Better With Popcorn

2014-15 Flyers Preview: The New Guys

The Philadelphia Flyers head into the 2014-15 season with virtually the same roster that lost in seven games to the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division Semifinals.

With that said, there have been a couple new additions to the Flyers’ proverbial puzzle.

On defense, Michael Del Zotto was signed after Kimmo Timonen was diagnosed with multiple blood clots. Del Zotto, 24, finished last season with Nashville after four-and-a-half with the Rangers. In 67 games between the two clubs, he scored three goals and totaled 16 points.

Del Zotto is still young, but has struggled in the past two seasons. He fell out of favor with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault in 2013-14 and was dealt to Nashville. Del Zotto wasn’t a fit with the Predators, and they let him walk as a free agent.

In the 2011-12 season with the Rangers, he tallied 10 goals and 41 points, but has failed to come close to either mark since. As a bit of a reclamation project, the Flyers hope Del Zotto can find that offensive magic once again. With a one year, $1.3 million contract, Del Zotto is a low-risk addition.

To bolster the blueline, the Flyers also added Nick Schultz on the second day of free agency. Schultz, 32, brings 880 games of experience to the club, spending time in Minnesota, Edmonton and Columbus. Schultz is the opposite of Del Zotto, as he is a defensive defenseman. In 69 games between Edmonton and Columbus last season, he scored only 5 points, all assists.

Schultz is also on a one year deal, totaling $1.25 million and will likely be the seventh defenseman.

The forward unit remains relatively unchanged, but Frenchman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare seems like he will have an impact, becoming just the ninth player from France in the NHL. Bellemare has played in Sweden for the past eight years, most recently with Skelleftea. The speedy Bellemare looks to be penciled in on the Flyers’ fourth line. Flyers head coach Craig Berube could also call on the 29 year old to kill penalties as well.

Bellemare was part of the French team that defeated Canada at the 2014 World Championships, where he scored the game-winning shootout goal. In the tournament, he scored three goals, eight points in eight games played.

One of the players who will be playing on the fourth line with Bellemare is Blair Jones. Jones has been up-and-down between the NHL and AHL since his 2006 debut with the Lightning. In every season, he has played at least four NHL games, with a career high of 43 coming in 2011-12. In his career, Jones has played 128 games, totaling seven goals and 17 points.

Even though there are few new faces on the roster, Flyers fans could see some call-ups throughout the season.

Samuel Morin has impressed the Flyers’ brass to stick around through the preseason, but the 19-year-old was sent back to Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. However, Morin could play up to nine games with the Flyers without burning a year of his entry-level contract. This gives the Flyers another option in case of an injury emergency during the season.

Scott Laughton and Shayne Gostisbehere will start the season with Lehigh Valley, but don’t be surprised to see either get the promotion down I-476 this season. The duo needs no introduction to Flyers fans, as they are both 2012 draft picks (Laughton first round; Gostisbehere third round).

Laughton saw some action with the Flyers in 2012-13, failing to register a point in five games. He played exclusively with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals last season, where he tallied 40 goals and 87 points in 54 games.

Gostisbehere has played college hockey for Union the past three seasons. He was able to show off for the Flyer fans as Union won the NCAA championship in Philadelphia. For his efforts, Gostisbehere collected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, scoring a goal and two assists in the final game.

Goaltender Rob Zepp is another that is ticketed for Lehigh Valley, but Zepp has been solid in preseason action. The 33-year-old journeyman has played for Eisbaren Berlin ofDeutsche Eishockey League for the past seven seasons. If either Steve Mason or Ray Emery get injured, Zepp could make his NHL debut, 13 years after being drafted by Carolina.

Enforcer Zack Stortini will provide toughness to the Phantoms. Last season, Stortini amassed 299 penalty minutes in 73 games. In his 257 game NHL career, mostly with Edmonton, he has totaled 725 penalty minutes.


Dan MacNeal
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Realdeal411@TCLFlyers