Eric Wellwood Making the Most of His Opportunity

Image Courtesy of AP

By Charlie O’Connor (@THG_Charlie)

Entering the 2011-12 preseason, Philadelphia Flyers forward Eric Wellwood had a legitimate chance to earn a roster spot out of camp.

Instead, the 22-year old found himself back in Adirondack for a second straight season. But following an injury to James van Riemsdyk in early March, Wellwood was given his first extended look with the big club.

He hasn’t disappointed.

Starting with a game winning goal against the Capitals on March 4th, Wellwood has scored three goals in ten games since his return to the Flyers. During tonight’s 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, Wellwood beat goaltender Scott Clemmensen for Philadelphia’s only goal of the night, banking a tough angle shot off defenseman Ed Jovanovski and into the net.

Peter Laviolette was very impressed with Wellwood following the game.

“The carom goal was a nice break, but he had a tremendous game,” Laviolette noted. “Lots of energy, lots of opportunities at the net. Their line was good, skated well, generated a lot of zone time and he was a big reason why.”

Wellwood has received extended ice time with Daniel Briere in recent games, playing the wing on the Flyers’ second line. While Briere has yet to fully emerge from his second-half scoring slump, Wellwood has proven a good fit on the line, taking advantage of his speed and tenacity to create scoring opportunities.

Still, Wellwood’s time as a member of the Flyers’ forward corps could come to an end shortly. With James van Riemsdyk expected to return for the playoffs, Wellwood would likely cede his spot on the Briere line to the more experienced and highly regarded left winger.

Wellwood could slot in as a fourth liner, but Maxime Talbot and Sean Couturier have spots on the checking line secured for the playoffs. Wellwood would be competing with Zac Rinaldo for the final spot in the starting lineup, and the Flyers have shown a desire to dress at least one aggressive agitator in almost every game this season.

Even if Wellwood finds himself an early scratch in the postseason, however, he warrants serious consideration as the first replacement if a forward were to suffer an injury. Unlike Tom Sestito, Ben Holmstrom, and Harry Zolnierczyk, all young forwards who have received extended looks this season, Wellwood has shown the necessary level of skill to serve as a temporary replacement on one of the Flyers’ top three scoring lines.

Wellwood’s strong play may yet be rewarded after all. Until then, he’ll have to be satisfied with merely helping his club push for home-ice advantage – an advantage that he may not be around to enjoy.

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