Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2018-19, where LastWordOnHockey.com gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2018-19 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers.
The Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 season was yet again filled with inconsistencies. They opened up the season going 6-6, winning no more than two games in a row during the month. November was a month to forgot as they dropped 11 out of 13 games, en route to a 10-game losing streak that went into December. They kicked things up, winning six in a row after the losing streak.
The Flyers entered the new year with a 16-14-8 record as they continued to fight for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. They played some of their best hockey in January and February, going 8-4 and 10-1-2. A rocky March saw them fighting between a wild-card spot and a division spot as the Florida Panthers crept their way up the standings.
Winning three out of four games in April clinched the Flyers the third spot in the division and a rematch with their cross-state rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers were heavily outscored 28-15 as they dropped the series in six games.
Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were among the brightest spots as both reached career highs. Giroux finished with 102 points, besting the 93 points he posted during the 2011-12 season. Couturier cruised to career highs in every category, posting 31 goals and 45 assists for 76 points. He had never reached the 20-goal mark before this past season.
Travis Konecny impressed with 47 points, besting his goal total by 13 as he recorded 24 in his sophomore season. Ivan Provorov continued to develop into a number-one defenseman, his 41 points second among blueliners on the team.
A solid rookie season for Nolan Patrick saw him finish with 30 points in the form of 13 goals and 17 assists.
NHL Entry Draft And Off-Season
While the 2017 draft saw the Flyers make a big move in the first round, this year was quieter for the team. A full list of their draft picks can be found here. The Flyers entered the draft with nine picks and ended up making eight picks. For the first time in the team’s history, they did not select a Canadian player.
The Flyers kicked the off-season off with a bang as they brought back James van Riemsdyk. The winger signed a five-year deal to return to Philadelphia. Aside from that, the Flyers made minor moves. Some notables included re-signing Alex Lyon to a two-year contract, along with Robert Hagg. The team also brought in Christian Folin on a one-year deal. Sam Morin had his contract extended for three more years.
While the question of moving Giroux back to center briefly came out, Sean Couturier is your number one center. Despite a knee injury, Couturier is expected to be ready for opening night. His official return appears to line up around the second or third preseason game.
As for the top line right winger, Konecny played his best when he was promoted in late December. The three developed a chemistry that the Flyers should continue to utilize to their advantage.
With the signing of van Riemsdyk, he easily slots into the second line left wing spot. Based on how the second half of Patrick’s season went, it is fair to say he will have even more to prove during this upcoming year. Taking a grip on the second line center spot will be his most important task. And giving him Voracek on the other side will only improve his game. Patrick’s upswing came around the time he was paired with Voracek as his winger.
The third and fourth line centers have the chance to flip-flop during training camp. Weal and Laughton will both have their fair share of chances to impress. And both have something to prove as well. Weal may have a slight advantage, though, as Ron Hextall has gone to bat for him numerous times this off-season.
Lindblom’s spot on the roster is not a lock, but he has a solid opportunity to stick in the lineup full time. And as for Simmonds, he will be in the all-important contract season. Last season saw him plagued by injuries. It will be up to him to show that he’s still got more in the tank.
Opening night may see Raffl on the fourth line, but it may not be where he remains all season. The Austrian-born winger has the ability to give the Flyers diversity in where he’s placed in the lineup. And he has typically impressed wherever he plays.
Weise will also have something to prove this season. After signing with the Flyers during the off-season in 2016, it hasn’t been an impressive two years for Weise. In a Flyers uniform, he has 12 goals and 11 assists in 110 games. And he’s been a healthy scratch on many occasions, playing 64 games in his first season and only 46 last year. With two years left on his contract, Weise will need to impress to keep a spot in the lineup.
There is no question that Provorov and Gostisbehere open up the season as the number one pairing. The two were at their best when paired together late in the season. One can assume the same will happen this year.
The Flyers may also look to move Folin up the depth chart. MacDonald’s absence looks to be about eight regular season games in total. The team may want to see what they have in Folin. If Myers proves himself, though, it should be his spot come opening night.
Sanheim’s best hockey came when he was paired with Gudas. Leaving this pair together would be an ideal fit.
Don’t expect any surprises here. Elliott will be the team’s starter again this season. Unless someone like Alex Lyon forces the Flyers to make a decision, Neuvirth will slot in as the back-up once again.
Players To Watch
One can assume there will be plenty of people paying attention to Giroux and Couturier, especially after last season’s explosions from each. Couturier will especially have eyes on him to see how he bounces back from an off-season knee injury. But there are a few others that will have a lot of people watching them closely. And it all starts will a player that had his first healthy off-season since 2015.
Selected as the number one player to break-out this upcoming season, Patrick has a bit to prove coming into his sophomore season. Putting up 17 points in his final 25 games, Patrick showed the kind of player he can be when healthy. Now with a healthy off-season under his belt, there’s no reason he won’t come into this season ready to go.
After struggling during the first half of the season, Patrick turned things up when the calendar year changed. Coincidentally, that matched up with the move to put Patrick and Voracek together on the team’s second line.
If the two of them are able to develop chemistry once again, Patrick should find himself a key part of the team’s top six. Add van Riemsdyk into the mix and things should get even better from there for the young forward.
Speaking of players with something to prove, Simmonds likely has the most to prove among all Flyers players. Entering his contract season, it will be the most important one for Simmonds’ future. Exit interviews last season is when the list of Simmonds’ injuries came out. And it was not a short one.
Simmonds still managed to put up 24 goals and 22 assists. His 46 points were his lowest in a full season since 2010-11 with the Los Angeles Kings, however. Trade talk has followed Simmonds the entire off-season and will likely continue. While contract talks appear to have started, that’s not the focus for Simmonds. Getting healthy is the number one goal.
The rest will follow and determine where Simmonds is, come the end of this season.
After dominating the Swedish Hockey League, Lindblom made his professional debut last season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He played solidly, posting 34 points in 54 games. He finally earned a call-up to the NHL in February. Lindblom managed only two goals and four assists in 23 games, however.
Despite the low point total, Lindblom proved that he could handle himself at the NHL level. His spot on the NHL roster is the most guaranteed among all of the Flyers other rookies. Due to only playing 23 games, Lindblom did appear at the team’s rookie camp. But that won’t mean much in terms of his shot at making the roster.
Lindblom showed he could drive play and his results improved during his stint in the NHL. The potential was there for him last season and it’s likely that he will continue to build off it. Continuing to adjust to the faster pace will be the main key for Lindblom.
The Philadelphia Flyers appear to be on an upward trend and should see that success this upcoming season. The addition of van Riemsdyk gave the team depth scoring in the top-six that the team will greatly benefit from. It’s the consistency factor, though, that has always seemed to follow the team.
Aside from the major move to bring in van Riemsdyk, a majority of the team will remain the same from last season. And that team will come into the season trying to prove that they have what it takes to make some noise in the league.
The Flyers still aren’t up to par with some of the top teams in the league, however. So don’t expect this team to contend for the number one spot in their division. A similar finish to last season is more likely. The third seed or top wild-card spot is a potential landing spot for the team.
The Philadelphia Flyers 2018-19 season will be determined by many factors. Will Couturier and Giroux continue off of their breakout seasons? Can the Flyers goal-tending shake off their inconsistencies? Will a younger defence be the key on the back-end?
There are many questions the team will have to answer this upcoming season. On paper, though, the team is set up to do some damage come the regular season.
View the original article on Last Word On Hockey: Puck Drop Preview: 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers