The Philadelphia Flyers made their final round of preseason roster cuts on Friday, assigning six players to the Phantoms of the American Hockey League. The team’s roster is now all but set for the start of the season, with only goaltender Neil Little yet to be reassigned.
Sent to the Phantoms were forwards Mark Greig, Guillaume Lefebvre, Andre Savage and Mike Siklenka, and defensemen John Slaney and Bruno St. Jacques.
Thus, forwards Pavel Brendl and Radovan Somik and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg have made the Flyers’ roster. Forward Patrick Sharp will also remain with the team as an extra forward for the time being, with both Somik (groin pull) and Justin Williams (left knee sprained) nursing injuries.
Brendl was a virtual lock to make the team early in the preseason, but he nearly played himself out of a job. Head coach Ken Hitchcock is down on the 21-year-old right winger’s work ethic (who isn’t?), defensive play and ability to adjust to various situations on the ice. Brendl will start the season on one of the Flyers’ scoring lines, but will be demoted if he fails to produce.
Somik surprised many with a fine all-around camp. The late-blooming 25-year-old Slovakian left winger made the team in large part because of the terrific chemistry he has developed with fellow countryman Michal Handzus. That duo is expected to make up two-thirds of the Flyers’ third line when the season opens this Thursday in Edmonton.
On the blueline, Seidenberg outclassed St. Jacques for the only open position. The 21-year-old German rearguard showed a great deal of poise and maturity throughout the preseason, playing solid positional defense and displaying an ability to skate with the puck and jump into the play in the attacking zone. Seidenberg’s wicked slapshot netted him two goals during the preseason, and have the Flyers excited about the possibility of using him in some powerplay situations.
The only knock on Seidenberg at this point is his size. At just 6-1, 190 lbs., there is concern that he might not be able to effectively defend against the NHL’s bigger, more physical forwards. However, only time will tell on that one.
Little has remained with the Flyers because starter Roman Cechmanek is suffering from a sore right shoulder. The 30-year-old veteran netminder backed up Robert Esche in the Flyers’ final preseason game, a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon. Unless Cechmanek’s injury becomes more serious – and that is not expected – Little will be returned to the Phantoms this week. There, he will split time with Finnish rookie Antero Niittymaki.
As for the players who did not make the cut, Lefebvre and St. Jacques are the most notable. Both were considered favorites to start the season with the Flyers when camp opened last month.
In fact, the organization even went so far as to present St. Jacques with Luke Richardson’s old number 22 sweater during the preseason. However, the 22-year-old defenseman struggled in exhibition play and clearly had trouble grasping Hitchcock’s complicated system. In all likelihood, the Montreal native would have been returned to the AHL even if Seidenberg had not had such a strong camp.
Lefebvre, on the other hand, had a good camp. He simply fell victim to a numbers crunch, as Somik edged him out for a spot on the Flyers’ third line. Lefebvre – just a second-year pro – will likely benefit from another season of AHL hockey. Hitchcock loves the 21-year-old’s work ethic and forechecking ability, so don’t be surprised if he winds up in the orange and black at some point this season.
Phantoms captain Greig, Savage and Slaney are minor league veterans who performed well in camp and, thus, were rewarded with extra time with the big club. Though they were not expected to compete for an NHL roster spot to begin with, all three will remain near the top of the Flyers’ call-up list this season.
Siklenka exceeded expectations after being invited to camp on a try-out basis. The organization is very interested to see how the towering (6-5, 225 lb.) 22-year old right winger does against AHL competition this season. He spent the majority of the past three seasons in the ECHL, recording 82 points (39 goals, 43 assists) in 178 games with the Hampton Roads Admirals and Richmond Renegades.
Originally a 1998 fifth round draft selection (118th overall) of the Capitals, Siklenka played his junior hockey with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. In 20 total AHL games from 1999-2000 to 2001-02 (all with the Portland Pirates), he tallied just a single goal.
At this point, the Flyers’ roster stands at 24 players:
Donald Brashear, Pavel Brendl, Todd Fedoruk, Simon Gagne, Michal Handzus, John LeClair, Marty Murray, Keith Primeau, Paul Ranheim, Mark Recchi, Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Sharp, Radovan Somik and Justin Williams
Eric Desjardins, Kim Johnsson, Chris McAllister, Dan McGillis, Dennis Seidenberg, Chris Therien and Eric Weinrich
Roman Cechmanek, Robert Esche and Neil Little
*According to Hitchcock, the Flyers will probably carry 23 players for the majority of the season. That number will be realized once Little is reassigned.