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ESPN says Flyers will finish 24th in NHL during 2018-19 season and they’re wrong

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Apparently, a strong offseason and a replenished farm system were not enough to impress the ESPN panel. Still ahead of the Penguins, though!

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After multiple seasons of discontent, the Philadelphia Flyers finally had an offseason in 2015 that was applauded by the fanbase. They added Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny to a burgeoning farm system, jettisoned Nicklas Grossmann and the contract of Chris Pronger, acquired Sam Gagner and Evgeny Medvedev, and replaced coach Craig Berube with Dave Hakstol.

The panel of experts from ESPN.com was not very impressed.

In their annual Future Power Rankings feature, which ranks every NHL team based upon their expected finish in three years time, the Flyers ranked 24th - sixth in the Metropolitan Division. The voting panel consisted of Craig Custance, Corey Pronman, Timo Seppa and Matthew Coller.

Craig Custance provided the justification behind a paywall, but below is the Flyers' section.

In short order, GM Ron Hextall has improved the Flyers' prospect rating from a 3.6 last year to a 6.0 this year. He's done a fantastic job in that department, as well as in his attempts to clear salary cap space.

Big contracts from Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek cut into Hextall's flexibility moving forward, but both players are still young enough that their $8 million-plus salaries shouldn't be a major concern in 2018-19.

The Flyers were stagnant in the management category despite Hextall proving himself as a more than capable GM. Part of that may be some doubt cast on the hire of Dave Hakstol as well as some question whether or not ownership will be patient enough to see Hextall's plan through to completion.

That reads far more complimentary than the ranking, and Custance did express some doubt regarding the Flyers' position via Twitter.

The Flyers saw their scores in the "Prospects" and "Cap/Contracts" categories improve from last season, but stayed stagnant in "Roster" and "Owner/GM/Coach." The real difference of opinion is in the latter category, as general sentiment from the fanbase surrounding Ron Hextall has been extremely positive in recent months.

The ranking of 24th is an improvement over their placement in last year's list, when they slotted in at 28th. But it's still far from a playoff spot. In three years, the Flyers obviously hope that their defense is completely restructured, with Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin all expected to be NHL-ready by then.

In addition, stars Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will be ages 30 and 29 respectively, still at the tail end of their primes. Other key pieces under contract like Wayne Simmonds (30 in 2018-19) and Sean Couturier (26) should remain productive as well. And only the Andrew MacDonald contract will remain from Paul Holmgren's horror show.

Combine the core of Giroux, Voracek, Couturier and Simmonds with an above-average farm system (ranked 10th by ESPN) and an ownership willing spend to the cap ceiling every season, and 24th seems way too low for the Flyers.

In better news, the Flyers do rank one slot above the Pittsburgh Penguins, who appear primed for a dramatic fall from grace as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin continue to age. So there's that.