NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
1. Who will center the third line?
Nolan Patrick is who the Flyers would like to see at center behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes. But Patrick’s status remains uncertain after he missed last season because of a migraine disorder. The No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has been working on and off the ice near his home in Winnipeg and took part in scrimmages this offseason.
The Flyers remain high on Patrick, especially from the glimpses they saw when the 22-year-old was able to get on the ice.
“We want him to get healthy,” forward Claude Giroux said. “He’s going to be a big piece for us this year.”
If Patrick is unable to play, Giroux could shift from right wing to center, where he played during his first 10 NHL seasons, which would push Hayes to the third line. Other options include veterans Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl, and prospects Connor Bunnaman, Morgan Frost and Tanner Laczynski.
2. Who will be Ivan Provorov‘s defense partner?
Provorov averaged 0.52 points per game last season (36 points in 69 games), his highest total in four NHL seasons, with Matt Niskanen on the right side as his defense partner. But with Niskanen retiring Oct. 5, there’s no clear choice for a replacement.
Philippe Myers could be the leading option. He’s a right-handed shot, tied for second among NHL rookie defensemen with a plus-17 rating last season, and his three goals during the postseason tied Provorov for most among Philadelphia defensemen. Myers is a restricted free agent.
Other options could be Justin Braun, a right-handed shot who played mostly on the third pair last season, and Erik Gustafsson, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent Oct. 12. Gustafsson, a left-handed shot, was sixth among NHL defensemen with 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists) in 2018-19 playing the right side as Duncan Keith‘s partner with the Chicago Blackhawks.
3. Can the power play be more consistent?
The Flyers were 23rd of the 24 teams in the postseason on the power play at 7.7 percent, including 0-for-13 during their seven-game loss to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round.
Different personnel and setups were used, but nothing seemed to click. With most of that roster returning, the players will try to reward the confidence in them.
“We have the guys, the pieces, that make up a good power play,” forward James van Riemsdyk said. “Just for whatever reason we never found our rhythm or our groove. We tried a lot of different things. For us it’ll be key to get off to a good start and hopefully get going from there. Looking back on the past success, we’ve had a lot of guys who have been good power-play players in recent years. Just want to try to find more of that.”