Too Early Predictions: The Bottom Six

Nick Cousins could be a crucial part of the Flyers’ bottom six.

With the news that center Nick Cousins accepted his qualifying offer last week, the Philadelphia Flyers’ bottom six is beginning to round into shape. We saw flashes last season of Cousins’ potential as a third line pivot, and the Flyers will certainly give him a long look in training camp.

However, the competition will be stiff for bottom-six minutes. The Flyers brought back most of their third- and fourth-liners from last season and even added some capable replacements. Let’s take a look at how the Flyers’ bottom six could play out in this edition of Too Early Predictions.

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How Things Were Last Season:

It is often said that a hockey team can only go as far as their bottom six can take them. In the playoffs, scoring from the bottom of the lineup can make the difference when the superstars are busy trading goals back and forth.

In that spirit, the Flyers’ bottom six from last season took them reasonably far. The third line come playoff time was primarily made up of Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, and Matt Read (with touches of Colin McDonald), and the fourth unit consisted of Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Ryan White.

The bottom six provided good but not great production overall, but it improved as the season wore on.

The Returnees:

Much of the bottom six returns once again for the 2016-17 Flyers season. Cousins, Laughton, Read, McDonald, Bellemare, and VandeVelde will all be back in some capacity for the Flyers next season, as will the wild card Jordan Weal.

Happy Trails:

The Flyers lost Ryan White, Sam Gagner, and R.J. Umberger this offseason. All three saw significant time in the bottom six rotation, but they are all replaceable players.

Meet the New Guys:

Seeking a new and improved Ryan White, the Flyers courted former Montreal Canadiens winger Dale Weise and signed him to a four-year contract worth $9.4 million.

The team also signed center Boyd Gordon to a 1-year, $950,000 contract to take faceoffs and kill penalties.

It is also possible that prospect Travis Konecny could force his way into the lineup, where he would likely snag third-line minutes.

On the Hot Seat:

Weise should slide right into third-line minutes and power play time, which could make a player like Matt Read expendable. Read hasn’t had his best campaigns over the past two seasons, and could be on the hot seat if things don’t turn around quickly.

How’s It All Going to Shake Out?

The Flyers will head into the 2016-17 season with lots of options for their bottom six. Coach Dave Hakstol tended to employ a speedy, offensive third line and a more defensive, checking-oriented fourth line, and that will likely remain the same next season.

Assuming no trades, the bottom six will probably look something like this:

(Scratch: Weal) (Minors: Laughton, McDonald) (Juniors: Konecny)

This configuration would give Hakstol the type of identities that he prefers out of his grind lines, with the ultra-speedy third line possibly the best one the Flyers have had in years.

It is interesting that Scott Laughton could open the season in the minors, but the rise of Nick Cousins, the two free agent signings, and Laughton’s own upper-body injury suffered in last year’s playoffs could work against him. However, I’d expect to see Laughton spend much of the 2016-17 season with the big club.

A trade of Matt Read could open up room for Laughton or Konecny and save cap space.

The Verdict:

The 2017 Philadelphia Flyers will like their bottom six. They have an excellent combination of speed, scoring, and snarl, and look poised to take some of the load off of the top two lines, something the Flyers desperately need.


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