Flyers hockey is finally (almost) here! Rookie camp opened yesterday, and with it, we got our first look at one of our most prized young’uns yet to reach the NHL—Philippe Myers.
Take a seat AMac, Phil has your back. (For real, rest up. Get better. And take your time recovering, your sweet sweet time.) pic.twitter.com/BNbnHJwZAy
— Kate Frese (@KateFresePhoto) September 9, 2018
You may have heard Andrew MacDonald will be missing the next four to six weeks with a lower body injury. If you’re like most diehard Flyers fans, your first thought was probably, “Philippe Myers is going to make the team out of training camp.” It’s true: there’s now a wide-open hole in the team’s defensive lineup with only a handful of candidates to fill it. Christian Folin was signed to be the team’s seventh defenseman, but Myers represents the far higher-upside option, the final piece of that star-studded homegrown defensive core we’ve been dreaming of. He’s the clear favorite heading into camp.
MacDonald’s timeline means he’ll be expected to miss anywhere from two to nine regular season games. That’s two to nine games that Myers, if he makes the team, will have to state his case to noted Enemy of Fun© Dave Hakstol. Not much time at all.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the way the puck bounces in the first few games could have a dramatic effect on the entire season. It’s difficult to picture Myers truly struggling if you threw him into an NHL game right now; that’s the caliber of prospect he is. As special as players like Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Sanheim looked as prospects, both had work to do on the defensive end. Philippe Myers, meanwhile, is almost as balanced as they come. There simply aren’t any gaping holes in his game; his physical attributes, skating, passing, shooting, and defensive awareness all project to be above average. In a sense, he’s the spiritual descendent of Ivan Provorov, with an upside to match.
So if we assume that he’ll pass (or at least, not fail) the eye test when he hits the big leagues, the question becomes: what more would it take for him to keep his spot in Hakstol’s eyes? One thing that’s become clear over the past few seasons is that team performance and the need to make a change have a strong negative correlation to Hak. Sometimes it turns out for the better, such as the Gostisbehere-Provorov experiment. Then other times, well, you wind up with Dale Weise in the lineup and Travis Konecny in the press box.
It stands to reason, then, that a strong start to the year by the Flyers (say, five wins in the first seven games) might convince Hakstol not to rock the boat and see how things play out. And if that means all of Provorov, Gostisbehere, Sanheim, Hagg, and Myers are on that boat for the greater part of the season, with MacDonald flailing helplessly in the waters below, we might have a truly special season.
Knowing our luck, Myers making the team would probably result in a player like Sanheim or Robert Hagg getting benched in favor of MacDonald. Never count out our erstwhile head coach’s eternal devotion to veteran players. But there remains a not-insignificant chance that the fates will conspire to lead Hakstol down the path towards lineup optimization.
The Philippe Myers Era in Philly is fast approaching. It just won’t be up to Myers to decide how long this first chapter lasts.