By: Anthony DiGrazio (@anthonydigrazio)
The Philadelphia Flyers held a rookie game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center on September 13. Flyers fans showed up in full-force with an estimated attendance around 13,000. This was for a rookie game. The first firesale of tickets ended less than a day after the release. This prompted a distribution of more tickets due to the high demand. The fact that the Flyers had to hold a rookie game in an arena sitting over 18,000 says something.
The excitement was high with players like Patrick, Lindblom, Myers, and Sanheim starting for the Flyers. After eventually losing the game in overtime, fans had time to reflect what they had just witnessed. A new era. Seeing players like Vorobyev, Rubstov, Frost, Strome, Ratcliffe…it was refreshing to be a Flyers fan last night, regardless of the pointless outcome.
Yes, we still have a majority of the core we have had for years, but the youth is knocking on the door. The next core is being internally introduced, and this upcoming season is when we will be seeing a handful of them.
With the offseason acquisition of Brian Elliott, the Flyers have a tandem of two starting-quality goalies. Hakstol will most likely play the hot-hand, while hopefully making sure that each goalie is getting the rest he may need. That was an issue with Hakstol last season. Yes, the goalies were not helping much with their performances, but it is still the coaches duty to manage a roster correctly.
Prediction: Both goalies have a decent season, our numbers will be a bit better than last year, and Brian Elliott will start more games throughout the season and potentially start as our playoff goalie if the Flyers can pull that off.
When training camp arrives, it will be nerve-racking for the first-year attendees. It is expected that Sam Morin and Robert Hagg have strong performances simply due to the fact that these individuals were brought up at the end of the season when thoughts of playoffs slipped away.
With the explosion of prospects, eyes will also be on Travis Sanheim, Phillipe Myers, and rookie-game standout, Mark Friedman. Myers and Friedman are both long shots to make the Flyers roster, but they will be able to spend quality time developing while playing for Lehigh Valley.
Prediction: Sam Morin and Robert Hagg both make the team to start the season. I do not see Hextall starting three rookie defenseman when we already have an extra in Brandon Manning. Sanheim will be the first call-up for an injury or a trade. Myers will take a year of development with the Phantoms before he makes the Flyers roster next season.
Our main core is in need of a resurgence. Giroux needs to perform better at a 5 on 5 level and be the point-producer he can be. We are not asking for 100 points, but a solid 65-75 would suffice. Voracek also needs to put the puck in the net more this season. As far as Simmonds, you know what you are going to get. Couturier just needs to stay healthy and continue to play his game.
With a core needing a resurgence and a roster with more scoring depth, the young guns are coming at the perfect time. Sophomore players like Konecny will have increased roles with the loss of Brayden Schenn.
Prediction: Look for Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom to standout and make the team. With apparent chemistry already that was displayed in the rookie game, it will be intriguing to see these two players experience it all together and gain that chemistry. These two players, along with Konecny, Filppula, and Raffl will help create depth that the Flyers have not had in quite some time.
This is a very important year for the Flyers and that is without even bringing up playoffs. Are they expected to make them? Not really, but could they make the playoffs and be a dark-horse candidate, potentially yes. This year is about transitioning. The rookies joining the club need to transition into the life of an everyday NHLer. The younger players need to learn and make mistakes, and thankfully the Flyers have a solid core where chemistry and leadership can help the younger kids excel. Especially needing the core to have a solid year, players like Provorov and Konecny will have increased roles helping support those players. It is going to be a year of mistakes, growth, learning, disappointment, excitement, nausea, but most importantly, smiles. Hockey is back folks, lets enjoy it.
Hockey is back folks, lets enjoy it.