dive into the six prospects that should contend for a place on either the third or fourth line. Some may provide more of an impact than others. Still, all of them will have their work cut out if they look to make the team.
If Nolan Patrick cannot play to start the season, Morgan Frost becomes one of the more likely candidates to fill the 3C role. Frost needs to become a fixture on Philadelphia’s roster, and centering the third line seems like the perfect fit for the 2017 first-rounder. It also allows the Flyers to see if they can comfortably move on from Patrick if need be.
The reality is that whether it be at the center position or on the wing, line-three is the only real place for Frost this season. Philadelphia is not demoting their current top-six talent to slide Frost there. Simultaneously, he is not made for the fourth line and should not be utilized in that capacity.
Wade Allison is an interesting case because health plays such a big factor with him. While at Western Michigan, Allison battled with numerous injuries. Of course, questions surrounding his durability will stick around until they become a non-issue. However, if Allison remains healthy, he becomes a solid fourth-line option this season that provides some scoring capabilities. Additionally, the potential exists to fill a middle-six spot on the wing for short spurts if need be.
In 21 games last season, Connor Bunnaman served as a serviceable fourth-line option for the Flyers. He can play both center or the wing and isn’t a defensive liability. The issue with a player like Bunnaman is that he very much falls into the “what you see is what you get” category. The ceiling offensively is low, and he is much more of a filler if nothing else more intriguing is available. That being said, in a shortened season, the Flyers might not have the luxury to take a chance on an intriguing yet unknown option. For that reason, a player such as Bunnaman might find himself on the fourth line.
Speaking of “intriguing yet unknown,” newly signed Tanner Laczynski may prove to be a very enticing fourth-line center option. He’s physical, defensively responsible, and has a little offensive spark. It’s challenging to determine if the scoring will translate to the professional ranks, but Laczynski led all Ohio State players in points last season. Additionally, pitching in on the penalty is a strong possibility. Again, Laczynski and Allison’s problem is you’re not sure what their first experience at the pro level is going to look like. A shortened schedule proves little room for error.
German Rubtsov is a bit of an anomaly at this point in his development. Being a former first-round pick, we constantly demand something from him he continuously fails to provide. We are at the point where it is challenging to picture him as anything more than a fourth-line option. His defensive game will be enough for that role, but there is so much more to be desired offensively. In a short four-game stint last season, Rubtsov failed to make an impression in his limited ice-= time. He’s less of a certainty than some such as Bunnaman and doesn’t necessarily come with the intrigue that Laczynski and Allison provide.
Carsen Twarynski fits a similar mold to Bunnaman. He is a solid-enough option for the fourth line with minimal upside to be more. That is not necessarily bad as Philadelphia will look for him to fill that role and nothing more. Again, Philadelphia goes the prospect route and chooses a safe option; a player such as Twarynski makes sense.
If Philadelphia wants to address their bottom-six holes with a prospect, they have options. Unfortunately, only one, Morgan Frost, makes sense on the third line. The rest make for interesting options on the fourth line. With Twarynski and Bunnaman, Philadelphia possesses players familiar with the role that should hold it down well enough. With Allison and Laczynski, questions are surrounding whether they will be ready to jump directly to the NHL. Still, both players provide a bit more offensive potential. No matter which way Philadelphia chooses to go, expect each of these prospects to make some noise and battle for a bottom-six spot during training camp.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire