4 Young Flyers That Are Sparking Team’s Resurgence

At this point in the Philadelphia Flyers season, a playoff chase is just an added bonus. While a season is never supposed to end in Philly after just 82 games, it’s hard to realistically expect a postseason appearance from a team that was in 31st place at the halfway point.

But the team has moved itself into the fringes of the conversation. Typically, in a lost season, the attention turns to youth, and seeing what the rookies and young NHL-ers have to offer. For the Flyers, those two concepts are entangled: They’re fighting improbably for a playoff spot precisely because they’ve entrusted the franchise’s future with this season’s present.

The remarkable turnaround is thanks to huge production increases from three second-year players and a third-year guy. Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny have all done their part in fleshing out what was, early in the season, a top-heavy roster. They’ve also shown Flyer fans what they have to look forward to in 2019-20, and many seasons beyond.

Turnarounds for Patrick, Konecny, Sanheim & Lindblom

When Dave Hakstol was fired as head coach, the Flyers were, by any objective measure, a bad hockey team. The special teams were a wreck, the team frequently spotted opponents substantial leads and there was no real secondary scoring to speak of. The first few weeks of the Scott Gordon era were not much better, and the team was just 16-23-6 through 45 games, bottom three in the NHL.

Through that abysmal half-and-change of a season, the foursome of Lindblom, Patrick, Sanheim and Konecny exemplified that lack of secondary offense: They had combined for just 60 points in 172 games played.

Oskar Lindblom Philadelphia Flyers
Oskar Lindblom is one of four young Philadelphia Flyers to erupt over the past 25 games. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But over the last two calendar months, the Flyers have an 18-5-2 record, the second-best mark in that stretch. And those four youngsters have put up 71 points in their 99 combined games, sitting fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth on the team in scoring over those games behind the usual suspects.

Production Before Jan. 14:

Player GP Goals Assists Points Goal Pace (82 Games) Point Pace (82 Games)
Sanheim 45 4 9 13 7 24
Lindblom 44 4 8 12 7 22
Patrick 38 5 6 11 11 24
Konecny 45 11 13 24 20 44

Prior to the season turnaround, the most senior of the group, Konecny, was the only one pacing for more than 40 points, having scored 11 goals and notched 13 assists in 45 games. Since the switch flipped, third-year forward has scored the same number of goals and only four fewer assists in just 25 games–a 36-goal, 66-point pace.

Meanwhile, the other three had relatively dismal starts, with the defenseman Sanheim leading the pack with just 13 points in 45 games. Patrick missed seven games and had 11, while Lindblom missed one and put up 12.

Production Since Jan. 14:

Player GP Goals Assists Points Goal Pace (82 Games) Point Pace (82 Games)
Sanheim 25 5 13 18 16 59
Lindblom 25 9 7 16 29 52
Patrick 24 8 9 17 27 58
Konecny 25 11 9 20 36 66

But all three have taken off during the team’s madcap dash through the standings. Lindblom had four goals and eight assists through 45 games, but has since erupted for nine goals and seven assists in the last 25, a 29-goal, 52-point clip if replicated over 82 games.

Patrick, meanwhile, began with five goals and six assists in 38; he’s added eight goals and nine assists during the 18-5-2 run. That’s another 25-plus goal, 50-plus point pace.

For Sanheim, the numbers have been perhaps most impressive. Sophomore defensemen–even ones with the skill Sanheim possesses–aren’t often expected to pile up points, but he has recently done so at a near-elite pace. He’s exploded from four goals and nine assists in 45 appearances to five goals and 13 assists in the recent run, which is a hair under 60-point season production.

Good Signs Going Forward

The Flyers have only been able to inject some playoff race excitement into their season because of these huge turnarounds. Patrick and Lindblom were bordering on fourth-line output before mid-January, but they’ve raised their games and started to pump in points like the top-six guys they’re expected to be going forward.

Though he was faring better than the others, and has proven more in his short career, Konecny has also elevated his game from middling contribution to bonafide first-line goalscoring…and this without even playing in the top-six every night. Tasked for stretches with third-line duty alongside Scott Laughton, he hasn’t missed a beat, deepening the lineup significantly with goals from a lower unit.

Nolan Patrick
Nolan Patrick is showing the offensive touch that made him the second overall pick in 2017. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

And Sanheim’s ascension from promise to production has corresponded with his increased duties. Shuffled around the lineup under the previous coaching administration, he has found his place alongside Ivan Provorov on the top pair, and provided offense in spades.

Everyone on the team has indeed stepped up–both Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk have been on notable tears–but the youth resurgence has been akin to a whole second line and a top pair defender joining the team two months ago. Claude Giroux’s team-leading offensive output, for instance, has actually slowed slightly as the Flyers have willed their way into the postseason conversation.

Travis Sanheim Flyers Tomas Hyka Knights
Travis Sanheim’s strong defense and excellent offensive contributions have helped the Flyers into an unlikely playoff race. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That conversation is likely to end in the next week or two–the team is just too far out, and every last loss (like their 5-2 defeat to the Washington Capitals on Thursday) shaves entire percentage points off of their already-slim chances.

But four of their key young roster players have proven that they can already produce as they are expected to, for extended stretches, and in high-pressure situations where the games all matter. While it may not be major consolation for those holding out hope for a wild card date, it’s certainly huge for the foursome’s confidence. And it’s fantastic news for a new general manager who is expected to ice a playoff team when the puck drops for the 2019-20 season.