The Taxi Squad Options for the Philadelphia Flyers

With the emergence of a shortened season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are also different rules and regulations that go along with it. One of the newest rules of this upcoming season is the emergence of the “Taxi Squad”. The taxi squad will serve as a way for teams to call up players much more quickly and easily without them having to travel to catch up with the team. 

Each team will have a squad of four to six players that will travel and practice with the rest of the team. Here are all of the details about the taxi squad:

After reading all of the details in regards to the taxi squad, how will these rules apply to the Flyers current squad? Now that we know who all is participating in training camp, we can take a look at who the Flyers would benefit from having on the taxi squad. The hard hitter of the taxi squad is that all teams must carry a goaltender as one of the players unless they have three goalies on the active roster. Let’s take a look at the goalies other than Carter Hart and Brian Elliott that are attending camp.

Goalies

Of the five attending netminders, three of them will be fighting to secure a spot on the taxi squad. We have Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom, and Roddy Ross. Out of those three goaltenders, Alex Lyon is the only one that has been to the NHL stage and played games. Sandstrom played with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year and Roddy Ross, who has been playing in the WHL, hasn’t cracked the professional hockey stage quite yet.

Out of the trio, Lyon, Sandstrom and Ross, the netminder to put on the taxi squad that makes the most sense would be Lyon. He has the most experience playing in the NHL/AHL and has been readily available whenever an NHL starting goaltender gets injured. In 16 games played, he has posted a 5-4-1 record with a .893 save percentage and 3.15 goals against average. Not the greatest stats for an NHL netminder, but to have a player like Lyon on the taxi squad makes sense. 

The goaltender position on the taxi squad is obviously an easy choice, but what will Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers do with the remaining four or five spots? Well, take a look at the rest of the training camp roster and let’s first dive into the forwards who would make the most sense to be put on the taxi squad (for all intents and purposes, NHL caliber players are taken out of this list) :

Forwards (8)

Wade Allison (RW), Andy Andreoff (C/LW), Connor Bunnaman (C), Tyson Foerster (RW), Tanner Laczynski (C), Linus Sandin (RW), Carsen Twarynski (LW), Zayde Wisdom (LW).

Put yourself in Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault’s shoes. What forwards would you want to travel with the team during a shortened season? Zayde Wisdom and Tyson Foerster were just drafted in the 2020 Entry Draft. They would be better suited playing for their respective junior teams, so they won’t risk the chance of possibly not seeing any game time this year. If their junior teams aren’t having seasons, it would make more sense for them to play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms where they can keep developing their game. 

Three players that Flyers fans aren’t as familiar with would be Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, and Linus Sandin. Allison and Laczynski, both 2016 draft picks, have spent the past four years in the NCAA. Sandin on the other hand was just signed to an Entry Level Contract last April while the season was on pause. All three players are ready to make the jump to the next level of professional hockey in the NHL, but the Flyers have more experienced players that would benefit the team’s depth this season.

Between Andreoff, Bunnaman and Twarynski, these three players have a combined 50 games played and four points – note that these statistics are based solely on their time with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bunnaman and Twarynski saw some playing time early last season when the club was riddled with injuries. Andreoff has the most experience of the three with 173 NHL games under his belt between the Los Angeles Kings and the Flyers.  These players are great fill-ins on the third or fourth lines if any of the starting lineup ends up getting hurt.

Fletcher and Vigneault would be making the right choice by adding the likes of Andreoff, Bunnaman or Twarynski to the taxi squad. In fact, don’t be surprised if all three are put on it. They would all make great additions to the lineup when needed and they would easily clear waivers. They also wouldn’t be wasting any of their talent while being on the practice squad due to them still getting practice time with the rest of the Flyers. Hence why it wouldn’t make sense for Wisdom, Foerster, Allison, Laczynski or Sandin where they could still develop their game playing for their other teams or leagues. Let’s move on to the blueline, shall we?

Once again, for all intents and purposes, I took out the NHL caliber players that wouldn’t be put on the taxi squad. Take a look at the names below and dive into who would make sense for the Flyers to put on their taxi squad :

Defense (7)

Chris Bigras, Mark Friedman, Derrick Pouliot, Nate Prosser, Tyler Wotherspoon, Wyatte Wylie, Egor Zamula.

The defensive corp for the Flyers is solidified and they are likely going to carry 7 defenseman going into the 2021 season. Which pairs we will be seeing during the season remains to be a question unknown to even the coaching staff. Regardless, Vigneault and Fletcher need to make a decision on whether or not they would like to carry a defenseman on the taxi squad. There are seven different players that they could choose from so let’s start with the youngest of the core.

Wyatt Wylie and Egor Zamula are the new kids on the block when it comes to NHL experience. Their reasoning to be invited to camp is so that the coaches and front office can evaluate their conditioning and play. Wylie had just finished his stint with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, while Zamula just recently came back from surgery on his neck. Both young players are not quite ready to make the NHL, although they could learn a lot practicing with the Flyers.

It would be better to see these two grow while playing for the Phantoms this season. Speaking of the Phantoms, let’s take a look at Lehigh Valley’s blue liners from last year. The remaining five players have all seen time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms over the past couple seasons and they all could bring something to the table for the Flyers if recalled during this upcoming season. Out of the five players, Friedman and Wotherspoon are the two that have played the most AHL hockey. 

Many believe that Friedman is the next man on the totem pole that is going to make the Flyers NHL roster. With recent signings and dead cap space, that roster spot is going to be tough to break. Flyers fans would like to see Friedman on the active roster but if anything, we are going to see him take a spot on the practice squad. This would give him a crucial learning experience, which in turn might help him break the lineup next year. What about the other consistent Phantoms blueliner in Wotherspoon, and where might he be playing this year?

For Wotherspoon, he has spent most of his career in the AHL after being drafted by the Calgary Flames. Wotherspoon being placed on the taxi squad would make sense, but the Phantoms would then have no consistency on their squad from last year if the Flyers decide to take Friedman or Wotherspoon. If you keep Wotherspoon on the blue line and pair him with Wyatt Wylie or Egor Zamula, fans could see the younger players grow their game more. There are still three interesting players left on the blueline that could argue they should have a spot on the taxi squad.

The older and more experienced players among the seven fighting for a taxi squad spot are Bigras, Pouliot and Prosser. Between the three players, they combined for 600 NHL games. The unlikely candidate for the taxi squad would be Chris Bigras. He has seen more AHL action than NHL action and wouldn’t benefit the Flyers blue line if needed. Between Prosser and Pouilot, the spot is there for the taking. At this point in their careers, these two defenders are now considered veterans and battling to keep a roster spot on an NHL team. 

Nate Prosser would be more of a leadership guy and would help lead by example if called upon to be inserted in the lineup. Since being signed in 2019, he has been captaining the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Prosser has the most NHL experience out of the seven players mentioned above in 350 games all played with the Minnesota Wild. Prosser’s age might be a factor in him being on the taxi squad, but at least his leadership would certainly help in the locker room and on the ice. A younger and equally experienced Pouliot could steal that taxi squad spot.

Derrick Pouliot has been around the NHL for six different seasons with three different clubs. Pouliot is a depth defenseman that has an offensive upside to his game. He has been floating between the NHL and AHL since being drafted, but would make a helpful addition for a team with a shortened season being a taxi squad player. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be a defenseman from the “outside world” and try to crack the pipeline in order to grab a roster spot with the Flyers. 

With the season less than a week away, Fletcher and Vigneault have some tough decisions to make before puck drop on January 13th. Playing General Manager and Head Coach through a computer or phone screen is pretty tough considering we as fans can’t see how these players are performing during training camp. In order to make the taxi squad as efficient and beneficial to the roster and the players development status, the right knobs must be turned and the right levers must be pulled. 

Final prediction for the Flyers 2021 Taxi Squad

Forwards

Andy Andreoff (C/LW), Connor Bunnaman (C), Carsen Twarynski (LW)

Defense

Mark Friedman, Derrick Pouliot

Goaltender

Alex Lyon

Photo Credit – Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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