The Philadelphia Flyers have improved over the last two weeks as they have lost just one game since their West Coast trip. Granted, three of their wins have come against some of the worst clubs this season in the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Arizona Coyotes but they have shown signs of progress under head coach John Tortorella. Two of their victories were against solid clubs, the Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals, which is encouraging since they have been capable of beating good teams. They have improved their goal-scoring per game during the last couple of weeks, too, after struggling mightily earlier this season in that category.
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Travis Konecny has excelled leading the Flyers in points this season including nine goals and five assists during their last eight games. The Flyers’ uptick in goal-scoring has generated more offensive production, and it will be interesting to watch who else emerges as a consistent goalscorer going forward. They have also continued to have strong goaltending led by Carter Hart. Players such as Konecny, Hart, and Owen Tippett are having good seasons so far and should continue their strong play this year. Veterans such as Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk are expected to contribute as well. Let’s take a look at four young players who have the potential for a big second half of the season.
Joel Farabee managed to make it back for opening night back in October after undergoing disc replacement surgery in his cervical region last offseason. He is one of five Flyers to play in every regular season contest so far in 2022-23. He is aiming to continue progressing under Tortorella after undergoing some ups and downs during the first 41 games. He is currently benefitting offensively from their recent success with at least one point in five of the six contests they have played so far in January.
Assuming he plays the majority of the season’s second half, Farabee is likely to set a new career high in points during his fourth year in the NHL. Despite the franchise’s struggles during the last two years, he showed the potential of being one of their top playmakers. After a promising 20-goal season during the shortened 56-game schedule in 2020-21, he agreed to a six-year, $30 million extension which will keep him under contract through 2027-28.
Previously in December, Farabee underwent an offensive drought which drew criticism from Tortorella, “He had some good shifts the last game. I think he has been very inconsistent. I’m not going to let him hide behind his injury, I think it’s plenty of time to get through that. I just think he has been inconsistent.” If he can avoid falling into offensive slumps for a substantial period, he can emerge as another of the Flyers’ premier players in total points.
Since debuting with the Flyers two seasons ago, Wade Allison has shown potential to be a good complementary player for the club. Unfortunately, he has been plagued by injuries over the course of his young career. He dealt with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while playing college hockey at Western Michigan before being sidelined with two ankle ailments and a sprain to his medial collateral ligament (MCL) over the course of his NHL career. He played in only 28 contests for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL) and only appeared in one NHL game last season due to injuries.
It was fair to question what Allison’s future held due to the frequency with which he missed time due to injuries. He made an impression on Tortorella during training camp for the coach to keep him with the franchise heading into the season before sustaining yet another injury. He suffered an oblique strain and hip pointer during a Nov. 12 contest versus the Ottawa Senators and remained out of the lineup until the Dec. 20 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He has contributed three goals during the Flyers’ six games played so far during January and is benefitting from their improved offensive play. Allison is a player who not only can contribute offensively but regularly demonstrates physicality and plays well away from the puck. Tortorella looks for consistent effort from his players when they do not have possession and the 25-year-old has shown that he can succeed in his system.
Allison needs to avoid another injury this season that will cause him to miss significant time so he can continue his progression in the NHL. If he does that, he will be a forward worth watching for the Flyers during the remainder of 2022-23.
Sam Ersson made an impression on the Flyers during the preseason while Hart missed time with an injury. Tortorella thought he deserved an opportunity for more playing time once he rejoined the club in December. Felix Sandstrom was unavailable due to an illness and the 23-year-old netminder received a chance to play after Hart sustained a concussion during the Dec. 23 contest versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
With Hart unavailable, Ersson started in goal on the West Coast trip and he improved gradually in each of the three road games. His most recent start was on Jan. 9, a 4-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres, one of the league’s best goal-scoring clubs. The Flyers’ improvement on offense over the last month has given more goal support for their goaltenders but the Falun, Sweden native has shown his capabilities albeit his small sample size playing in the NHL.
Ersson’s potential with the big club hinges on if he stays on the roster for the majority of games remaining during the regular season. He has made it more difficult for the Flyers to send him back down to the Phantoms with his strong play. He is waiver-exempt unlike Sandstrom, whom they risk losing to another NHL franchise if the organization decides to place him on waivers at some point to keep the 23-year-old as their backup. However, if he continues to play well in the starts he receives, they may be more comfortable with him as their number-two goalie.
Cam York provided hope at the Flyers’ defensive position through the 30 games he played for them last season. After Tortorella said he planned during the preseason to play the youngsters, the young defenseman did not make the opening night roster, which was surprising. The veteran head coach thought he could benefit from starting the year with the Phantoms to work on his game.
York impressed in his 20 games with the Phantoms as he led all of their defensemen with 10 assists. He received another chance with the Flyers as he made his season debut back on Dec. 9 versus the Vegas Golden Knights. Tortorella has noticed the 22-year-old’s improvement as he has earned his spot playing on their top defensive pairing recently with Ivan Provorov. The head coach decided on the pairing previously before the Dec. 29 game versus the Sharks and believed the Anaheim, California native could help his new defensive partner improve upon his own game.
Tortorella mentioned previously that he wanted York to rove, “I want him to be a rover. He has shown us that he is willing to defend. I think he’s done some good things around the net; he’s closed people out in corners, and has worked on the hard part of playing defense.” The head coach made the correct call at the time to send him to the Phantoms, and he has rewarded the Flyers with his solid play since rejoining the team back in December. He is in good standing with the veteran coach and has a ceiling to be a top-two defenseman for several years with the franchise if he realizes his full potential.
The Flyers have found themselves playing as well as any club over the last two weeks, a refreshing and much-needed change of pace for them. They have struggled mightily the last few seasons including during most of the first half of this year. While they have beaten bad teams, they have won against some good teams including a home and home against a veteran Capitals squad. They look to be turning a corner as an organization with each game they win during this stretch. They have not played this well since before the 2019-20 season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The roster is relatively young with the opportunity to grow further if they maintain better offensive production than they did during November and December.