After finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs by seven points last season, the Philadelphia Flyers went through some major roster changes this offseason.
Six roster players from last year will not be returning to Broad Street, and there can be as many as five new prospects vying for major roles on the team this coming season.
The Flyers are a team currently in transition, with a bright future ahead. General manager Ron Hextall appears to have a solid plan in place and have a fountain of assets that could potentially help him turn things around quickly.
After a hectic summer, let’s take a look at what the 2017/18 edition of the Philadelphia Flyers will look like heading into a new NHL season.
Nolan Patrick (C)
The Philadelphia Flyers defied their measly 2.4% odds at the NHL draft lottery and jumped from 13th overall to secure the second overall pick. With the pick, they selected Winnipeg, Manitoba native, Nolan Patrick from the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Patrick is a skilled all-around center, with excellent two-way play and looks to be the future franchise player for the Philadelphia Flyers. Expect him to start the season as the team’s third-line center, with the potential to move up as his play at the NHL level improves.
Brian Elliott (G)
The Flyers signed Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million contract. Elliot was the starting goalie for the Calgary Flames last year and comes in with a chance to be the starter for the Flyers in 2017/18.
He had a slow start for the Calgary Flames last season but came on strong in the second half leading his team to the playoffs. He finished the season with 26 wins, a .910 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average.
Goaltending has been a major question mark in Philadelphia for a very long time, so can Elliott be the answer?
Jori Lehtera (C)
Philadelphia acquired Jori Lehtera from the St. Louis Blues, in a deal that sent Brayden Schenn the other way. Lehtera has struggled for much of the past two seasons; perhaps a new environment will help him revive his NHL career.
The Flyers will likely find a spot for Lehtera somewhere in the team’s bottom-six forward group. He is a reliable veteran on both ends of the ice and should help the Flyers with center depth as well.
Brayden Schenn (C)
The aforementioned Schenn was traded to the St. Louis Blues on draft day. He was a young veteran on the Flyers team for the past six seasons and had a few good seasons for the team.
However, many people felt Schenn did not fully live up to his potential as a fifth overall pick.
Trading Schenn opens up space for Nolan Patrick to develop on the Philadelphia’s roster. Even though Schenn will be missed, Nolan Patrick has potential to make Philly faithful fall in love with him really quick.
Steve Mason (G)
Steve Mason has been the starting goalie of the Philadelphia Flyers for much of the past five seasons. He’s had his ups and down, but his overall play did not warrant the Flyers to offer him another contract.
The Flyers let him walk during the summer, and Mason later signed a two-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets worth $8.2 million.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (LW)
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft. He doesn’t provide much offense but will be a serviceable depth forward for the Golden Knights this coming season.
Michael Del Zotto (D)
Michael Del Zotto had a very mediocre season for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, scoring six goals and 18 points in 51 games.
The Flyers chose not to re-sign Del Zotto during free agency, in order to give players like Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin a chance to crack the roster this fall.
Nick Cousins (C)
Nick Cousins has been with the Flyers’ organization for the past five seasons, since being drafted in 2011.
On June 16, 2017, Cousins was traded to the Arizona Coyotes along with Merrick Madsen for Brendan Warren and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Nick Schultz (D)
Nick Schultz played the past three seasons with the Southeastern Pennsylvania outfit. After his contract expired, the Flyers chose not to re-sign the 35-year-old, in favor of the youth movement on the blueline.
Moving on up
Travis Sanheim (D)
Travis Sanheim was a first round pick of the Flyers back in the 2014 NHL draft. He spent last season polishing his game down in the AHL, for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Sanheim is a well-rounded defender with size (6’4″), skating ability and decent two-way play. With the departure of Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, Sanheim has a good chance to solidify a roster spot in the NHL this fall.
Samuel Morin (D)
Like Sanheim, Samuel Morin is another Flyers’ prospect with a chance to solidify a spot with the team this coming season.
His development has been coming along rather slowly since being drafted 11th overall in 2013, but Morin is still only 22 and has time to develop. He is a towering presence at 6’6″ and is not afraid to throw his weight around, so the Flyers could use someone like him to add some physicality to their blueline.
Going into camp, the Flyers will definitely give Morin a good look, and possibly make him their number six or seven defenseman to start the season.
Oskar Lindblom (LW)
Lindblom has improved many aspects of his game including his skating, positioning and puck protection since being drafted. Last season, he scored a career-high 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games.
He will be entering the first year of his entry-level contract. With NHL-ready strength along with a strong two-way game, Lindblom can make a case to become a bottom six player for the Flyers next season.
Philippe Myers (D)
Philippe Myers is a dark horse defensive prospect on the Flyers’ depth chart. He was undrafted in the 2015 NHL draft but later signed with the Flyers as a free agent.
He possesses the combination of size (6’5″), skating ability, hockey IQ and is a great puck-moving defenseman. Myers was one of the top Canadian defensive prospects last year, playing a major role for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
He also has a desired right-handed shot, which might give him an edge to possibly steal a roster spot from Sanheim or Morin at training camp. Look for Philippe Myers to be one of the surprises to push for a roster spot in October.
Robert Hagg (D)
Robert Hagg is another defensive prospect in Philadelphia’s organization depth chart. Hagg played the past three seasons for the Flyers farm team in Lehigh Valley, and some believe he might be ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Like Morin, Sanheim and Meyers, Hagg has a chance to compete for a spot on defense next year.
What can the Philadelphia Flyers achieve this season?
Like years past, a lot of the questions surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers heading into this season will be on goaltending. If Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are able to play at a decent level, the Flyers’ chances of making the playoffs significantly increase.
With so much internal competition for roster spots, especially on defense, it should be fun to see whom Ron Hextall and his staff decide to keep around for opening night.
Players like Sanheim, Morin or Myers need to come in and have the same type of impact Ivan Provorov or Shayne Gostisbehere did beforehand. The Philadelphia Flyers can very well be one of the dark horse teams to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The future is definitely bright in Philadelphia and their defense looks to be a major strength down the road. However, the Flyers currently still have a very decent core built around Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek, who are all at the peak of their prime. The trio led a team that was only seven points shy of making the Stanley Cup playoffs last year.
This puts GM Hextall in a tricky spot, as he has to figure out how to balance out the two-cores on his team, and if they can simultaneously exist together.
If so, how patient should the Flyers be with their youth? Will their younger group be able to catch up to the older core in time?
The answers to these questions will be a lot clearer next season. Depending on how well the Flyers do by January, they could either be sellers or be adding a few extra pieces for a playoff run.
Overall, the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the most unpredictable teams in the Eastern Conference next year.
If anything, they look like a brink team to make the playoffs. They play in a very tough Metropolitan division, which includes the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, and New York Rangers.
Those teams will likely occupy the top-four spots, so if the Flyers were to make the playoffs they would probably sneak in as a wild card team.
We know Philadelphia’s defense will be very qualified in a few years, but asking them to be “playoff material” as early as next season might be a little bit of a stretch.
With that said, the Flyers might just miss the playoffs in 2017/18 and finish around ninth to eleventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Do you agree with this analysis? What do you think the Flyers can achieve in the 2017/18 NHL season? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to vote in the poll.
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