The Philadelphia Flyers finished last in the Metropolitan Division last season and are looking to find a way to change their fortunes. Not a whole lot was brought in or left, but the lines could be much different after training camp. Many are anxiously awaiting the start of the season in hopes the Flyers can improve and get back into the playoff picture with John Tortorella at the helm.
The Flyers’ 2022 season kicks off on October 13 against the New Jersey Devils and they have a tough first month. There are different ways the lineups can be formed for the Flyers, especially with injuries expected to have an effect to start the season. I will exclude Joel Farabee from the lineup considering he underwent disk replacement surgery a month ago and will likely miss the start of the regular season. As for Bobby Brink who is on the cusp and would have competed for a spot in training camp, he will also miss time and is slated to return to on-ice action around Christmas. That will likely see him play out most of the season in the American Hockey League (AHL). Now let’s look at what the lines should look like on opening night.
Line 1: James van Riemsdyk – Sean Couturier – Cam Atkinson
Any way you draw this up, the left winger isn’t good enough to be playing on the top line. Until Farabee returns, there may be a carousel of players being tried out there. I went with James van Riemsdyk to start considering he’ll have one of the best two-way players in the game in Sean Couturier centering him. Cam Atkinson isn’t a slouch either as he finished last season with just a minus-two plus/minus.
There is no doubt about Couturier and Atkinson’s spots on the top line, but van Riemsdyk can add some offense to that line as he still has some game in him. He may be a liability defensively, but Tortorella may find a way to help with that and allow the left winger to hold up.
Line 2: Scott Laughton – Kevin Hayes – Travis Konecny
As with the top line, the left side looks weak and Scott Laughton still feels out of place. To me, by what he’s shown in his career, he is a solid third-line player. Some sites have him filling in on line one, but whichever way you draw it up, he is perfect in a third-line checking role. Unfortunately the right side and center are much stronger than the left right now, even with Farabee healthy.
Kevin Hayes hopes to stay healthy, and if he does and plays the strong two-way game he is capable of, the Flyers will be fine and Travis Konecny may even benefit from having stability and a good linemate. He is someone who needs to elevate his game, even more, to help out with the offense even though he did record 52 points. His goal-scoring needs to come back. I could see Laughton dropping to even the fourth line to give them a boost once the forward unit is healthy.
Line 3: Noah Cates – Morgan Frost – Owen Tippett
I stated that Laughton would be perfect in a third-line role, but this line showed promise when they were together late last season and it doesn’t benefit any of these young skilled players to be playing in a fourth-line role. There’s no place left in the AHL for Frost and Tippett, and they must learn how to compete and put up points at the NHL level. Frost scored five goals and 16 points in 55 games while Tippett scored four goals and seven points in 21 games with the Flyers and 10 goals and 21 points overall. Both are expected to improve and play the full season. If one or both of them don’t, there will be a problem.
Noah Cates got a taste of the NHL after finishing up University. He was put on a line with Frost and Tippett and they clicked. It wasn’t until Cates joined the two that the line started putting up points. The rookie finished with five goals and nine points in his first 16 career games and will keep his rookie status next season. With Brink injured and the chemistry he found with Frost and Tippett, the spot on the left wing is his to lose.
Line 4: Nic Deslauriers – Patrick Brown – Tanner Laczynski
Nic Deslauriers is going to be loved in Philadelphia because of the style of game he plays. His spot is the only certainty on the fourth line, though Patrick Brown has shown he will get the majority of starts at center, to begin with at least. My pick to be the third member of that line is Tanner Laczynski, but he will also be competing with Brown to play center on the line since that’s his natural position. Laczynski is hopefully past the injuries he’s dealt with and is ready to make his mark and stick with the Flyers as time is running out.
In the mix for a roster spot but possibly less playing time is Wade Allison who is in the same position as Laczynski, Hayden Hodgson who came out of nowhere last season and made his mark, Max Willman, and Zack MacEwen. Allison, Hodgson, and MacEwen are all restricted free agents without contracts yet. That could come into play in determining where they play if deals aren’t agreed upon.
Pairing 1: Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
The Flyers are hoping to try this again, this time with Ryan Ellis staying healthy. He said in May that he expects to be healthy for training camp which is a great sign. He will be able to get in workouts and dust off the rust before being a major piece in the turnaround of the team next season.
Not only will just having Ellis in the lineup create great depth on the back-end for the Flyers, but it will also greatly benefit Ivan Provorov. To have a top pairing defenseman beside him who also compliments him an entire season will be huge. Last season Justin Braun filled in where he was needed. It’s no knock on Braun, but he is a third-pairing defenseman and played well above his weight class. But the Flyers need and should have Ellis who started off with five points in four games in 2021-22 before missing the remainder of the season.
Pairing 2: Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen
Travis Sanheim was the best defensemen on the Flyers last season, not only from what I saw every night but according to the team that awarded him the Barry Ashby Trophy for best defenseman. He stabilized and made the bad season by Rasmus Ristolainen not look as bad.
Ristolainen is the Flyers’ toughest defenseman and is firmly in that second pairing role to play with Sanheim and to provide the physicality and defensive aspects of the game none of the others do. He will need a bounce-back season after he just re-signed with the team long-term.
Pairing 3: Cam York – Tony DeAngelo
A very good-looking third pairing of Cam York and Tony DeAngelo round out the group as there isn’t any room for either to move up if the team is healthy. Rest assured, DeAngelo was partly brought in to man the power play, but also to be a top-four defensive replacement if the injury trouble with Ellis continues.
Both York and DeAngelo are top-four defensemen right now and should dominate against opponents’ third and fourth lines. Both can also get more playing time on special teams. Braun, the seventh defenseman, should fare well filling in as he will be slotted in on the third pairing almost any way you look at it. There isn’t a chance he cracks the top-six unless there is an injury.
Carter Hart – Felix Sandstrom
There is no question that Carter Hart is the starting goaltender. He has been for three seasons now. The Flyers’ starter improved upon his horrible 202-21 season, but it wasn’t great overall. Tortorella’s focus on defense in his coaching and how he can get the most out of a mediocre team should come into effect and help Hart build up his confidence and post better numbers next season.
The Flyers signed Troy Grosenick to a one-year, one-way deal, but he should be behind Felix Sandstrom on the depth chart. Grosenick is almost 33 and has four NHL games to his name, the last coming in 2020-21. Sandstrom took a step forward last season and joined the Flyers late, impressing. He was expected to compete with Ian Fedotov for the backup position, but it should be Sandstrom’s now. He started five games last season in the NHL and even though he lost all five and had a 3.23 goals against average, he posted an impressive .910 save percentage to go along with that.
The way the Flyers look right now, it’s an improvement overall if everyone stays healthy and the Tortorella system works. But it will once again be tough to compete in a good division where every team is a threat.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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