The Philadelphia Flyers may be out of the playoff race, but that doesn’t mean the remaining games are meaningless. For rebuilding or retooling teams, these final games can be just as important as they are for teams headed for the postseason for a few reasons.
No team ever plays for nothing. Eliminated teams are already thinking about next season when they sign players or put them into game action. There is also the draft to look forward to. With a pick projected to be very high, the Flyers don’t mind losing these games in the end.
Dropping in the Standings Can Secure a Better Player for the Future
The Flyers lead only three teams, ranked 29th, and one could easily pass over them; the Seattle Kraken are one point behind the Flyers with one game in hand. Yes, Philadelphia has added some young talent to their lineup, but no one has made an immediate impact like Matty Beniers has for the Kraken. Playing their second overall pick could help the team finish the season better than Philadelphia.
However, that is exactly what the Flyers want. They have the opportunity to get a lottery pick in the draft that projects to be very good. At the very least, their first-round pick will likely get a nine-game trial with the team to start next season.
In recent years, we have seen high picks come in and contribute, even if takes them a season or two to adjust to the game at the NHL level. From the 2021 NHL Draft, the 12th overall pick, Cole Sillinger of the Columbus Blue Jackets, played the entire season, while 2020 draftees Alexis Lafreniere and Tim Stutzle were in the NHL lineup from day one and have stepped up their game this season.
Whether or not the Kraken pass the Flyers in the standings, a projected top-four pick in the draft would be great for the organization. The last time they had a pick that high was when they jumped up to second and selected Nolan Patrick. Injuries held Patrick back, but the team’s luck can’t be so bad that it would happen again.
Who Should Be On the Flyers’ Radar
Forwards are in abundance at the top of the draft rankings. The Sporting News has ranked Shane Wright as number one, Logan Cooley number two, Juraj Slafkovsky number four, Matthew Savoie number five, and Brad Lambert number eight. Given the standings, the Flyers should get their pick at Slafkovsky or Savoie, possibly even dropping a bit to grab Lambert, who was previously ranked higher.
However, that shouldn’t rule out the option of drafting a defenceman since many general managers will go with the best available player, even if it doesn’t fill the team’s biggest need. The Flyers have Cam York, Ronnie Attard, and Egor Zamula, but defencemen tend to take longer to develop and typically aren’t ready for the NHL their first season. The assumption is that the Flyers are retooling in hopes they will be competitive next season, so a player that could help in the immediate future would serve them well.
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There are really only two defencemen possibilities for the Flyers unless they go off the board a little. That would be third-ranked Simon Nemec or seventh-ranked David Jiricek. Nemec would be more likely if the Flyers sneak into the top three. If they go with one of these two defencemen, they could be ready for the NHL by the start of the 2022-23 season or even sooner.
Flyers Integrating Youth Into Lineup
The end of the season is basically a prequel to training camp. Teams like the Flyers call up, sign, and get their next batch of young players into the lineup for a few games before the end of the season. This way, they are able to judge first-hand how their prospects will fare in the NHL and what they need to work on in the summer to be ready for training camp. If the team sees improvement from any player over those few months, then it is another indication of the work the player is willing to put in.
Players to make their NHL debuts for the Flyers this season include Isaac Ratcliffe, Felix Sandstrom, Attard, Bobby Brink, and Noah Cates. Three of them were signed after their college season ended, four are currently with the team, and Ratcliffe got into some games earlier in the season. York and Zamula can be grouped with those five players considering they had five games of combined NHL experience before this season, all from late last season.
With goaltender Carter Hart injured and possibly done for the season, Sandstrom is getting into important games, considering the Flyers are still facing teams in the playoff race and jockeying for position. Cates has found himself on the top line, while hopeful future breakouts, Owen Tippett and Morgan Frost, are getting key playing time.
Though the season has not been what anyone expected or wanted, the Flyers are doing a good job down the stretch when many have tuned them out. They have a great group of young players and are developing them the right way. Next season is a new one despite the challenges that will come, and this is a good first step in turning the team around in short order.