With the official start date announced for the NHL 2020-2021 season, the Philadelphia Flyers have a looming roster spot that is still to be determined by the coaching staff. The roster spot that has been a hot topic during the off season, is that third centerman position. There are many considerations as to whom could take over that spot for the orange and black this season, and this piece is going to unravel the expected, and even the unexpected players that could fill that hole. Names such as Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost and even our beloved captain Claude Giroux. The front runner for the third center position is Nolan Patrick, who was slated to take that spot last season until a migraine disorder sidelined him for the season.
Chuck Fletcher traded for the rights of Kevin Hayes prior to the start of last season to bring in another seasoned veteran center in order to mentor the younger players on the forward roster. One of those young players was going to be Nolan Patrick, who was expected to start his sophomore season as the third centerman and learn what it takes to be an NHL center. The sophomore season never even began. Patrick was diagnosed with a migraine disorder and was sidelined. The disorder didn’t allow him to take part in training camp or play in any preseason games.
Throughout the 2019-2020 season, updates on Patrick’s status were very vague and kept on a need-to-know basis throughout the Flyers organization. The COVID-19 shutdown and the 2020 off season showed some glimmer of hope for Flyers fans and Patrick sympathizers. It was released that Nolan Patrick took part in a scrimmage in early October and to many, it proved to be a step in the right direction. Although it isn’t a real hockey game with little to no contact, it was a relieving feeling for Flyers fans that the young centerman was back on the ice playing the game he loved. Does this scrimmage and his limited skates mean that he is ready to come back full time for the Flyers?
If the answer to that question is yes, fans can expect Alain Vigneault to slot the 22 year-old forward on the third line. At this point in his career, Patrick hasn’t seen much ice time in the NHL. He is still learning the ropes on what it takes to be a productive and effective centerman. Losing a year due to an unfortunate injury now has him playing catch-up to the rest of the league and players of his caliber. With much to learn, expect Patrick to be mentored by the likes of Kevin Hayes and Sean Couturier. Both players have become seasoned vets and could bring a lot to the table if Patrick becomes healthy enough to play this upcoming season.
A player that could end up flanking Nolan Patrick, if healthy, could be Scott Laughton. But what if Patrick isn’t cleared to play and hasn’t gotten a hold of the migraines? Could Laughton instead replace Patrick as a centerman on the third line? Laughton has become such a dynamic player that Alain Vigneault could absolutely depend on him playing the nitty-gritty minutes on the third line. Last season, fans never knew where Laughton was going to be in the lineup due to his productivity wherever he was slotted.
Laughton would be a great addition to a third line as a center due to his defensive prowess and offensive ability when paired with the right linemates. When you need a big hit to change the atmosphere of the game, Laughton can be your man. If you need a big goal to turn the tide of the game, Laughton can be your man. The Swiss Army knife of the Flyers, Laughton has become a player that fans are confident in having on the ice in big situations. Having Laughton on the third line could give the top line players a rest while he eats up some necessary ice time.
With Laughton being more of a lock flanking on the wing on the third and center line, there are other options that Vigneault and company could consider when it comes to the third line center conundrum. Let’s stay with the consistency of the big club and visit an unlikely player that could also take over this role. Make sure you are buckled into your seat when reading this, but it makes sense if AV decides to go that route. This player started off on the third line and has become a player that no one would expect on the third line at this point in his career.
Captain. Claude. Giroux. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, call it crazy, but Giroux could be the type of player to easily fill a missing centerman position. We have all seen Giroux play as a center back in the days when he had Hartnell and Jagr flanking him on the wings (oh, the good old days.) Although Giroux is a natural right winger, he is a talented and crafty centerman when he is called upon. Does anybody remember when he turned his stick over when taking an off hand draw? How many players have you seen do that?
Captain Claude is expected to once again be on the first line with Couturier and Voracek, but would it make sense to slot him on the third line if Nolan Patrick isn’t healthy? Flyers fans should want a center on the third line that brings experience and grittiness, which Giroux has brought to this city for the past twelve years. One could argue that it would be a waste of talent for the Flyers to put Claude on the third line, but just like Laughton, he could help eat up beneficial minutes for the first and second line guys.
Hopefully, we haven’t overreacted at the fact that Giroux could be in the running to be a third line centerman, but there is another option that the coaching staff could visit if Nolan Patrick isn’t ready yet. This player, played a small stint with Claude Giroux and plays with a similar style, could be a viable option for Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault. Morgan Frost gave Flyers fans and the NHL just a small show of what he is able to bring to the table.
Frost was given an opportunity last season to slate in on the first line, centering Claude Giroux and Travis Konency. Later on he had centered a line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick. He only played 20 games last season, but he gave fans a glimpse of promise by collecting 2 goals and 5 assists. Playing third line minutes this season would give Morgan Frost much needed NHL experience, especially with the uncertainty of an AHL season ever beginning.
With much to learn about the big leagues of the AHL and NHL, Frost could really benefit slotting in as the third line center. Frost was successful in his junior playing days, and is still adjusting to the faster and more physical play of the NHL. Filling in for an unhealthy Patrick would help Frost learn the responsibilities of becoming a more responsible center, much like Patrick is supposed to be working on this season.
As Flyers fans can see, Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault have plenty of options when it comes to who they could replace Patrick with in case he is not cleared for contact or still unable to play this season. Scott Laughton would be the most ideal, bringing the nitty-gritty play that a third line center usually encapsulates. Claude Giroux, the skilled and impressive veteran that would be a safe spot for the bench boss and general manager. Then Morgan Frost, who could gain the necessary experience of being a third line centerman with the uncertainty of an AHL season.
If Nolan Patrick proves that he is ready to play and is cleared for contact, the third line center spot is his to lose come training camp. Keep a lookout for this upcoming week as players begin to arrive to their respective cities to begin training camp. If Patrick is able to train with the rest of the team and prove to the coaches that he is ready to play, this upcoming season is going to be enjoyable.
Photo Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire