The Philadelphia Flyers start the regular season in a little over a month, and there are still questions about the lineup. These questions will be answered in training camp and preseason, but for now, here are five predictions for the upcoming season that might be a bit out there.
Alex Lyon Wins the Backup Goalie Battle
One battle to keep an eye on in the preseason is for the backup goalie spot, which is Michal Neuvirth’s to lose. In his three seasons as the backup, he has been inconsistent, playing like a starter for a game or two, and then looking like he should be on the bench. He has been injured and out of the lineup for a significant amount of time while with the Flyers. He will let in soft goals when they need a save from their goalie, and will be under pressure to perform as he is a UFA at the end of the season.
The staff know what they have in Neuvirth, but Alex Lyon is still unknown at the NHL level, which is why he needs to make the most of his time in the crease. The young goalie will need to show that he has improved from last season when he was recalled because of injuries to Neuvirth and Brian Elliott. He should have plenty of confidence coming into preseason since he was able to get into some meaningful games down the stretch for them last year.
In his 11 games, he went 4-2-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .905 save percentage. The 25-year-old proved that he could handle the pressure of a playoff run. He will win the job by making the most of his opportunities by keeping pucks out of the net and being more consistent in his preseason starts.
James van Riemsdyk Scores 50 Goals
James van Riemsdyk set a career high with 36 goals while playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. He will reach the 50 goal plateau for the first time in his career this season. The left winger could be playing on the Flyers second line with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek, and that should be a perfect fit for him.
Voracek is more of a playmaker, so if van Riemsdyk can get set up in front of the net or the slot area then Voracek should be able to spot him for some goals. He is also not afraid to shoot the puck, which will be a good thing if this line does stay intact come the regular season, since Voracek tends to pass the puck instead of taking the shot.
Patrick is poised to have a breakout season since he is healthy after having surgery last summer, and hopefully he can build off of his fantastic second half of the season. Patrick and Voracek are more than willing to do the work along the boards, and battle for the puck, so if van Riemsdyk can get open this line should be stellar. They also shouldn’t have to go up against the opposition’s top line every night, so that should help them get some points. The addition of van Riemsdyk on the second power play unit will improve it since he is another big body in front of the net for deflections and rebound chances.
Carter Hart Will See Time With the Flyers
This may be the least likely of the five predictions, but it could still happen, since the Flyers goalies’ can’t seem to stay healthy. Elliott is coming off of major surgery and wasn’t 100% at the end of last year. Neuvirth usually has a hamstring injury that keeps him sidelined for an extended period of time. There also seems to be some kind of goalie drama every year for the Flyers, so why should this season be any different?
Hart could see time in the NHL since there always seems to be a goalie carousel with the Flyers. He may not see playing time since Elliott, Neuvirth, Lyon and maybe even Anthony Stolarz would all be ahead of him to get in the net, but the rookie will get some time warming the bench and watching some NHL games. If he is playing well at the AHL level, and the Flyers are out of the playoff picture, then they could always trade one of the veteran goalies, who happen to be UFAs at the end of the season, to get the young goalie some time between the pipes.
Ivan Provorov is a Norris Trophy Finalist
Ivan Provorov may only be 21-years old, but he is the number one defenseman for the Flyers. He logged over 24:00 of ice time per game last season, and was the team’s best shutdown defenseman. He proved that he could bounce back from a mistake, whether it was during the game or the next game. Provorov does the little things right, like backchecking, getting in lanes to block shots and just being in the right position at the right time. If he is out of position, he does his best to get back into the play.
The one thing he will need to do for this to happen is to get better offensively. The 21-year-old will need to take more chances in the offensive zone and get some more shots through from the point. Provorov should be on the second power-play unit again this year, and the addition of van Riemsdyk as the net-front presence player should help his offensive totals with more assists on the deflections from the point shot.
If Shayne Gostisbehere is his defensive partner again this season and plays the solid defense that he played at times last season, then Provorov can take more chances in the offensive zone leading to more goals and points.
Flyers Get Past the First Round of the Playoffs
The Flyers have this weird streak of missing the playoffs in seasons that end in odd years since the 2012-13 season. The team has managed a first-round playoff exit when they have made the playoffs in the even years. The team will not only make the playoffs this year but will manage to get to the second round.
They will have four balanced lines that will contribute both offensively and defensively. The young kids like Patrick, Travis Konecny, and Oskar Lindblom will take on bigger roles from last season and contribute even more this season. The veteran players will find a way to get it done in the first round and not be shut down like they have been in past years. The biggest question mark will be the goaltending, but I think one of the goalies can get on a hot streak down the stretch and ride it to a first-round playoff victory.