There are numerous questions surrounding the potential of the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers. Not much change happened during this past off-season in terms of trades or signings. Perhaps the biggest move Ron Hextall made was inking Brayden Schenn long-term to a 4-year contract extension.
With that being said, according to national pundits, this looks much like last years team in terms of how they’ll finish at the end of the season. Just like last year, the Flyers will most likely be a bubble playoff team. Meaning a lot has to go right for them in order to claw their way into playoffs for a second straight year.
The tricky thing with the Flyers is they do have enough talent to win hockey games in the NHL.
Their depth on forward, especially with the high-end skill at the top of the lineup in the likes of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn, allows them to ultimately win more games than they lose.
If the Flyers have any chance of climbing the ladder in the eastern conference, Voracek will have to return to his 2014-15 form, where he tied for fourth in the league in points with 81.
Voracek at times had point streaks that rivaled his 2014-15 season last year, but ultimately injuries got the best of him and by season’s end he was a shell of his former self.
If there’s one shot the Flyers have in improving as a team overall, especially an offense that finished 22nd in the league, it’ll be the re-emergence of Voracek as an impact player on a game-to-game basis.
Another must for the Flyers to have a successful campaign in 2016-17 will be the continual improvement of the defense in Dave Hakstol’s second season behind the bench.
The transition from a slow and shoddy puck-moving group has come a long way, yet nowhere near where it needs to be to contend for a Stanley Cup.
The lightening bolt addition of Calder Trophy runner-up Shayne Gostisbehere has sped up this transition, however, he can’t do it alone.
Before Michael Del Zotto was lost for the season with a wrist injury, they made up quite a successful first pairing for the Flyers defensive unit.
The speed and puck moving ability of both players brought out the best in each other, with Del Zotto acting as the main defensive zone cog of the partnership, it allowed Gostisbehere to be himself, push the play and make things happen, which is one of the reasons that propelled his historic 15 game point streak.
Health will certainly play a role, as is does for every team, but it’s hard not to think about how much better the Flyers could’ve ended last season with a healthy Del Zotto on the top pair instead of Andy MacDonald.
The Top Prospects:
The last thing that needs to go right for the Flyers in the upcoming season that could put them over the playoff bubble would be for their top prospects to crack the NHL roster and make an impact. The two that have the ability to do so are the pair of 2015 first round picks Ivan Provorov and Travis Konency.
Both players possess skills that the Flyers roster desperately needs an influx of. Ivan Provorov, the reigning CHL defensemen of the year, has all the tools of being a number one defenseman in the future.
However, with the Flyers philosophy of patience, Provorov, despite how much he’s accomplished is only 19 years of age.
In the Flyers mind, him going back to juniors to dominate for yet another season and to physically grow more into his body (even though he’s already listed at 6’0″ 205) would ultimately be the best thing for him and the future of the Flyers.
Then there’s Travis Konecny, who much like Provorov, is exactly what the Flyers need on the other side of the puck. A dynamic forward with breakaway speed, hands, and vision to round off their top six. He was nothing short of dominate last season in juniors posting 101 points in 60 games in the OHL.
The one thing holding him back besides being 19 years old like Provorov, is his size. Listed at 5’10” 183 (he’s bulked up 10lbs this summer) the Flyers would have to be blown away by Konecny at training camp in order to determine that another successful year in juniors and the ability to grow more into his body isn’t the right course of action for his development.
Impressions from first game: Travis Konecny-PHI was best player on the ice. Making skilled offensive plays,… https://t.co/VE4TkWpMHI
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) August 3, 2016
In the end, Ron Hextall sees no need to get either of these two on the big club this season unless they are rightfully better than everyone else in the roles they will be competing for.
Another thing that holds these two back is Ron Hextall knowing this current Flyers team as it stands isn’t competing for a Stanley Cup this year, so there’s no extra incentive to throw these two into the NHL fire if they deem themselves to not be truly ready.
With all that said, enjoy some Travis Konecny highlights from his past season.
What do you, the readers think? Should one or both of these highly skilled prospects crack the Flyers lineup this season?
Glen Stricker is a Temple University graduate with a degree in Media & Communication. He is the Lead Writer for the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers as well as the social media coordinator and contributor for @PHLFlyersNation