How the Flyers’ youth infusion changed their identity

Did the chicken come before the egg?

While that old adage has stumped people for decades, a more recent and more local question has popped up regarding the Philadelphia Flyers: is the youth benefitting the veterans or is it the other way around?

This question was tossed around the locker room following the team’s historic 8-2 win over the Washington Capitals, their highest-scoring game in six years and the most goals in a home opener since the eighties.

Dave Hakstol really couldn’t put his finger on that subject.

“It is probably a combination,” Hakstol told reporters on Saturday. “You know that’s a tough one to answer.

“Our veterans are playing hard, playing well and the young guys are fitting in and doing their part.”

That’s true, there’s definitely an increase in production between all four lines and the three defensive pairings than there was last season. The question, though, is what’s been behind that change, the youth infusion or the veterans’ influence?

The only real evidence we can suffice is in the numbers themselves. Among the Flyers 21 goals, there have been 57 points recorded. Out of those 57 points, only one rookie (Nolan Patrick) has contributed anything, that being two points. That doesn’t speak to the “youth” as a whole, though, as the Flyers have 10 players born in 1992 or later (24 years or younger).

That group has produced 29 points — 50.8% of the team’s total points recorded. Two of those youthful players, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg, have yet to tally a point, either. Four of the six Flyers who have recorded multiple assists are in that ‘youth group’ and the top three plus/minus leaders are all 24 or younger.

So maybe the youth really is behind this surge?

Jake Voracek would probably attest to that considering he’s off to the fastest start of his career with nine points in five games. He put up seven points in each of the first five games over the previous two seasons.

Claude Giroux, too, is off to a fine start and is producing at even strength, a sight Flyers fans have been clamoring for quite some time. Giroux put up four points on Saturday with a pair of goals, the first time he’s had multiple goals and multiple assists in the same game since 2014.

While no one will ever directly say, “Yeah, the young guys are behind this success,” because which veteran would ever want to admit that, right? Reading between the lines and inferring a little bit of what has been said does add some value to the side that believes the youth is the fuel to this train.

Many of the players and even the coach have referenced the team being in much better shape. Now, this is typically always said every training camp. “I’ve never been in better shape” is a phrase reporters hear far too much, yet rarely does it actually pan out and in a way where every single player seems to have benefitted.

“I really think we are just in better shape,” Giroux told reporters on Saturday. “I think this camp we had guys come to camp in great shape. We don’t really get tired.”

“I think that training camp was hard, but it was a good push,” Jake Voracek added. “I think we’re skating well because we’re in good shape.”

Now, what changed the methodology of Dave Hakstol’s training camp? A likely reasoning would be the changing of the guard, the new, fresh faces that stepped on the ice and the need for him to really push the guys in order to get everyone up to speed.

What that did was create an atmosphere that promoted growth in everyone, from Taylor Leier to Wayne Simmonds, and now we’re seeing the results of it. The youth has played a vital part in this organization ever since Ron Hextall took the helm, and right now we’re seeing what happens when that youth is incorporated into the lineup and how it not only improves the product out on the ice, but brings out the best in the veterans.


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