Flyers 2017-18 Previews: Rookies

Because of all the unknowns regarding the Philadelphia Flyers roster in training camp, I decided to skip over a majority of the rookies and do a big post on each of them with predictions and analysis.

Fortunately that seems to have worked with Nolan Patrick. Unfortunately that didn’t work for Oskar Lindblom.

But Lindblom’s case was a surprise to most. Some “rookies” on this list are surprises on the Flyers roster. Others were just items falling into place.

Robert Hagg

It’s shocking that Hagg has played 202 AHL games and is only 22 years old. The defenseman proved last season and this training camp that he’s ready for the NHL.

It looks like Philly could carry eight defensemen on the roster. I would not be surprised at all if Hagg and Samuel Morin (more on him later) are the ones filtering in and out often. Coach Dave Hakstol has shown he’s not afraid to bench a rookie.

But that doesn’t mean Hagg won’t have a successful year. In preseason, he’s been paired with Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov because of the calm, defensive game he plays. He’s not too flashy but he gets the job done.

The Swede showed maybe the most consistency of the prospect blueliners in camp, but saw some hiccups toward the end of the preseason. That’s expected, though, and those kinks will be worked out over the season.

Scott Laughton

Laughton is not a rookie and looking back, I probably could have done his own post, but he also had to beat out players like Mike Vecchione, Matt Read and Jori Lehtera for a spot on the fourth line.

And he did just that by having an impressive preseason that included improved forechecking, defensive play and penalty killing. He’ll center the fourth line after his improvements.

The days of Laughton as a top-six prospect are past him. But the days of him being a helpful bottom-six center have not. Expect him to start filling that role this season.

In past years, the 2012 first-round pick has not looked like an everyday NHLer. He frequently struggled in his own zone and couldn’t supply enough offense in a scoring role.

This year, he’s ready for a defensive role. Laughton and the Flyers will be better off for it.

Taylor Leier

Leier is the biggest surprise in this list. He’s been plying his trade and looking to move up in the Flyers’ organization for the past three years, but looked to be on the outside.

The winger has played 16 games with the Flyers over the past two seasons, but with more depth at forward this year, it looked like another season with the Phantoms. But to the shock of most he beat out several different players for a fourth-line role.

Unfortunately for him, I’m not sure that sticks. Leier had a strong preseason game against the New York Islanders two weeks ago, but there hasn’t been anything else too flashy.

Leier won’t fail mightily, but it’s hard to imagine him keeping a daily spot over veterans like Lehtera or Matt Read for more than a couple months.

Samuel Morin

I may be in the minority here, possibly even in the Flyers’ eyes, but I believe Morin has been the best defenseman prospect in camp this year. He’s strong defensively and playing with NHL players seems to have helped his offensive game.

However, he didn’t play in Philly’s final preseason game Sunday night and could take a seat for the opener or even be demoted again to the Phantoms. Morin did make mistakes at the beginning of preseason, but improved as September moved on, unlike Hagg or Travis Sanheim.

Morin hasn’t been paired with Gostisbehere or Provorov like Hagg, but if he plays with Radko Gudas, will form an intimidating lockdown pairing. He’ll also see plenty of time on the penalty kill.

But it won’t always be roses. Like every rookie, Morin is going to make mistakes. Like Hagg, don’t be surprised to see him benched every now and then and maybe even to start the year.

Travis Sanheim

An unfortunate injury to Gostisbehere may be a very fortunate turn of events for Sanheim. It looked like the Calgary Hitmen product would be sent to the Phantoms, for better or worse, as recent as yesterday morning.

Sanheim had a strong middle to the preseason after an unimpressive start and before an inconsistent end. Instead of carrying up to three rookie defensemen, the Flyers were leaning toward playing Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning.

But Sanheim is a better replacement than Morin for Gostisbehere. However, that may only last while the offensive defenseman is injured.

Unfortunately it’s still hard to judge Sanheim’s year. He could make a huge impact and stick for the rest of the season or he could show some defensive deficiencies and find himself back with the Phantoms.

Even if the latter does happen, Sanheim will be at the top of the list for recalls. If general manager Ron Hextall makes the right choices, the 21 year old won’t spend the majority of his year in the AHL.

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