Breaking Down the Flyers Opening Day Roster
It's the best time of the year. Across the National Hockey League, 31 teams are gearing up to begin another season. Regardless of what the experts say, what the fans think, who has come and who has gone, everybody comes into opening day knowing they've got a chance to do something special.
A lot has changed from last year to now. With all of the drama, turnover, and news over the last 365 days, it's easy to forget where the Flyers were a year ago. For reference, here's the lineup that beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 on October 4th, 2018:
At least seven players from last season's opener will not play in this year's. Nolan Patrick is out with migraine disorder. Mikhail Vorobyev was sent down to the AHL. Wayne Simmonds was traded to Nashville and signed with New Jersey on July 1. Jori Lehtera is mercifully in the KHL. Andrew MacDonald was bought out and is on a PTO in Calgary. Radko Gudas was dealt to Washington, as was Anthony Stolarz to Edmonton (he's now a Duck). Robert Hagg may be in the press box. And the Flyers three scratches for the game - Jordan Weal, Christian Folin, and Dale Weise - are all gone as well.
But now that the disastrous 2018-19 season is in the rearview mirror, it's time to look at the next group of Flyers trying to lead Philadelphia to a championship. In order of points scored last season, here are your 2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers, in all their glory.
LW Claude Giroux
Acquired: Drafted 22nd in 2006
2018-19: 82 GP - 22 G, 63 A, 85 PTS
Oh captain, my captain. Even at 31, he's still the Flyers best all-around forward, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Keep him on the wing at all costs.
C Sean Couturier
Acquired: Drafted 8th in 2011
2018-19: 80 GP - 33 G, 43 A, 76 PTS
My vote to win the Selke, and with good reason. Coots proved that his breakout 2017-18 season wasn't a fluke last year. He officially has one of the best contracts in the NHL.
RW Jakub Voracek
Acquired: Via Trade from Columbus in 2011
2018-19: 78 GP - 20 G, 46 A, 66 PTS
Still has incredible hands and vision, but maybe passes a bit too much. Still an elite forward, albeit maybe a little overpaid. Still hasn't blocked me on Twitter, which is a miracle in itself.
C Kevin Hayes
Acquired: UFA Rights from WPG; Signed 7-Year Contract in 2019
2018-19: 71 GP - 19 G, 36 A, 55 PTS
Another very good forward who may be a little bit overpaid. With Nolan Patrick hurt, the addition of Hayes is looking more critical than
ever before. In a great position, from linemates to ice-time to familiarity with Vigneault, for a career year.
RW Travis Konecny
Acquired: Drafted 24th in 2015
2018-19: 82 GP - 24 G, 25 A, 49 PTS
Brings a perfect mix of speed, skill, and spunk that makes him lovable to all generations of Flyers fans. Keep him on the top line, and if the second PP unit is competent (or if he plays on the first), he should easily crack 60 points. Most importantly, under contract.
LW James van Riemsdyk
Acquired: Signed 5-Year Contract in 2018
2018-19: 66 GP - 27 G, 21 A, 48 PTS
Almost scored thirty goals last year despite missing 16 games due to injury. With the added forward depth, he can be used in a more sheltered role to mask his defensive struggles. JVRn't you glad he's a Flyer?
D Shayne Gostisbehere
Acquired: Drafted 78th in 2013
2018-19: 78 GP - 9 G, 28 A, 37 PTS
This season ends in an even year, so expect Ghost to score 60 plus points and receive some Norris votes. In all seriousness, the Flyers desperately need the Ghost of old to return. If he bounces back, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the blueline, and the members of PP1.
D Travis Sanheim
Acquired: Drafted 17th in 2014
2018-19: 82 GP - 9 G, 26 A, 35 PTS
May make Chuck Fletcher look silly for signing him to a bridge deal in 2021. Breakout season a year ago, as his incredible puck skills and offensive ability shined. Role will be interesting - he's spent preseason time on a potential third pair with Myers and a potential first pair with Provorov (the latter looks more likely to start).
LW/RW Oskar Lindblom
Acquired: Drafted 138th in 2015
2018-19: 81 GP - 17 G, 16 A, 33 PTS
A play-driver and a goal scorer with smart defensive instincts - not too bad for a 5th round pick. Looked like a much faster skater in camp. Looking to make Dave Hakstol look like a fool for how sparsely he was used during the beginning of last year.
C/LW Scott Laughton
Acquired: Drafted 20th in 2012
2018-19: 82 GP - 12 G, 20 A, 32 PTS
Far from a bust, though probably not what the Flyers had in mind with the former 1st round pick. Laughton is a smart, versatile defensive forward who proved last year he can score a little bit. Getting third line minutes to start the year with Patrick out - can he keep them long term?
C Connor Bunnaman
Acquired: Drafted 109th in 2016
2018-19 (AHL): 62 GP - 19 G, 13 A, 32 PTS
Captain of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers in 2017-18. Followed that up with a solid first pro season in Lehigh Valley and a training camp good enough to surprisingly land him the 4C job. Good defensively and a solid playmaker - offensive upside isn't amazing.
C Nolan Patrick (Injured - Migraine Disorder)
Acquired: Drafted 2nd in 2017
2018-19: 72 GP - 13 G, 18 A, 31 PTS
Still has tremendous upside thanks to his size and stellar puck skills. Needs to improve on his consistency. Finally, this:
D Ivan Provorov
Acquired: Drafted 7th in 2015
2018-19: 82 GP - 7 G, 19 A, 26 PTS
I still think he's going to be a star in this league someday, but last year was a concerning step back. Has only had one half a season where the eye test, counting stats, and advanced metrics all said he was a top-pair defenseman. His six-year extension could either be a slight overpay or an absolute steal.
D Matt Niskanen
Acquired: Via Trade from Washington in 2019
2018-19: 80 GP - 8 G, 17 A, 25 PTS
At 32, last year's step back was concerning, but there are reasons to think he can rebound. Has better puck skills than Radko Gudas, allowing him to play higher up in the lineup. This better work, Chuck.
LW/RW Carsen Twarynski
Acquired: Drafted 82nd in 2016
2018-19 (AHL): 69 GP - 10 G, 14 A, 24 PTS
Lit training camp on fire for the second straight year. This time, he added some goals to his physical play and great forechecking ability, and it was enough to make the team. Will be battling with Bunnaman to keep a spot once Patrick and Pitlick return from injury.
D Robert Hagg
Acquired: Drafted 41st in 2013
2018-19: 82 GP - 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS
Has grit, can hit. Doesn't do much else unfortunately, as a promising October 2018 proved to be a mirage. In a perfect world, he'd be the Flyers seventh defenseman, but it's looking more and more likely that he starts game one.
LW/RW Michael Raffl
Acquired: Signed 1-Year ELC from Europe in 2013, 2-Year Ext. in 2019
2018-19: 67 GP - 6 G, 12 A, 18 PTS
This isn't your grandmother's Michael Raffl, the one who didn't look out of place whether he was on the first line or the fourth line. He is still a solid bottom-six forward, and should help show Twarynski and Bunnaman the ropes. Long live the Austrian Rocket.
D Justin Braun
Acquired: Via Trade from San Jose in 2019
2018-19: 78 GP - 2 G, 14 A, 16 PTS
Makes a lot of money, took a lot of draft capital to get him. But it's worth it if he's as good defensively and can help the penalty kill as much as advertised. Preseason was a promising start to his Flyers career.
RW Tyler Pitlick (Injured - Left Wrist Tear)
Acquired: Via Trade from Dallas in 2019
2018-19: 47 GP - 8 G, 4 A, 12 PTS
He's only a Flyer because he makes $900K less than Ryan Hartman, but that hardly means he's a bad player. Pitlick was a solid bottom-sixer in Dallas - good skater, strong work ethic, capable of scoring 15 goals. Seems unlikely to be ready for Prague with a wrist injury, but he shouldn't miss much time.
D Sam Morin
Acquired: Drafted 11th in 2013
2018-19: 5 GP - 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS
Doesn't seem like there's much of a future with the Flyers for Morin. He's eighth on the depth chart and wasn't amazing in the preseason. His great size combined with decent passing and shot could make him a solid third pair defenseman somewhere, but I just don't think it's here.
G Carter Hart
Acquired: Drafted 48th in 2016
2018-19: 31 GP - 16-13-1, .917 SV%, 2.83 GAA
Has the potential to be the first franchise goalie for the Flyers in thirty years. If he plays anything like he did last year in 50-55 starts, the Flyers will be fine. A stellar .982 save percentage in the USA part of preseason serves as further evidence that the future is bright with Starter Hart.
G Brian Elliott
Acquired: Signed 2-Year Contract in 2017, 1-Year Ext. in 2019
2018-19: 26 GP - 11-11-1, .907 SV%, 2.96 GAA
Age, injury concerns, and a mediocre preseason are a bit concerning. When healthy, Elliott can be a solid goalie, a perfectly capable 1B. He'll start the year behind Hart, but I'm not certain that he'll end it there.
You Don't Have to Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here
These players did not make the Flyers, but because they made the trip to Europe and are prime candidates to be recalled once the Flyers fix their murky cap situation, I'm going to include them here. Farabee, Myers, and Lyon are currently with the Phantoms. Stewart remains unsigned - he can practice and travel with the team, but can't play in a regular season game unless he is signed to an NHL contract.
LW/RW Joel Farabee
Acquired: Drafted 14th in 2018
2018-19 (NCAA): 37 GP - 17 G, 19 A, 36 PTS
Farabee is an incredibly smart player who almost always makes the right decision with or without the puck. He was snakebitten all preseason, seemingly ready for an offensive outburst. Should no longer be in the lineup in Prague, but could play in 75 plus NHL games.
RW Chris Stewart
Acquired: Signed PTO in 2019
2018-19 (EIHL): 23 GP - 6 G, 7 A, 13 PTS
The only player on this list not under a contract, and Fletcher said they don't plan to give him one soon. But he played a lot in preseason and is making the trip to Europe, so he remains on this list. Hopefully, he remains an "in case of emergency, break glass" option, because he just can't keep up with the speed of today's NHL.
D Phil Myers
Acquired: Signed as Undrafted FA in 2015
2018-19: 21 GP - 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS
Has unfortunately failed to build off a solid NHL audition from the end of last season. He's still trying to do too much, which was what prevented him from making the team out of camp last year. Played well in the final preseason game - hopefully, AV can see and trust the upside.
G Alex Lyon
Acquired: Signed as Undrafted FA in 2016
2018-19 (AHL): 39 GP - 19-17-3, .916 SV%, 2.74 GAA
Also not technically on the roster, Lyon is only in Prague to serve as an emergency goalie in case of injury. He's a perfectly solid AHL starter now, and has the chance to prove he's more than that. But if he falters, prospect Felix Sandström could leap him on the Flyers goalie depth chart.