With the spotlight placed heavily on the forward position so far this preseason, there's been a battle for positioning that no one has really touched upon. It's happening on the defensive side of the team, with three candidates who could wind up taking these spots.
Oskars Bartulis, Andreas Lilja, and Erik Gustafsson are all jockying for position to solidify the sixth and seventh defensive spots for the Flyers. Bartulis in particular has had stints with the big club, playing on the third pairing of the defense. Gustafsson has shown promise with the Flyers and has had his moments to crack the roster, but needed some fine tuning down with Adirondack during the season last year. Lilja comes in as the more experienced player, playing on a Stanley Cup-winning team in Detroit and making himself known on Anaheim's blue line last season.
Both Bartulis and Gustafsson have shown signs of improvement during the course of the preseason. Bartulis, coming off of a vicious shoulder injury at the hands of former Flyer Scottie Upshall on February 22nd, has been showing signs of progress. Gustafsson’s capabilities both offensively and defensively have brought to the table something to be desired on this defense. His play is quite familiar, as it bears a similar style to a beloved Flyer Kimmo Timonen.
Lilja's resume gets him points on paper, but last year with Anaheim he posted a +/- of -15 while logging in an average of 17:26 minutes of ice time. Last I checked, that's a lot of goals going in when you're on the ice. Lilja's knock is that he's a defensive defenseman with virtually no offensive ability, but his defensive capabilites are good. Another thing about Lilja is his history of concussions. In the modern day NHL, concussions are something that shouldn't be looked over, no matter how experienced or talented the player may be. You need to be cautious.
All three have shown that they want the position, but who gets it is anyone's guess with this organization. The battle for six and seven starts now.