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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – Team Preview – Player Profiles

REVIEW: Philadelphia was a disaster in 2021-22, posting a 25-46-11 record, and not much was expected of them in 2022-23 either. Despite that, the Flyers got off to a strong start, going 5-2-0 through Oct. 27 and 7-3-2 through Nov. 8. Carter Hart was a big part of that initial success, posting a 6-0-2 record, 1.97 GAA and .946 save percentage through his first eight starts. The good times didn’t last though. Philadelphia ranked 23rd in expected goals against (182.51) in 2022-23, and Hart could only elevate the Flyers for so long. By the end of the season, the goaltender had a 2.94 GAA and .907 save percentage in 55 contests. The Flyers also didn’t have much going for it offensively, in no small part because Sean Couturier (back) and Cam Atkinson (neck) missed the entire campaign. Not that the Flyers would have been an elite offensive force even with them, but those key injuries contributed to Philadelphia ranking 29th in goals per game (2.68). The Flyers did have additional stretches where they were more than the sum of their parts, such as a 9-3-0 run from Dec. 29-Jan. 21 and a 5-0-1 stretch from March 17-30, but it was a mostly miserable season resulting in a 31-38-13 record.

What’s Changed? James van Riemsdyk left as a free agent and Tony DeAngelo was bought out but given van Riemsdyk’s former $7 million annual cap hit compared to his 29 points last year and DeAngelo’s horrendous defense, those moves feel like addition through subtraction. What’s more painful in the short-term is the loss of Ivan Provorov, who was traded to Columbus as part of a three-team deal that primarily brought picks and prospects to Philadelphia.

What would success look like? This isn’t a team built to compete yet. In an ideal scenario where Couturier and Atkinson return next season while young forwards Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Noah Cates make strides in their development then the Flyers’ offense will be…less bad.

What could go wrong? Yeah, even under optimal circumstances, there’s not a lot of hope for this team in 2023-24, and unfortunately things could end up far from the ideal. Most notably, Couturier hasn’t played since Dec. 18, 2021, so who knows if he’ll be available this year or what he’ll be like if he does play. Meanwhile, Hart is coming off an up-and-down campaign, and he’s had a hit-or-miss career. The Flyers have a poor track record with goaltenders, and as much as they want Hart to be the long-term solution in Philadelphia, they might have to go back to the drawing board.

Top Breakout Candidate: The fans in Philadelphia need someone to latch onto and give them hope for the future. Perhaps Tyson Foerster will fill that role. Taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, he’s coming off a superb campaign in which he had 48 points in 66 AHL contests along with three goals and seven points in eight games with the Flyers. Foerster will enter training camp in the mix for a middle-six spot, and it’s worth keeping an eye out how he does in that battle.


Sean Couturier

Signing an eight-year contract extension before the start of the 2021 season, Sean Couturier hasn’t played a game for the Flyers since December of that year. He started the year on injured reserve after recovering from back surgery and a herniated disc pushed his timeline back even further. He began skating in October, but another setback led to his second back surgery that ultimately ended his season. Perhaps no news is good news as far as his availability goes for this upcoming season. It’s become less about what the Flyers will get out of Couturier when he comes back, but hoping they can get him back playing regularly again. It’s hard to believe he’s only 30-years-old because he was on the same 2011 team that Mike Richards and Chris Pronger were a part of. Playing an important defensive role on the Flyers since his rookie season, the wear-and-tear of the NHL has done a number on Couturier’s body and the hope is that a season of recovery will help him more in the second half of his career. The Couturier they get post-multiple surgeries might not be the same workhorse they’ve relied on for years, but this is something the Flyers should address in their rebuild.

Travis Konecny

John Tortorella is known for going to the extreme with how much he plays his top guys and Travis Konecny ended up being in that group. Playing more minutes per game than he ever had before, Konecny had every opportunity to show that he can be one of the best wingers in the league and while that’s a high bar to clear, he still had his best NHL season to date. Often the Flyers’ best option for offense, Konecny showed that his two previous seasons were a fluke and that he can produce if given the opportunity. He eclipsed his previous season’s goal total before New Year’s and finished at a rate closer to his career average. Enjoying time on both special teams’ units, he was a menace in front of the net and as a shorthanded threat on the Flyers new aggressive penalty kill. His speed is always going to make him a factor and even more on a Flyers team that spent a lot of time in their own zone. It opened the door for him to create more offense off counterattacks and it caught some teams off-guard, as he did have the green light to poach for more offense if he wanted to. Aside from missing 20 games with an injury, this is the season Philadelphia was hoping to get out of Konecny.

Owen Tippett

While Konecny was the Flyer’s best player, Tippett was their most exciting. Noticeable whenever he was on the ice, he finally got a consistent role in the top-six and had that breakout season. It was long awaited, as he could never really find a role with Florida and his ceiling looked like a guy who could provide some pop-gun offense off the rush once every few games. He’s still a shoot-first player, but he also had excellent chemistry with Philly’s more skilled players. Showing some major progress as far as his off puck play and looking for an extra play instead of just aimlessly firing blanks at the net. Benefitted from some of the same situations as Konecny where he scored off counterattacks after surviving defensive zone shifts, which is why the two were placed on different lines after connecting on some goals early. Tippett was one of the better players in the league in terms of turning zone entries into scoring chances. Still not a great finisher on his own despite scoring 27 goals, but makes up for it in volume, leading the Flyers in shots per 60 minutes. One of the few players on the team who shattered his expectations this year.

Morgan Frost

The Flyers had a few young players who were in the “prove it” bucket and Morgan Frost had maybe the highest ceiling of the bunch. A dynamic player in junior and an excellent playmaker, injuries and lack of ice time for him to make his mark so far. His game is more about precision than speed and it can be tough to work that in sometimes, especially on a rebuilding team. He is good at entering the zone through traffic but prefers setting up a cycle or dropping the puck off rather than attacking the net directly. The Flyers struggled to find any spot for him early in the year, playing him lower in the lineup and Frost obviously struggled to produce. Once December rolled around, Frost got more minutes and it became easier to play his game, forming some great chemistry with Owen Tippett. He finished the season on a strong note, but the Flyers are still left wondering what they have in him. He is a good, skilled player but there is always the question of “can we do better?” which is always a gamble with prospects. Right now, Frost proved that he is an NHLer, but more of a complementary piece.

Scott Laughton

Considered the heart and soul of the Flyers, Laughton had a career season in some ways, eclipsing the 40-point mark for the first time and playing the top line center role on some nights. A solid role player for most of his career, he had the trust of the Flyers coaching staff more than almost anybody. Not only was he the only player on the team to wear a letter, he was also used in all situations. He reaped the benefits, getting the opportunity to play with some better players and collecting more points in the process, most notably on special teams. He plays with a high motor, and it made him a great fit on the Flyers aggressive penalty kill, where he tallied seven shorthanded points. Lost minutes as the season went on as the Flyers were auditioning younger players and this season should follow a similar timeline. Depending on Couturier’s health, Laughton is more suited for a third line role, but he is still one of their more reliable options, especially at center, and could continue to play a big role on this rebuilding Flyers squad.

Cam Atkinson

Another player who was expected to miss time and ended up sidelined for the entire season, Atkinson will be an important piece for raising the tide in the Flyers lineup. A consistent scorer almost every year, he plays with a lot of energy and can fill a lot of different roles in the lineup. He’s a shoot-first player that can work with a finesse player like Morgan Frost and can play the tougher minutes with Cates or Couturier if he needs to. The Flyers also have a void of experience in their lineup with veteran James van Riemsdyk departing in free agency. Atkinson taking over his minutes should soften the blow. He was projected to play opening night until a nagging neck issue that eventually led to surgery in December ended his season. You never have to worry about effort with him, it’s just a matter of how effective he can be after not playing a game for a full year.

Joel Farabee

It’s a little surprising that Farabee didn’t miss a single game last season considering he was less than six months removed from disc replacement surgery. The aftereffects of it were noticeable on the ice rather than in his results. He ended the year with a career high in points, but it was also the first time in his career he played a full 82 games. Farabee was also one of Philly’s players they expected to take a step forward, but his play plateaued more than anything. He got consistent minutes in the top-six, although rarely with the same linemates and had bursts of production mixed with prolonged dry spells. The issue is that there’s not really one area of the game he is great at. He’s tenacious on the puck and creates most of his goals through steals and turnovers where he just needs to make a move or two to score. Outside of that, he had a lot of quiet shifts. He only shoots the puck at an average rate and is just an okay playmaker, so scoring is his one upside at the moment. This is where a full off-season where he’s not recovering from surgery might do him good. As one of the Flyers signed long-term, they are hoping he has another level to his game.

Noah Cates

Some fans might have said “who” when they saw Noah Cates on Selke ballots. The rookie surprised even some Flyers fans with how quick he ascended in the lineup, going from a fringe player to centering Travis Konecny’s line by the middle of the year. Known more for his defensive game in college, this is what kept him in the coach’s good graces through the first half of the season. He wasn’t scoring a lot of points or generating much offense, but he wasn’t making a lot of mistakes either. This was also while playing some tough minutes at a new position, as he was primarily a winger in college. He turned a corner in the second half of the year, scoring 24 of his 38 points after January, book-ended by a strong month of March where he had eight points in 13 games. Playing in the top-six will help that, but the promotion was well-earned. The Flyers were in dire straits for a defensive center in the absence of Sean Couturier and Cates gave them some hope that he might be one in the future. He had elite defensive results in terms of preventing scoring chances and shots. It might be tough for him to repeat that next season, but Cates should have the inside track for the 2C job in Philly next year.

Wade Allison

It’s hard to believe that Allison was drafted all the way back in 2016 because last year was technically his first full pro season. Injuries were an issue in college, and he played only 53 games over two seasons both in the AHL and NHL before making the Flyers out of camp this year. He still looked very raw to put it lightly. He was easy to notice during their games because he’s a big winger that plays a straight-line game, usually crashing the net, blocking a shot or laying a hit into somebody. There was a lot to like about him, but not much in the way of results. Allison struggled to produce consistently, and it was tough for him to make his mark otherwise, as he’s not a great passer or someone that can keep a cycle going. He’s mostly there to make the final shot or go to the net. It made his game one-dimensional but the saving grace for him is that he was creating chances, averaging more relative to his ice-time than any other Flyers forward. The downside is that he’s an older prospect and the Flyers will be looking to upgrade if this is as good as it gets with him. His size and tenacious approach to the game makes him an intriguing player to watch going forward, though.


Rasmus Ristolainen

Along with John Tortorella, his longtime defensive coach Brad Shaw arrived in Philadelphia this year and one of his tasks was rebuilding the game of Rasmus Ristolainen. An analytics punching bag for his entire career, Ristolainen typically had some of the worst on-ice stats in the league in terms of giving up goals and scoring chances against. Fixing this was one of their top priorities, as he is going to be a Flyer for a long time and has the physical tools to be a good defenseman, or at least not one of the worst in the league statistically. The solution was simplifying Ristolainen’s game, having him be less physical and using his reach more than his body to disrupt plays instead of hunting for hits. He still has limitations, especially with the puck, but it is less of a fire drill in the defensive zone when he is on the ice now compared to years past. He was also properly slotted in the lineup for the first time in his career, only playing 19-20 minutes a game instead of regularly leading the team in ice-time. In terms of building for the future, getting Ristolainen’s game pointed in the right direction is a good first step.

Travis Sanheim

A strange trend over the past couple of years has been Travis Sanheim not being on the ice for many even strength goals against despite the Flyers struggles. In the past two seasons, he has been either first or second in on-ice goals against per 60 despite posting some ugly possession numbers during those years. With Provorov traded to Columbus, he is the lone remaining member of the Flyers old defense corps and is in the first year of a long contract extension. The Flyers’ more talented defensemen have always been on the left side, so Sanheim’s had the burden of covering up for some flawed defense partners over the years. He has the most complete skillset to mesh with everyone, so he’s their best option for the job on the second pair. It makes it tough for him to play the puck-moving game he was drafted for, but he adapts well and can eat minutes while keeping things in check at five-on-five. Will show flashes of skill and can be a dynamic threat on offense when he gets to jump into the play. Flyers de facto No. 1 defenseman heading into next year.

Cam York

The 2019 first round pick had to wait his turn, spending the first half of the season in Lehigh Valley before getting the call-up. Wanting to see what he could do; he was immediately put on the Flyers top pair with Ivan Provorov in a sink or swim situation. Playing on his offside, some aspects of the game were tough for him. York didn’t get to show much of his puck-moving skill in the defensive zone because of this, as Provorov handled most of the workload there while York stayed in coverage or provided support on breakouts. From the red line in, things were a little easier. He got to play similar to how he did in college, always looking to jump in or activate from the point and there was some trial and error. Not creating much offense in volume but showing some of the flash that made him a first-round pick. He has excellent edgework and is a great passer who can thread the needle through coverage. The Flyers tried to optimize this skillset while protecting him in the defensive zone and it worked to a point. This year, the training wheels will be coming off with Provorov gone and the Flyers having in their top-four. York showed he can be a useful player in controlled situations, now it’s about thriving in all situations.

Sean Walker

One of two players coming back to the Flyers in the Ivan Provorov deal, Sean Walker is hoping a change of scenery can help extend his NHL career. Part of the Kings previous prospect core, he proved that he belonged in the NHL, but became redundant with the rest of LA’s defense corps. Losing an entire season to a knee injury did him no favors, but the Kings had a lot of players of a similar ilk; a mobile defenseman who fits into that 5/6 mold rather than a true top-four. His skating will be a welcome addition to the Flyers blue line, as he can get up into the play and give the team’s rush offense a different look. The downside is he isn’t that dynamic when joining the rush, making safe plays and doing more to maintain possession rather than breaking the game open. There’s a place for that in the lineup, especially on a Flyers team looking for NHL depth. Sometimes all you need from your third pair is a guy who can make a breakout pass consistently and Walker can certainly fill that role.