Sorting Out the Flyers' Forward Logjam

NEW YORK - Madison Square Garden brands itself as the world's most famous arena.

For a handful of Flyers, the corner of 33rd and 8th Avenue in Manhattan will be one last audition on arguably the league's biggest stage with the coaching staff and management prepared to make their biggest round of cuts Thursday.

It has been the most competitive camp at the forward position since Dave Hakstol took over as head coach in 2015. My projected group had 16 forwards to choose from, but the head coach believes it's even deeper.

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"My list is a little bit longer than that," Hakstol said Wednesday. "The job of putting that list together has been made tough with some good performances through camp. Some are veterans battling for those jobs have played well and there's young guys that are pushing that deserve another look."

Here's how it shakes out at the midway point of camp. 

No-brainers (10)
Claude Giroux
Sean Couturier
Jake Voracek
Nolan Patrick
James van Riemsdyk
Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny
Jordan Weal
Scott Laughton
Michael Raffl

Raffl hasn't exactly wowed, but he's been steady having played just one preseason game. I don't believe Raffl is in jeopardy of being sent down either as another team would claim him in all likelihood. In the final year of a contract, I also wouldn't be shocked if the Flyers trade Raffl for a future draft pick as I don't see a contract extension coming. 

Looking real good (1)
Oskar Lindblom

Lindblom has had a very strong camp starting with the prospects game, and if he hasn't solidified his job he can do so with a strong effort against the Rangers Wednesday night. However, I'm not quite ready to say Lindblom is a shoe-in with other veterans still pushing hard for a roster spot.  

Making a strong case (3)
Mikhail Vorobyev
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier

Right now, I actually prefer Vorobyev as my third-line center over Weal, who would be my fourth-line center or call it 3-A and 3-B. Vorobyev has a higher offensive ceiling and has shown a commitment to playing responsibly in the defensive end of the ice. Aube-Kubel brings a fourth-line energy and a physical presence coupled with a blistering shot where he could contribute some much-needed offense in a bottom-six role. Leier had a very strong effort in the 5-1 win against the Islanders on Tuesday. 

Veterans on the bubble (2)
Dale Weise
Jori Lehtera

I think we know what both players are at this stage of their careers. If one of these two were to make the team, I'd lean toward Lehtera since he has a knack of knowing where to be on the ice and can kill penalties, it's just a matter of getting there. I can't imagine there's a trade market for either guy, but it's not unimaginable that both players are placed on waivers for the purpose of being sent down to Lehigh Valley to start the season since the Flyers have plenty of salary cap flexibility. 

Impressive, but Lehigh bound (3)
Carsen Twarynski
German Rubtsov
Danick Martel

Twarynski and Rubtsov have really impressed during this training camp and shown how much difference a year makes from age 19 to 20, which provides promise that we'll see that improvement with Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe this time next year. Twarynski and Rubtsov need to show they can carry their strong preseason into their first year at the AHL level, where hopefully the upward trend continues.   

Simply haven't shown enough (3)
Cole Bardreau
Mike Vecchione
Tyrell Goulbourne

I expected a stronger push from Bardreau and Vecchione, who played 10 minutes in his only preseason game Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. Bardreau had an outside shot of making the big club but a poor effort in the preseason opener set the tone.

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