The Philadelphia Flyers went into the break on a roll this season. Carter Hart solidified his position as an NHL starter. On the blue line, Matt Niskanen easily passed last season’s offence as Ivan Provorov regained his form. They already had four 20+ goal scorers with James van Riemsdyk at 19. Gritty was cleared of all charges. And now they’re in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sitting fourth in the East. But before their round-robin begins, the Philadelphia Flyers Black Aces need to be in place.
Philadelphia Flyers Black Aces
For the purpose of this article, a Black Ace is a player that the Flyers will be including in their expanded Stanley Cup Playoff roster. A Black Ace wouldn’t regularly have featured in the standard roster and therefore is most likely a minor/junior league call-up.
The term “Black Ace” was once used negatively. The term originated from Eddie Shore, who would refer to spare players as a “Black Ace.” Shore would say that a team would be in bad shape if they had to use one of their Black Aces in a game. However, recently, it has been used more positively. A team would use a Black Ace to help them overcome the loss of a player or if they thought a different player could be utilized in a way to help the team win.
Time To Meet The Players
Life in a Hub City Bubble is going to have plenty of headaches, make no mistake. One of the biggest is figuring out how – or if – people can move in and out without quarantine. Waiting two weeks rather limits the availability of an emergency call-up to, well, get called up in an emergency. Fortunately, one thing teams won’t have to worry about is the salary cap. We know there is a maximum of 28 spots available for skaters with an “unlimited number” for goalies. Here are some of the options the Flyers have.
While his offensive numbers haven’t moved much in his three years in Lehigh Valley, Mikhail Vorobyev is rounding out his game nicely. That’s good because Flyers coach Alain Vigneault tends to be reluctant to use young players, especially in the playoffs. That being said, the 23-year old has 35 NHL games under his belt, so he’s not a complete rookie. The times he has moved up he’s been kept to just ten minutes or so. He lacks the physicality of Nate Thompson or Derek Grant or the offence of Morgan Frost. But in between those two extremes, Vorobyev fits quite well.
Moving into the regular lineup could be just what he needs, as well. He plays in all situations with the Phantoms, so it doesn’t even have to be an injury to get him in the game. If Vigneault wants to shake the special teams up or kickstart his offence, Vorobyev could draw in.
Then again, if the coach wants to up the Flyers’ speed and attack, Frost is an easy choice. He has already played 20 games in the NHL and is one of the fastest players out there. His transition to the pros has been seamless, finishing one point behind Phantoms leading scorer Greg Carey. That he did so as a rookie – and playing 16 fewer games – says much for his talent.
Eventually, Frost is going to be a top-6 player for the Flyers. The centre position there is tough to crack, even with Nolan Patrick‘s health issues. Still, he has the all-around talent to work his way up. He’ll join the Flyers Black Aces, but whether he’ll get a shot in this playoffs with this coach? That’s a hard ask.
Sometimes, the Stanley Cup Playoffs aren’t about outscoring your opponent. Sometimes they’re about making your opponent just want to quit playing. And that’s where an eleven-year veteran like Chris Stewart is who you want on hand. While Stewart is no longer the double-digit scoring, triple-digit penalty minutes guy, he’s not that far removed from it, either. He’s played 668 NHL regular-season games, and another 39 in the playoffs. He’s racked up 160 goals, 322 points, and 750 minutes in penalties.
He refuses to let his NHL days die, grinding out a spot on the fourth line of four different teams in the last four years. If the going gets tough, Chris Stewart has already been there.
When the giant, hard-luck Samuel Morin sustained his second career major ACL injury back in November, it was thought his season was done. He has been able to skate since April, so as odd as it sounds he isn’t as far behind the rest of the league as expected. Both the injuries have been to his right knee, so the team may sit him anyway. But if he is ready to go come July, the 6’6″ Morin would add welcome size and snarl.
Drafted 11th overall in 2013, Morin is a throwback to a bygone era who makes clearing the crease his top priority. He won’t ever lead the team in points, but if he can get past his injury history, he’ll play. And that’s the rub: he’s played just eight NHL games and 20 AHL ones in three years. The team might want another year, injury-free if possible, before dropping him into playoff games.
Other than having a great name for sports, Alex Lyon is drifting into the “career AHLer” danger zone. He put up excellent numbers at Yale and good ones with the Phantoms. But in four years he hasn’t managed to translate those results to the next level. The opportunity is there, with Brian Elliott entering his last season under contract and Hart clearly able to shoulder the workload as a starter. A bit more coaching could turn Lyon into a reasonable (and cheap) backup for Hart as early as next year. He has a calm demeanour and good maturity, which is ideal for the position. He’ll be in the stands with the rest of the Flyers Black Aces, but they’ll need to re-sign him if they want more.
One feature of the post-season is the team’s freedom to bring up whoever they want. Often it’s young players and prospects, giving them a taste of the game at the highest level. This year, however, there is far more pressure to bring in players who can perform immediately. By limiting the teams’ ability to have a bottomless list of reserves, the importance of those reserves is amplified. The never-drafted Nate Prosser has worked his way to 354 NHL regular-season games, mostly as a seventh defenseman or bottom-pair guy. He wasn’t able to crack the Flyers lineup this season, but is fairly sound defensively and should be able to step in if needed. Just don’t expect the 34-year old to be a saviour on the power-play or anything.
We’re kidding. This year’s been crazy, but not THAT crazy!
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