Philadelphia Flyers 2018-19 Best Case Scenarios
What will the Flyers do with line assignments and who will play?
Preseason is a few long weeks away and while rookie camp hasn’t quite started, none of the kids are expected to make a huge impact. Fans would love to see Morgan Frost tear up camp and earn that vacant, looming hole at 3C.
Is it going to propel the Flyers to win a playoff round, even with the crease questions?
Well, it might.
Or, it might be so insignificant that it changes nothing, and the Flyers win the Cup in 7 games in Winnipeg.
That probably won’t happen, but anything is possible (see: Vegas). The championship window in salary capped hockey is short. For the Flyers, this marks year one.
It will require a huge step in the development of Travis Sanheim, one that he’s so close to taking. He oozes potential. Sanheim takes that step by December and becomes a number 3 defenseman. He’s the most important development this year, save Carter Hart.
A Cup run is nothing without goaltending (obligatory shout out to Michael Leighton). Brian Elliott is not a below average goalie, and will not play like one with an improved team in front of him. He’ll give them a chance to win most nights.
Claude Giroux produces, period. The longtime captain eclipses 80 points with ease, with potential for 90 plus, and assists whoever is lucky enough to be on his other wing to 25 goals. Philadelphia natives dye their beards red in respect.
Sean Couturier will continue to score goals and will pot 30. He’ll be nominated for the Bergeron award again since he now scores, but ultimately lose to Bergeron. His knee could be something to be concerned about throughout a long season.
Travis Konecny could and definitely should play alongside Giroux and Couturier. It can’t exactly hurt him statistically. A full season alongside two award-worthy veterans will bring out the best in him. Hakstol permitting, he’ll break many personal records.
Jake Voracek will be the leader of a big second line. He’s coming off a career year playing with the corpse of Nolan Patrick, who is new and improved. His line matchups should give him lesser defensemen and undoubtedly a fun year for every Flyer sent on the ice with him.
Nolan Patrick will benefit from the addition of JvR to his left, and Jake Voracek to his right. As long as he stays healthy, he’s due for a major breakout. His 5v5 line and his powerplay unit have been massively upgraded unless Hakstol keeps the connection with Lindblom together. In that case, 2018 Patrick is a massive upgrade from 2017 Patrick regardless. 50-60 points.
James van Riemsdyk and his 36 goals are welcomed back to town with open arms. Toronto fans downplay his departure, but he gets some time to prove them wrong before any judgments can be made. A big contract comes with big expectations. JvR approaches 35 goals with his newfound ice time and puck wizard Voracek.
Oskar Lindblom is looking to raise that shooting percentage. Snakebitten, but he’s in the right spot at the right time. Showed excellent chemistry on line two. Nobody knows who his center will be come October, whether it’s Patrick, Laughton, Weal, or Lehtera. Three of these choices give him many, many scoring opportunities. 15 goals in a bottom six role seem likely, with potential for 20 plus with simply more luck and powerplay time.
Wayne Simmonds is surrounded, shrouded even, by a dark cloud. It’s doubt and uncertainty. Everyone knows what he’s capable of, but will he be in one piece? Simmonds is playing for his payday, and after a down year, this is make-or-break. He’ll run through a brick wall, healthy or not. The pinnacle of Flyers hockey, the Wayne Train re-captures his throne as the best powerplay scorer not named Alex Ovechkin.
Michael Raffl can be whatever you need him to be: top line, fourth line, whatever it takes. He’s a fantastic depth forward with undeniable skill and has chemistry with the team’s stars. He won’t score much, but he’ll make the most of his ice time.
Dale Weise just needs to not be a liability on the ice. He has it in him, and he’ll always be the guy that made the play to set up Nolan Patrick’s first goal. Like it or not, he’s here for two more years and he doesn’t eat up too much salary space. Most likely a plug and play option night in and night out.
Scott Laughton is my prime candidate for the 3rd center job, but he’d be one of the best 4th liners in the NHL otherwise. Those are the guys you win cups with. A good two-way game, Laughton makes the honey bees line buzz. Double-digit goals is not out of the realm of possibility, and he brings good energy.
Jori Lehtera might win the 3rd center job. This would send a staggering amount of headaches through the Delaware valley within minutes, but he’s been around the league long enough to know when to be in what spots. Understanding his speed (or lack thereof) and role could make him a decently effective defensive checker and penalty killer. His cap hit is off the books in a year.
Jordan Weal is an unlikely candidate for that same center job, but don’t be surprised if he gets it. He’s shown flashes of skill and has the speed and tenacity to be a good player, it just needs to come together for him and it hasn’t. A better version of Taylor Leier, and another good depth piece at worst.
Ivan Provorov can keep growing under the radar for all he cares. He’s getting a massive check next summer, and while he isn’t the type to directly say it, he’s absolutely going to play for it. The franchise’s number one d-man will not be a Norris candidate (for not scoring enough points) but he’ll get a handful of votes. After tying for the most goals as a defenseman, he’ll spearhead an improved PP2 unit and stay within the 15-20 goal range.
Shayne Gostisbehere is going to have a field day, approximately 82 times if he’s healthy. He continues to round out his game and may flirt with 70 points. He’ll be a joy to watch, and Philadelphians everywhere celebrate his French Bulldogs. Ghost is ironically a solid player through and through, any way you look at him. Another candidate for Norris votes and his point totals turn heads. Watch out for candidacy.
Andrew MacDonald is wonderfully mediocre, and that’s all he needs to do. The clubhouse likes him, management likes him, and that should be enough to stop the attacks. Fact is, he isn’t handcuffing the cap space like he might have been a couple of years ago. He’ll earn his money’s worth by being a solid third pair defenseman with one of Hagg, Gudas or Myers.
Radko Gudas needed to keep his head down last April for just about murdering Sean Couturier. He didn’t help matters by having a horrific playoff series, but he’s a bounce-back candidate for sure. He’s had stretches of great play when he isn’t hesitant to be physical, but it’s likely he’s gotten an earful for the suspensions. His right-handed shot is valuable.
Robert Hagg is one of the most physical players in the NHL, in case that was forgotten. If the broadcast can’t go a game without mentioning his name on the hits leaderboards, he’s having a good year. Needs to be more confident with the puck, because what actually might have been forgotten was his sweet goal here.
What’s not to be excited about?
Huge thank you to Broad St Hockey for the high-quality videos from Twitter, it’s so easy to find goals from any Flyer.
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