Philadelphia Flyers

Third line center remains biggest question for Flyers

Who will be the third line center on opening night?

With the Flyers training camp less than two months away, the roster still has a few question marks. The re-acquisition of James van Riemsdyk has helped solidify the second line. The bottom six, however, is still somewhat up for grabs, mainly the position of third line center.

Valtteri Filppula is now on the New York Islanders, leaving his spot on the third line vacant. It is now up to the players in training camp to decide who will take his spot.

Can it come from the AHL?

One player who is doing his part to earn a spot is Mikhail Vorobyev. The Russian center had a good season with the Phantoms in 2017-18, posting 29 points in 67 games. Those numbers may not seem that impressive, but his ability to create offense was one of the best on the team.

Vorobyev’s play-making abilities between the wings have a lot of potential. Centering two players such as Wayne Simmonds and Oskar Lindblom would give him the ability to be creative.

At 6-foot-2 and 195 lbs, the 21-year-old has enough size to play physical. Protecting the puck is one thing that sticks out about his game, and he can certainly win the battles along the boards.

Due to GM Ron Hextall’s patient approach, I could definitely see him wanting Vorobyev to spend another year in the AHL. A potential call-up due to an injury on the big club could let us see him in orange and black, but otherwise, I would put him on the first line on the Phantoms to start the season.

Can the Junior deliver?

Ever since the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues,  fans have been waiting on one name: Morgan Frost. The 19-year-old lit up the OHL last season, scoring 112 points in 67 games.

While the 5-foot-11 center is considered undersized for his position, he apparently has added around 15 lbs since he was drafted just over a year ago. If size is Hextall’s issue, he is doing whatever he can to put any doubts to rest.

A dynamic player on both sides of the ice, Frost has amazing hands, a great shot, and can pass the puck with the best of them. He and Lindblom as linemates would create offense not many other third lines have. Adding Simmonds into the mix could make for a lethal combination.

The thing with Frost is that he’s not AHL eligible, so he cannot be called up to the Flyers due to injury. Hextall must make a decision during camp whether or not he thinks Frost can handle a position as the third line center.

With Hextall’s patience and plan for the prospects, I am under the impression that Frost will be back on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this coming season. However, if he can prove himself during training camp, Flyers fans would be ecstatic to see him as the third line center come October.

Your next third line center

The man who will earn himself the right to the position is Scott Laughton. Although he may not be Flyers fans favorite choice, I have a strong feeling he will be Hextall’s.

A former first-round pick in 2012, Laughton has been in the system for quite some time. The Ontario-native has started a total of 190 games for the Flyers, dating back to 2012. In that span, he’s managed to accumulate 19 goals and 28 assists.

Those numbers are a bit low for a first-round draft pick, however, Laughton does shine in other aspects of the game. His defensive abilities have been applauded in the last few seasons, and he is effective on the penalty kill. He is a responsible player in the Flyers own zone.

Although he may not light the lamp as much as the organization had hoped for when they drafted him, he has shown small glimpses in his career. When in a good position, he can put the puck where he wants to. It just so happens that his role the last few seasons hasn’t really permitted it.

One thing I do love about Laughton is his willingness to defend himself. Not only himself but his teammates as well. He has been known to drop the gloves now and then, whenever he sees fit. Paired on a line with Simmonds, that could put fear into opponents heads.

So who will it be?

The majority of fans would love to see Frost or believe Vorobyev has earned his chance. However due to Hextall’s patience linked with Hakstol’s value put into ‘veteran players’, I believe Laughton will be the third line center come Autumn.

There are other options, such as Mike Vecchione or Jordan Weal, but I don’t believe they will get the chance. Things can change, of course, with a great training camp. But Laughton has been with the organization the longest, knows the system, and has what it takes to produce.

Playing with better talent on a third line could give Laughton a chance at being more productive. And his willingness to play physical, get the puck in deep, and look for the right pass will earn him the spot as the third line center.

For more information, go to @PSN_Philly
All stats from eliteprospects.com
Featured image credit @AmandaKurtz via Flickr

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Dillon O'Mara

Flyers fan and hockey addict from the suburbs of Philadelphia. Chocolate milk aficionado. Proud Nittany Lion. My downtime is usually spent on two wheels, or reminding the world that the Eagles won Superbowl LII. Feel free to @ me for any hockey related debate. #TrustTheProspects

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