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Comparing the Flyers 2018 and 2019 opening day rosters

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Who’s new, who’s gone, and who’s back again.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As the hands of time tick away, and the verdant leaves of the oak trees turn bright red and yellow and fall, hockey players both young and old flock to Voorhees, New Jersey, for the beginning of rookie camp and then training camp. Yet another year, another season, passes, and the nostalgic remember the comings and goings from the year prior. Especially in this year, with the legion of unknown faces, it becomes interesting to look at a team transformed by both new additions, and apt subtractions. Though it is a commonly used phrase by nearly every fanbase at the beginning of the season’s dawn, it truly is a new year with a new team for the Flyers.

Who’s still here?

That being said, the majority of the familiar names we know will be returning to the ice in Voorhees in the coming weeks. At forward, the featured top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny (barring a holdout) will all return. Middle six forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, James Van Riemsdyk, and Jakub Voracek will also be a part of the lineup, with depth forwards Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton sticking around as well, though it can be questioned whether or not Raffl will factor into the starting twelve.

At defense, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov (barring holdout), and Shayne Gostisbehere will return. Robert Hagg is also under contract, though his spot in the starting six is under fire. The only goaltender on the opening day roster to remain with the Flyers is Brian Elliott.

Who’s gone?

Though we are all eager to ponder about the new players, I will start by mentioning those who are not with the Flyers anymore. First is the unforgettable Finnish forward who unilaterally destroyed our hopes of an optimized lineup: Jori Lehtera. Playing in 27 contests last season, Lehtera scored an astounding three points. Labeled as an “all-star along the boards”, the renowned party animal posted a Corsi-for rating of 46.1%, which is truly indicative of the mediocrity the Flyers achieved under Dave Hakstol. Lehtera was not re-signed and now is plying his trade in the KHL. Also not featuring for the Flyers in 2019-20 will be Dale Weise. Traded to the Canadiens last season, Weise never turned out to be the depth scoring option that the Flyers so desperately craved. He was always a fan favorite in Montreal, so returning there made sense for Weise. He was traded for David Schlemko (bought out) and Byron Froese, two players who we will probably never see in the orange and black.

Another player who was traded by the Flyers last season was Jordan Weal. After scoring nine points in 28 games, Weal was dealt to Arizona where he did not stick either. He also wound up in Montreal, where he was re-signed to a two year deal. Weal was never a player with a critical future for the Flyers, and seeing him traded garnered no reaction from me. Although, this cannot be said of Wayne Simmonds. When he was traded to Nashville, I felt as if it was the end of an era despite he being the first of the previous ‘core’ to leave the club. Wayne Simmonds was a fan favorite and one of the most beloved Flyers of the decade. He gave his absolute all through thick and thin, and it will be bittersweet to see him in a New Jersey Devils sweater come October. Just writing that sentence hurt me a little.

On defense, Radko Gudas departs the club for Washington in a trade that brings Matt Niskanen to the Flyers (more on him later). Gudas was often deployed with Travis Sanheim by Dave Hakstol, and the two played well last year against middle and bottom tier NHL competition. However, while Sanheim excelled and was promoted to the top pair under Scott Gordon, Gudas couldn’t find that level of success, and many fans (myself included) were tired of his careless play with the puck. Gudas could not see the ice well and was never truly comfortable moving up the zones. Christian Folin, another player traded to Montreal (also known as ‘little Philadelphia’), did not impress in his time here. Folin was a 7th defenseman who somehow played games in the stead of more impressive talent while Dave Hakstol was coach. The same sentiment can be restated for Andrew MacDonald, who for six years (and $30 million dollars) tormented the Flyers’ blue line with poor decision making and even poorer execution of his decisions. MacDonald will best be remembered for flopping himself ‘starfish’ style on the ice, not remotely preventing scoring chances from occurring. When the Flyers decided to move on from MacDonald, nearly every Flyers fan across social media rejoiced in such a jubilance befitting a national holiday. Therefore, June 15th is hereby “Andrew MacDonald Day”. Mark your calendars.

The Flyers made history last season by icing eight, yes eight, goalies last season. Of those eight goalies, Michal Neuvirth, Calvin Pickard, Cam Talbot, Mike McKenna, and Anthony Stolarz are no longer with the club. Alex Lyon remains with the organization, though I will mention him in more detail later.

Who’s new?

There were a couple of names that did not start on the 2018-19 roster, but did feature heavily for the club and will undoubtedly make the roster. Philippe Myers and Carter Hart started last year with the Phantoms, but by the end of the year, were with the Flyers. In particular, Hart looks to be the de facto starter after his excellent stint with the Flyers after Dave Hakstol’s firing.

There are a multitude of new faces joining the club, as I mentioned before. At forward, Kevin Hayes has been brought in to fill the void at second line center, and Kurtis Gabriel was signed as a depth move. They also acquired two defensemen. Matt Niskanen was brought in from the Capitals as Radko Gudas heads the other direction. Niskanen had a down year last season, but the Flyers seem to be confident that he can return to being an effective puck-moving, two way defenseman to compliment Ivan Provorov. Justin Braun was acquired from San Jose in order to play the right side (as a right-handed shot), and to be a more defensively reliable partner for Travis Sanheim. Both of these players are coming off of seasons where they either played poorly or were buried in tough minutes, and the Flyers are banking on their success with a new situation.

The roster, and competition

So far, the Flyers opening day roster (with some guessing involved) looks like this:

Forward

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Lindblom - Hayes - Voracek

Van Riemsdyk - Patrick - ???

Raffl - Laughton - Pitlick

Defense

Provorov - Niskanen

Sanheim - Braun

Gostisbehere - Myers

Goalie

Hart

(Elliott)

We have known for some time now that the 3RW spot in the lineup is open, and there are bubble players, and rookie competition for that last spot. Though he was demoted from the Flyers last year after failing to impress at the NHL level, that spot could still be open for Mikhail Vorobyev if he is able to get himself together. Other AHLers who are challenging for that spot are Nicholas Aube-Kubel and German Rubtsov. The rookie trio of Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, and Isaac Ratcliffe must also feel they have a chance of making the club. The idea of a direct call up from the prospect pool has been discussed heavily on Broad Street Hockey, and every writer has their own opinion of who will make that open spot. I am of the opinion that it will be Morgan Frost, simply because I think he makes the most sense from a line perspective. Both James Van Riemsdyk (or even Oskar Lindblom) and Nolan Patrick aren’t necessarily playmakers, and providing them with Frost would give them a puck distributing forward who can feed them as they go to the net. Therefore, I would love to see Frost take that spot. If that is the case, the final opening day lineup would look like this:

Forward

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Lindblom - Hayes - Voracek

Van Riemsdyk - Patrick - Frost

Raffl - Laughton - Pitlick

Defense

Provorov - Niskanen

Sanheim - Braun

Gostisbehere - Myers

Goalie

Hart

(Elliott)

(Hagg, Morin, and Gabriel in the press box)