Flyer-Mania is Underway

With talented new additions and promising youth, the only place to go is up for the Flyers.

It’s finally October.

  To many sports fans, that signifies one thing: the beginning of the NHL season. After a disappointing season last year that saw them finish with 82 points (a record of 37-37-8), the Philadelphia Flyers, following a managerial shakeup, look to reverse their fortunes and make the playoffs.

  The Flyers weren’t hesitant to make some moves during the offseason. New general manager Chuck Fletcher, who formerly held the same position for the Minnesota Wild, gave up a fifth round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to the Winnipeg Jets for the RFA (restricted free agent) rights to 26-year-old center Kevin Hayes. The 6’5” power forward was coming off of a career high 54 points during the 2018-19 season. 

  On June 19, the Flyers signed Hayes to a 7 year deal worth $7.14 million per year. Hayes has a lot to prove for signing such a lucrative contract. He’s only broken the 50 point threshold once, and has typically played as a second or third line center. Hayes is now making $3 million more than teammate Sean Couturier, who scored 22 more points and is regarded around the league as a legitimate first line center. 

  Fletcher wasn’t done making moves yet either. Five days before Hayes was signed, on June 14, the Flyers traded fan-favorite defenseman Radko Gudas to the Washington Capitals for defenseman Matt Niskanen, who was coming off a mediocre season. Three days later, on June 18, the Flyers traded a 2019 second round pick and a 2020 third round pick for another defensive defenseman, Justin Braun, who, like Niskanen, was coming off of a poor season.

  Niskanen and Braun add to a defense filled with promise. Shayne Gostisbehere has a strong offensive game but has been inconsistent defensively. Ivan Provorov, who signed a 6 year contract worth $6.75 million per year, looks to rebound from a poor 2018-19 season. 6’6” giant Sam Morin, a first round pick in 2013, finally cracked the opening night roster and looks to set his spot in stone as Philippe Myers inches ever closer to breaking through as a full time NHLer. Travis Sanheim got his first full stint of NHL action last year, and looked comfortable in a top 6 role as he scored 35 points, which ranks him second amongst the team’s defensemen.

  Hayes adds to a stacked offense filled with center depth (Hayes, Couturier, Nolan Patrick, and Scott Laughton are all centers). Both wings look set as well, with Jakub Voracek, James Van Reimsdyk, Claude Giroux, and the recently extended Travis Konecny all scoring over 45 points. There are also solid depth options, like Oskar Lindblom, Michael Raffl, and newly-acquired Tyler Pitlick.

  Goalkeeping looks solid for the Flyers this year, as 21-year-old Carter Hart will start in his first full season with the Flyers. Hart, in his first year as a pro, showed why the Flyers picked him in the second round in 2016, going 16-13-1 with a GAA (an average amount of goals allowed per game) of 2.83 and a fantastic save percentage of .917. After the Flyers’ season ended early, Carter would go on to represent eventual finalists Canada at the World Championships. Hart has been heralded as a future Vezina Trophy winner, and it’s hard not to argue against that after seeing his stellar performances last season. 

    Philadelphia has one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, and Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee, the Flyers’ two highest profile prospect forwards, were expected to make the roster but were late cuts. Two under-the-radar prospects cracked the team in their place: Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman. Bunnaman will center the fourth line with Twarynski on his wing. Twarynski overcame huge odds to beat out Farabee and camp invitee Chris Stewart for the fourth line spot with some fantastic performances, and was lauded by Vigneault after a standout performance in a 4-1 win against the Rangers. Bunnaman was named the best player in training camp by Fletcher, and will replace Nolan Patrick, who is out with a migraine disorder.

 Despite a fairly poor preseason that culminated in an embarrassing 4-3 loss to Swiss team Lausanne HC and major offseasons for the Rangers, New Jersey, and Carolina, the Flyers still look like a playoff contender in a stacked Metropolitan Division. Their season begins on October 4 with a tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague, Czechia. 

 With talented new additions and promising youth, the only place to go is up for the Flyers.