Philadelphia Flyers: Molding the Ideal Third Line

The Philadelphia Flyers are in a position similar to that of last offseason. The top two lines are seemingly set, give or take a forward on the second line. The uncertainty begins on the bottom-six. With the departures of Tyler Pitlick, Derek Grant, and Nate Thompson, the Flyers have a few holes to fill. Without addressing that need during free agency, it seems Chuck Fletcher is content with his internal options. Those options are young, inexperienced to an extent, and not yet proven at the NHL level. In a shortened season where every game matters, it’s going to be interesting to see how the bottom of the forward group looks entering game one.

The top line is a no-brainer. You have Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That’s all-but set in stone. Kevin Hayes will be centering the second line, and Travis Konecny will be on his one wing. The other wing is up for a debate to some extent. If Oskar Lindblom is back in shape like he was entering the 2019/20 season, that’s his spot to lose. If he isn’t and is forced to spend some time in the bottom six, it’s likely that James van Riemsdyk takes that spot. Unpopular, yes, but that’s just how it is.

For clarity’s sake, let’s say that Lindblom is ready to roll. That means your top-six consists of Couturier, Giroux, Voracek, Hayes, Konecny, and Lindblom. After that, there are a plethora of options to choose from for your bottom-six roles. The third line is in a big state of flux. There are so many uncertainties with this line, from performance to health. The perfect third line may not exist, but it’s at least worth discussing the optimal third line given the players remaining.

Nolan Patrick

Hello aforementioned uncertainty. It’s no secret that nobody really knows what is going on with Nolan Patrick. The latest updates say that Patrick is doing well, but everything leading up to those had been a mystery. With physicals less than a week away, we’ll find out whether Nolan Patrick is set to return or not. Until then, he’s likely our best option to center the third line for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Patrick has a ton of ability at his disposal. He’s shown glimpses of it when healthy. The problem is that he hasn’t been healthy for over a year. With a lack of preseason games and inability to have a conditioning stint before the NHL season begins, can Patrick hit the ground running? Logic will say no, but the article is titled “Molding the Ideal Philadelphia Flyers Third Line,” not the most logical. Ideally, Nolan Patrick is the third line center.

Patrick is averaging around 30 points per season in his two seasons played with the Flyers. He has yet to see a full season through, playing 73 games in 2017/18 and 72 games in 2018/19. If he continues along his trajectory, Patrick should be a 40-point player in the near future. Having that type of production on the third line would be a big help in terms of scoring depth. Having him play at all would be beneficial to the team’s overall center depth as well.

Joel Farabee

This one was difficult. While Farabee projects to be a top-six forward, he just isn’t there yet and that’s just fine. Lindblom is a little further along in his career. He also had a great start to his 2019/20 season before being diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma. Farabee can still be of some value on the third line. He can also gain more experience than if he were to be sent down to the AHL or demoted to the fourth line.

Putting Farabee on the same line with Patrick does come with some risk. Two young players, both not having an immense amount of experience in the NHL. It’s worth noting that it’s not the safest bet to have two players this young on the same line. However, their styles could certainly mix very well. Patrick is the playmaking center who could benefit from Farabee’s great shot and willingness to get into the dirty areas and knock the puck loose. Their third partner can more than make up for the lack of experience between the two.

Farabee needs to start somewhere. Inserting him into the top-six right away is a tough prospect. Considering he still has some issues to iron out, the third line is a safe bet. For one, Farabee can be a little reckless. His play against the Winnipeg Jets last season where he leveled Mathieu Perreault earned him a three game suspension. This play could have been easily avoided had Farabee shown a bit of restraint.

Rookie mistakes happen. If Farabee wants to move up the lineup however, he’s going to have to cut down on them and show some refrain.

James van Riemsdyk

Before you disregard the rest of this article, understand this: van Riemsdyk will be in the Philadelphia Flyers lineup. Chuck Fletcher is paying him seven million dollars, so he’s going to be in the lineup. With that being said, there’s reason to be optimistic with him being on a line with Farabee and Patrick.

For starters, JvR’s 6’3”, 217 pound frame should be parked in front of the net looking for rebounds and tip-ins. That’s what he does best. Having Nolan Patrick and Farabee patroling the rest of the offensive zone should suffice. Those two can get the puck to the net well enough to get JvR the opportunity at some greasy goals in the crease. His big frame is enough to screen opposing goaltenders, allowing Patrick and Farabee to fire from anywhere they please.

Secondly, he brings the experience that this line otherwise lacks. Farabee and Patrick have a combined three seasons of experience, and none of those were full seasons. JvR has played 11 seasons and knows his way around the ice. What Patrick and Farabee don’t know, JvR can teach them. He may have lost his touch a bit, but he’s still one of the smartest guys out on the ice. That experience is invaluable when it comes to showing the younger players how to get along.

Why Not “Insert Name Here?

Scott Laughton? He plays better on the wing, and doesn’t present nearly the experience that JvR does on a line with two younger forwards. He ends up a victim of the numbers game, and on the fourth line.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel? While intriguing, he is better suited for the fourth line if we want the third line to be dangerous in terms of scoring. Not that he can’t score, but he has that edge to his game that is best suited for the bottom line.

Tanner Laczynski? Many have floated his name out there as an option at 3C. While intriguing, it just doesn’t make sense, especially is Nolan Patrick is healthy. Even if Patrick isn’t healthy, there’s another name better suited for 3C, and that is…

Morgan Frost? Frost should likely be the third line center is Patrick is not cleared to play. His time is coming. The position is Patrick’s to lose, but Frost could do himself some favors by having a strong camp and making the decision incredibly difficult for Alain Vigneault. That, and he also has the benefit of playing hockey within the past year.

German Rubtsov, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, or Andy Andreoff? Don’t make me laugh…

Ideally, your third line has Nolan Patrick centering Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk. With what the Philadelphia Flyers have currently, that’s the best they’re going to get when they’re all at their best. It’s a good mix of skill, speed, and scoring prowess. The line isn’t meant to score four goals a night, but they’re all capable of holding their own.

Photo Credit – Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

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