Despite the fact that the revamped Flyers team of last season didn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs, they found success elsewhere — namely, the development of defensive prowess of a few of their forwards, such as Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Max Talbot.
It’s no secret that the Flyers’ biggest concern right now is their depleted blue line, which is not expected to be nearly as skilled and effective as it was at the start of last season. But with some defensive-minded forwards up front, perhaps the need to improve the back end isn’t that necessary, at least not immediately.
The current captain of the Adirondack Phantoms has been in the Flyers organization since March of 2010, when the team signed him to a two-year entry-level contract. Prior to his time with the Flyers, he spent four years with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks, where he scored 84 points in 144 games.
In two seasons with the Phantoms, Holmstrom has impressed many, such as Adirondack’s assistant coach, Riley Cote.
“Ben Holmstrom is one of those guys that any coach on Earth would want to have,” Cote told the Flyers Faithful podcast. “This guy has sheer character, works his butt off every single night, in practice, and he’s just a pro in every which way, shape, or form.”
Holmstrom has totaled up 82 points in 159 career AHL games, but his penalty minutes are what’s most noticeable — 218 PIM, 134 of which were racked up last season.
Cote compared Holmstrom’s style of play to that of Blair Betts — “not flashy, wins faceoffs and penalty kills with the best of them” — and called him a heart and soul kind of player who will find his way to the NHL, despite his limitations.
“He finishes his checks, he’s a smart player, hard-nosed. But he’s limited. I can’t see him being more than a fourth-line center at the NHL level.”
Fans will have to wait until training camp to see if Holmstrom impresses the team enough to make Cote’s vision, and Holmstrom’s dream, come to life.
If he does, he’ll be adding to an already defensively-skilled group of forwards that could very well make up for the current lack of strength at the blue line that keeps the fans on their toes. Should he reach his potential, and his fellow forwards continue to develop defensively, that longing for revamping the defensive core might be subdued for the time being.