Tonight it begins again. The Flyers will kick off their season opener against the Kings in LA at 10:30 PM. Although this years Flyers team is largely the same as last years, there is reason for optimism.
Some of the young fellas that Flyers fans have been hearing about for years are now arriving. 2015 1st round draft picks Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are on the roster and here to stay. The 19-year-olds will add youth and a spark to a team who is trying to get off to a good start on a tough first road trip out west.
Provorov is an all around defenseman who will play large minutes right from the start. He can score, defend, and do almost anything you can ask. Provorov is an exciting young prospect and has the chance to be a franchise player alongside Shayne Gostisbehere.
It is obvious that the Flyers needed to upgrade their speed. GM Ron Hextall tried to attack this last summer when he made the trade for Sam Gagner. Gagner hasn’t worked out and has since moved on to Columbus. Travis Konecny is the player the Flyers have been waiting for: a winger with speed and the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. A similar size to Gagner, Konecny will fill in on the 2nd line to begin the year with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek.
Improved Special Teams:
One thing that should be better this year is special teams. The addition of Boyd Gordon to the penalty kill is one of those moves that isn’t flashy, but is effective. Gordon is a longtime NHLer who is gritty and can win faceoffs, which are characteristics of a good penalty killer.
The power play is really what needed to be improved from last year. The Flyers have the offensive firepower that should result in a good power play, but they completely underperformed last year. A fresh Claude Giroux and Voracek should regain some of the chemistry that makes the 1st unit so effective. Also, a full season of Ghost handling the first unit is exciting. No more Ryan White on the power play too as he has moved on to Arizona. The internal additions of Konecny and Provorov should help make the 2nd unit significantly more potent. Another year of growth for Couturier should also help. Expect an uptick in both numbers.
Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth both return from last season. Neuvirth had a career year last year, going 18-8-4 with 3 shutouts, 2.27 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage. Mason won 23 games and carried a 2.51 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Both had really good years in 2015-2016 and proved to be one of the best goaltender tandems in the league, but both are free agents after this season. Expect the competition between them to be at an all-time high. It is likely the Flyers will sign only one of them to a contract in the offseason. This scenario could be beneficial for the team this year, as Mason and Neuvirth will be playing their hearts out for a contract. The competition begins tonight with Neuvirth starting against the Kings and Mason will start tomorrow in Arizona.
The Flyers will look to improve from last year when they lost in the first round against the Capitals. The inclusion of some of the young prospects in the system, the impending improvement of the special teams, and goalies playing with extra motivation should help the Flyers take another step forward.
Photo source: NHL.com