NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The biggest additions for the Philadelphia Flyers could be the return of players already on their roster.
Forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick, who each missed most or all of last season, are expected to play significant roles this season.
Lindblom was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer in December 2019 but returned to play Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders. The Flyers are confident Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 season because of a migraine disorder, will be able to play when this season begins; the NHL is targeting Jan. 1, 2021 as its start.
“Losing guys like Oskar and [Nolan], they’re two really good players and big pieces of our team and what we’re trying to do,” forward James van Riemsdyk said. “When you can add two guys like that hopefully to the mix at the start of the season and not having to really subtract anything else to do that, that’s a big addition for us.”
When Lindblom played on Dec. 7, 2019, he was tied with forward Travis Konecny for the Flyers lead with 11 goals. The 24-year-old likely will be the left wing on the second line with Konecny and center Kevin Hayes this season.
Patrick has scored 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists) in 145 NHL games and shown flashes of the skill that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 22-year-old has been working out on and off the ice near his home in Winnipeg, including taking part in scrimmages. If healthy, he will be the third-line center.
“I still remember practices [last season] and [Nolan] came on the ice, the new coaches we had were kind of looking at us like, ‘This kid is pretty good,'” forward Claude Giroux said.
Patrick’s presence would give the Flyers depth at center, led by Sean Couturier, who won the Selke Trophy voted as the best defensive forward in the NHL, and Hayes, who was second on Philadelphia last season with 23 goals (Konecny, 24) and tied for the NHL lead with four shorthanded goals.
“I think we’re a good team,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “I think we’re a team that has the ability to get better just from internal growth … I do think you can maybe make an argument right now that our forward group going into [this] season, assuming full health for Oskar and Nolan, is deeper and better than what it was in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs].”
That internal growth could come from Wade Allison and Morgan Frost, who will compete for bottom-six forward spots after Derek Grant (Anaheim Ducks), Nate Thompson (Winnipeg Jets) and Tyler Pitlick (Arizona Coyotes) each signed elsewhere as a free agent.
Allison, a 23-year-old right wing, was a second-round pick (No. 52) in the 2016 NHL Draft. He said he finally feels healthy after tearing an ACL during the 2017-18 season, his second at Western Michigan University.
“He told [player development coach] Kjell [Samuelsson] this summer it’s the first time he’s felt 100 percent in over two years,” Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. “Physically he’s a machine and strong (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), so he’s a guy that he may need a little time in the minors, but at the same time he’s a man now, he’s strong, and if he’s healthy then his transition could be quick.”
Frost, the No. 27 pick in the 2017 draft, scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in 20 games with Philadelphia last season and was on the postseason roster. He’ll have a chance at one of the bottom-six center spots, along with Patrick, Scott Laughton, Tanner Laczynski, Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov.
The depth isn’t limited to forward. Erik Gustafsson signed a one-year contract Oct. 12, following the retirement of Matt Niskanen, giving the Flyers seven defensemen who played at least 40 NHL games last season.
That experience should help goalie Carter Hart continue to blossom. The 22-year-old had a 2.42 goals-against average in 43 games, second in the NHL among goalies to play at least 40 games (Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 2.12). He had two shutouts in 14 postseason games.
Philadelphia had the fourth-best points percentage in the Eastern Conference last season (41-21-7, .645) and won a playoff series for the first time since 2012. The Flyers believe with a healthy Lindblom and Patrick added to a deep, skilled group, they can go further this season.
“We took a huge step forward from last year,” Giroux said. “We’ve got to keep moving forward and keep building on this. We love our team. We like the pieces we have. We’re all pretty excited for [this] year.”