If there’s one thing Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach Dave Hakstol has shown in his first season in the NHL it’s that he’s not afraid to sit his players, rightly or wrongly, in fans’ eyes. Matt Read, RJ Umberger, Ryan White, Brandon Manning, Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier when they were on the team have all been healthy scratches.
One of the more perplexing healthy scratches this season has been Evgeny Medvedev. The Russian defenseman, in his first year in the NHL, has missed 15 games this season, most due to healthy scratches. The longest benching happened near the beginning of the season when Medvedev missed five games. It made sense then as the longtime KHL d-man transitioned to the smaller, tougher NHL game.
One of the Flyers’ biggest weaknesses is their defense, despite improvement from last season. Mark Streit has struggled a bit this season, Radko Gudas is intimidating, but makes mistakes and Manning is marginally a number seven defenseman. However, Medvedev has proved this season he is an NHL defenseman that can contribute with his nine points, second power-play unit presence and playing around 18 minutes a night.
Medvedev missed games sporadically throughout the season and was benched in the Flyers last game on Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks in favor of Manning. Philly had one of its worst offensive outputs Tuesday, recording 1 goal on 29 shots, 15 of which came in the third period when the game was already out of reach.
Medvedev’s biggest asset is easily his offensive game. He has a powerful slapshot, makes a solid pass out of the zone and sees the ice well. He struggles in his defensive game from time to time and is known to make mistakes also, but for an offensive-starved team, Medvedev shines through more than Manning ever does.
Then there’s also what Medvedev can bring as the trade deadline nears.
With Sean Couturier injured and the Flyers six points out of the last Wild Card spot, playoffs contention seems like a dream. Medvedev will be a free agent at the end of the season and should garner suitors as the deadline approaches. But he’s not going to gain interest from teams sitting in the press box on a team that has a less-than-stellar defense corps.
With the likes of Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim possible to join the defense corps in Philadelphia next season, Medvedev could be redundant in the near future and holds more value to the Flyers as a trade chip.
There’s the problem of Medvedev not having much history in the NHL. He’s been a consistent 20-point producer (in about 40 games) over the past five seasons in the KHL, but that isn’t direct contact NHL scouts and GMs are getting with the defenseman. The more the 33-year-old d-man plays, the more scouts will see of him.
If the Flyers want the best for the present and the best for the future, playing Medvedev is crucial for the team.