The Philadelphia Flyers have been systematically constructing their team from within for the past few seasons and the time may have finally arrived for dividends. Word around the campfire has as many as five rookies on the opening night roster, while the club’s drafting and player development has been strong.
General manager Ron Hextall is ready to fill a few spots at the forward position and it appears that Oskar Lindholm and Nolan Patrick will be among the possible candidates. The Flyer shipped Brayden Schenn off to St. Louis and freed up another spot by trading Nick Cousins to Arizona, so the openings are clear.
Philadelphia is also betting on some changes in goal. Brian Elliott will split time with Michal Neuvirth after the departure of Steve Mason, who signed with the Jets. Hextall and Co. look to be working a tandem situation between the pipes and will ride the hot hand down the stretch.
Claude Giroux had a dip in production in 2016-2017 and posted just 58 points in 82 games, but he’s still the best bet for offence in Philadelphia. The Hearst native is ranked fourth in points since 2010-2011, putting him in the company of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. The 29-year-old could be back in the mix in 2017-2018 and should hover more around the 70-point mark.
Wayne Simmonds has emerged as a quality offensive forward on the Flyers. Save for his first year in Philly, he’s scored at least 28 goals every season and has reached the 60-point plateau twice. The 29-year-old is a ball of energy and a fixture of the club’s attack. He averaged nearly 19 minutes of ice time a game last season.
The Flyers look a little lean down the left side, but Travis Konecny had a fine rookie season last year. He scored eight goals at even strength and polished off a total of 28 points in 70 games. He should see time with Giroux and Jakub Voracek, which means his totals could tick upward in a hurry. He’s an aggressive forward and he’s versatile. He could suit up at centre if necessary.
28-year-old Voracek was generally charged with secondary scoring with Schenn in the fold, but things have changed and more will be expected from the Kladno native. He had 61 points last season, including 20 goals and 41 assists. He can pass the puck and owns a good shot. In 2016-2017, he fired off 253 shots on goal.
Shayne Gostisbehere was the runner-up for the Calder in 2015-2016 and for good reason. He’s a slick power play quarterback and a sublime player in the clutch. In 2016-2017, the Pembroke Pines native had 39 points in 76 games. He averaged 19:35 of ice time a game and registered 198 shots on goal. Gostisbehere is still honing parts of his game and was a healthy scratch at times last season, but the road ahead is bright.
Ivan Provorov had 30 points in 82 games last season, including six goals and 24 assists. He averaged 21:58 of ice time a game. The Russian defenceman is Philadelphia’s top blueliner on most depth charts and he’s a safe bet for offensive coverage. He should also see more ice time on the power play in 2017-2018.
Radko Gudas scored 23 points in 67 games last season, including six goals and 17 helpers. The 27-year-old plays a tough brand of hockey that fits well with the Flyers, but he’s also a capable presence on the point on account of his booming shot. He’s not the type to carry the puck, but setting him up for the shot is a good idea.
Elliott will start 2017-2017 with his third team in as many seasons, but he’s hoping this one sticks. The 32-year-old was 23-9-2 in his final 35 games with the Flames last season and he’s shown flashes of brilliance. He’s got long arms and legs, which puts him in position to cover a lot of the net. He’s also quick, which means the Newmarket native is seldom out of position.
Neuvirth managed 24 starts last season and won 11 of them. He posted a 2.82 goals against average with a .891 save percentage for the Flyers and he maintained his cool through some tough patches. The 29-year-old from Ústí nad Labem will split the net with Elliott in 2017-2018 and the duo should be able to pin down a rhythm that works for both of them.