The Curious Case of the Third Line Wing

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The Flyers are heading into the 2019-20 season with talent at every position for the first time in a while. Now, it will be up to Alain Vigneault and the rest of the staff to try and squeeze the results from this group and make the playoffs. 

Chuck Fletcher has done a great job at filling the obvious needs this summer: get an experienced coaching staff, sign a second-line center, acquire a few veteran defensemen to ease the workload for Provorov & Gostisbehere and sign a backup goalie. So far, so good.

One area of concern was the third-line right wing spot. It seemed that the position was going to be filled via trade or free agency, but the Flyers quickly found themselves with limited cap space and Provorov and Konecny waiting on new deals. Now it looks more and more plausible that a rookie is going to win that job out of camp.

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Photo credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press

Over the past weeks, rumors have come out saying that the Flyers might have new acquisition Tyler Pitlick start the year on the third line. Pitlick, who was traded for Ryan Hartman due to his very affordable $1 million cap hit, was a serviceable bottom-six forward for the Dallas over the past two seasons. He was limited to only 47 games last year but was still praised by his former coaches (Hitchcock & Montgomery).

While I would like to see Pitlick thrive in Philadelphia, I do not think he is the greatest winger to put on Nolan Patrick’s line. Patrick is entering his third season for the Flyers and it is going to be a crucial one. I don’t think Pitlick, who is mostly known for his tenacious style of play, is a guy who will help raise Patrick’s game. In an ideal (and sensible) world, Pitlick slots himself on the fourth line with Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton.

Of course, many have discussed the possibility of rookies Joel Farabee or Morgan Frost winning that spot out of camp. Both players have a legitimate chance to crack the roster, and both would also be, in my opinion, better candidates for that role than Pitlick.

Frost, who lit up the OHL, has some serious playmaking ability (142 assists over his past two seasons with the Greyhounds) and would mesh well with Patrick and Oskar Lindblom. Lindblom and Patrick are both good players around the net and along the boards, which would help him immensely as he would not have to do all the dirty work. They would also be facing third line competition, so Frost isn’t being fed to the wolves from the start.

It’s been said before that the concern with Frost is his ability to make plays at top speed against tougher competition and it will be interesting to see how he enters training camp and preseason.

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Just like Frost, Farabee has a wide array of weapons that will help him succeed in the NHL and his commitment to making the big club has been remarkable. Now it’s a question of applying those tools against the big boys in the NHL. Farabee is also a feisty player, but he also has high-end skill, great two-way ability, and a great shot. Even if he doesn’t have his name penciled in the Flyers opening lineup in October, some AHL time won’t hurt him. Many experts have him as the Flyers top prospect over Frost.

For all we know, maybe neither of these guys end up on the third line and the coaching staff completely puts the lines in the blender. Maybe we will see Nicolas Aube-Kubel or German Rubtsov coming in hot? ‘NAK’ seems more motivated than ever and Rubtsov appeared to have found his scoring touch early in the 2018-19 season.

Who knows, maybe one of the rookies won’t play on the third line, perhaps we could see them being shuffled around the top six? There is a multitude of options for Vigneault and the others to explore.

Time will tell, but training camp and preseason will be absolutely crucial for the Flyers’ young guns. Below is a poll voted by Flyers fans on who they would like to see on opening night.

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