It took an extra day, but Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall put the finishing touch on the team’s roster for the 2017-18 season. Late Monday night, he placed veteran forward Matt Read on waivers to get from 24 players to the mandatory 23 by Tuesday’s deadline.
The 24-hour delay was tied to the uncertain status of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who suffered an upper body injury during the third period of Sunday’s preseason finale against the Islanders. In case Gostisbehere is not available for Wednesday’s regular season opener in San Jose, Hextall will carry eight defensemen instead of seven as insurance.
It means highly-touted rookie defensemen Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin made the team. Hagg learned on Sunday he earned a spot, while Sanheim and Morin have not yet been given any long-term confirmation and one of them could be sent to the Phantoms when Gostisbehere returns.
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Nolan Patrick, the team’s No. 2 pick in the draft last June, also received official word on Sunday he will line up with Flyers against the Sharks, as will rookie left wing Taylor Leier.
It’s the first time since 1992, when Eric Lindros made his debut, that the Flyers will start the season with five rookies.
“We are going to have a number of rookies,” Hextall said. “We expect them to make big contributions.”
The Flyers aren’t just stocked with a boatload of first-year players. Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton, who is back with the Flyers after spending last season in the American Hockey League, will each begin their sophomore year, while Brandon Manning and Gostisbehere are entering their third year – but neither has played a full two seasons.
In all, that’s 11 players beginning the year with less than three years of NHL experience.
The much-anticipated arrival of the prospects, many of whom were high first-round draft picks, will no doubt inject energy and excitement to the lineup. However, fans must also caution that a team with as many rookies opens itself up to some serious growing pains.
Young players, although fun to watch, make mistakes and take time to develop. Remember, Konecny flashed salivating skill at times but still finished with just 11 goals and 17 assists in 70 games last year. Before he was anointed the Flyers No. 1 defenseman last spring, even Provorov struggled through his first couple of months.
So, expect each one of the Flyers’ rookies to learn some hard lessons once the games start to count despite some impressive performances in September.
“They are playing great hockey,” Jake Voracek said last month. “On the other hand, it is preseason. It is not the real season. It is going to be up and down during the season, but so far, they are playing great and I am happy for them as well.”