In the 2011-12 season, the Flyers had more rookies on their roster than any other team in the NHL. The young guys made the team out of training camp or were called up to fill a roster spot when needed.
Forwards Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Brayden Schenn impressed the management early and made the team out of training camp. Eric Wellwood was called up from Adirondack towards the end of the season. Like Wellwood, defensemen Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson were both used at different times in the season to replace an injured player.
The rookies who earned a full-time roster spot did a phenomenal job throughout the season and were amongst the best rookies in the league. Those who were called up when needed from Adirondack effectively filled the holes in which they were placed.
When the 2012-13 campaign begins, these guys will no longer be the rookies. Couturier, Read, and Schenn will be given bigger roles on the team. I’d expect Wellwood to become a full-time player and Bourdon or Gustafsson could become the sixth defenseman.
Couturier was drafted by the Flyers with the 8th overall pick (acquired from CBJ) in the 2011 Entry Draft. At 18 years old, he made the team out of training camp. Throughout the season, Couturier was given huge responsibilities, especially defensively, such as killing penalties or covering the opposing team’s star player.
In 77 regular season games, ‘Couts’ scored 13 goals and had 14 assists for a total of 27 points. He was +18 and 2 of his goals came on the penalty kill. In the playoff run, he put up 4 points, 3 of which were goals that he scored in Game 2 vs. Pittsburgh for the hat trick.
Last season, the 19 year-old rookie centered the Flyers’ fourth line, but it is very likely that he could make the jump to centering the third line in the 2012-13 season. He is a phenomenal, young, two-way forward that has a ton of potential.
Matt Read, at age 26, was another forward who made the team out of training camp. He topped the list of Flyers rookies points-wise having 47 of them. 24 of those 47 points were goals, which was the most amongst all rookies in the NHL. He came up clutch quite a few times, having 6 game winners.
Read spent most of the season moving up and down between the second and third lines. I would not be surprised if head coach Peter Laviolette keeps him with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds, who he played with at times in the season.
Brayden Schenn was drafted by the LA Kings with the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was traded to Philly in the deal that sent captain Mike Richards to LA.
Although injuries sidelined the 20 year-old forward for a good portion of the season, he had a decent season and has potential to be a great player in this league. He played in just 54 games and had 18 points (12 goals, 6 assists). Schenn played in all 11 playoff games and had 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists), which is pretty good for a rookie.
Schenn, like Matt Read, is a player who you could see playing on the wing with Briere and Simmonds. He can play both the center and wing, so it gives Laviolette flexibility with the lines. He could even play on a line with Couturier. Brayden will be a player that is only going to get better and it is going to be really fun watching him develop.
At 22 years-old, Eric Wellwood has spent most of his career in the AHL with the Phantoms. Towards the end of the season when the Flyers faced injuries, Wellwood was called up to Philadelphia. He got a golden opportunity to impress his NHL club.
In the 24 games that he played, Wellwood put up 5 goals and 4 assists to total 9 points. It is also worth noting that he was +12. His crazy speed when going down the ice gives him the ability to beat defensemen wide. There is a very good chance that Wellwood will be on the Flyers fourth line.
The Flyers faced many injuries to defensemen throughout the season. This gave guys like Marc-Andre Bourdon a chance to play in the NHL. He played in 45 regular season games, in which he scored 4 goals and 3 assists. He played in just one playoff game.
Bourdon fit into the spot of sixth defenseman very nicely for the Flyers. It appears that this year in training camp, he will have the chance to compete for a roster spot. If he is sent back to Adirondack, look for him to be called up if an injury occurs.
Like Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson was called up to the Flyers to replace an injured player. He was pretty solid in the sixth defenseman spot. The 23 year-old played in 30 regular season games and had 5 points and was +12. In the playoffs he played in 7 games and had a goal and an assist.
Gustafsson will also have a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp. If he does not get a spot as a regular, look for him to be called up from Adirondack when he is needed.
It is also worth noting that players like Harry Zolnierczyk and Brandon Manning are also players who can be called up to the team when short a forward or a defenseman.
The Flyers have a lot of good, young players who are already shining on the roster or can be called up and easily make the transition. It gives the coaching staff a lot of options if injury strikes the team.
The 2011-12 rookies played some great hockey for the Flyers and learned a lot in their first year. Look for these “sophomore” players to be given bigger roles on the team in their second.
Follow me on twitter for FlyersTalk: @AndrewD48