The Philadelphia Flyers kicked off training camp Monday morning. The rosters had been announced prior, and the players were split into two groups. In those groups, there was a noticeable “A” squad and a “B” squad.
The biggest news coming out of training camp was that Nolan Patrick had passed his physical, therefore being cleared for contact. It’s been a long time coming, but the former second overall pick is back and (hopefully) ready to go for when the season kicks off on January 13th. With Patrick in tow, the Flyers now have a plethora of options for their third line center position.
The main battle to watch during training camp will be between Morgan Frost and Nolan Patrick. One of those two will likely be the third line center to start the year. All signs point towards Nolan Patrick, but Morgan Frost having a solid camp could further complicate the decision. There is of course the option of both of them having a less-than-stellar camp. If that were to happen, it seems like the default answer is to stick with Patrick. However, what happens if both players impress during camp? Morgan Frost having a good camp certainly complicates things, but how much would the lineup change if that were the case?
Morgan Frost as 3C
If both players have good camps, the likely outcome is that Morgan Frost assumes the third line center duties. Frost has a skillset that doesn’t necessarily suit the fourth line. Hell, it doesn’t really suit a fourth line role at all. Frost isn’t the typical grinder that you would see on the fourth line. His game is about speed and skill, and skill isn’t the strong suit for a fourth line player, typically.
Putting Frost on the third line also guarantees better wingers, and a better opportunity at developing quicker and more efficiently. While the bottom six has a ton of options when it comes to their wing positions, a combination of either James van Riemsdyk, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, or Joel Farabee will flank Frost on that third line. Any two of those four players would make solid complementary pieces to Frost, and JvR’s experience would be a welcome addition as well.
Frost may start the year as the 3C. That’s a realistic scenario for the Flyers. However, it remains up to him whether or not he stays at 3C, or if he gets yanked like last season. If he plays like he did in the first few games of his first NHL stint last season, Frost will likely stick around. If he fades out a bit like he did in the last few games of his first NHL stint, we could see Frost being a scratch as the season rolls along.
Nolan Patrick as 4C, Temporarily
This may be the unpopular opinion, but it makes sense. As discussed in another piece, the AHL returns almost a month after the NHL. There’s no chance for Nolan Patrick to have a conditioning stint like most would after being off for so long. With that being said, a stint on the fourth line could substitute for a conditioning stint in the AHL.
Nolan Patrick very well could start the season on the fourth line, but it would likely be temporary. The 3C spot is his to lose, but first he needs to be up to game speed. If all goes according to plan, Patrick will be ready to make the jump within the first month of games. If not, and Frost is holding down the fort on the third line, no harm no foul right?
His linemates may not be the same caliber as Frost’s, but there’s still a lot of skill involved. You have the potential for Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, and/or Nicolas Aube-Kubel to flank Patrick on the fourth line. If that’s the case, the whole third line, fourth line roles could be redefined. The Flyers could deploy both lines somewhat equally, lessening the burden on the top two lines to play an exorbitant amount of minutes. If Patrick isn’t ready, you may as well do what you can to make the best of the situation.
There’s a very real possibility that both Nolan Patrick and Morgan Frost impress during Flyers training camp. Whether that translates to the regular season remains to be seen. However, it could be a good indicator that the Flyers have more depth than they initially thought. The luxury of having two quality centers capable of playing on the third line is a luxury most teams would salivate over. The fact that one of them may end up centering the fourth line, temporarily albeit, is even more mouth watering. It’s a problem most teams would love to have, and one that the Flyers should find easy to navigate if it happens.
Photo Credit – Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire & Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire