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2020-21 Player Review: Phil Myers remains a baby giraffe

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Goodbye, leaf-eater; we hardly knew ya.

NHL: MAY 10 Devils at Flyers

The Flyers had a letdown season in 2020-21, but perhaps no single player had a more brutal year in terms of on-ice performance than Phil Myers. Coming off of a promising 2019-20 campaign where he flashed talent befitting a second pair defender, the 24-year-old right hander hugely underwhelmed and at points didn’t even look like an NHL player. Now traded to the Nashville Predators in a package including Nolan Patrick for Ryan Ellis, Myers is no longer a player that Flyers fans really need to invest their attention in. That said, it’s important to investigate what led to his eventual departure from Broad Street. Let’s dig in.


By The Numbers

Image via Evolving-Hockey.com

Myers had a miserable season statistically after coming off of a solid analytical debut. What exactly happened?

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots On Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots On Goal Shooting Percentage
44 1 10 11 22 77 1.30%
Stats via NHL.com

Myers declined in every single basic statistical category from last season, befitting a player who was in and out of the lineup a number of times this year. Shooting 1.3% didn’t do anything to alleviate his woes, either.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For Percentage SVA Corsi For Percentage Relative SVA xGF Percentage SVA xGF Percentage Relative SVA
Corsi For Percentage SVA Corsi For Percentage Relative SVA xGF Percentage SVA xGF Percentage Relative SVA
52.48% 2.19% 50.18% 0.59%
Stats via NaturalStatTrick.com

Corsi and xG liked Myers’ season better than some of his contemporaries who wore the Orange & Black on the blue line (notably, Ivan Provorov graded out worse in both of these respects by Natural Stat Trick’s model), but the former could be easily explained by Myers’ propensity to take copious amounts of shots regardless of the situation, a la Radko Gudas.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 xGF/60 xGA/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 xGF/60 xGA/60
0.81 0.4 12.67 2.17 2.16
Stats via NaturalStatTrick.com

Again, Myers graded out among the best players on the defense at 5v5 when it came to xGF/60, rating second behind Yegor Zamula (whose production is obviously skewed by a smaller sample size). However, he ranked only slightly better than Erik Gustafsson by xGA/60, which is obviously less than ideal.


Risk, But No Reward

Myers has always been a bit of a risk taker as a player, opting to use his outrageous size/speed combo to enable relatively safe play high in the offensive zone. Sometimes that pans out for him; he’s certainly capable of doling out a big hit or a nice bit of stick handling that results in a shift in momentum or a scoring play, as anyone who watched his AHL and junior career could tell you. However, that aggression can overwhelm his better judgement when play isn’t going his way, as many Flyers fans saw this season.

There were too many games in 2020-21 where the big righty would be caught chasing for a body check or looking to pick off the puck, when in reality he ought to have made the simpler, more fundamental read. Nowhere was this more obvious than at the front of the net, particularly on the penalty kill, where Myers was regularly victimized by the backdoor option due to his tendency to watch the puck rather than focusing on his opponent’s position and where his stick was relative to the passing lane. These are the scoring chances conceded that really drew everybody’s eye this year, and for good reason. All of the above suggested a more significant problem with Myers’ profile as an NHL player.

More Freak Than Geek

The difference between an elite NHL player and a middling or poor one is often a split-second decision made when pressured with the puck. Somebody like Sean Couturier can counter an opposing forecheck without much thought, and his processing speed and reaction time are part of what make him excellent. This is a skill that’s usually pretty difficult to teach once a player has reached the big leagues, given that they have thousands and thousands of hours of experience playing hockey, even if it’s at a lower level. Development of talent occurs throughout a lifetime, not just in junior leagues, minor leagues, or even in the AHL.

With all of that context provided, the aforementioned decisiveness with the puck on (or off of) his stick is much of what Phil Myers lacked this past year, and it’s arguably the thing that made him an expendable asset in the eyes of much of the Flyers community. For a 24-year-old defender, the likelihood of developing better decision making during high-paced play is a more fantastic prospect than say, fixing mechanical issue in someone’s skating. Myers frequently flubbed the puck when attacked, rendering his massive advantages in speed and size useless. In the end, it made him less of a staple and more of an asset to be moved.

Runaway Train

All of the above was negative stuff, so let’s talk about the few (but important!) positives. Myers still has attributes to like as a prospect, and defenders tend to develop slower and more unevenly than forwards. When he gets a head of steam and has the puck, the hefty blue liner can really bulldoze his way through the opposition and act as a nice fulcrum in transition. While he got burnt standing around in the defensive zone, his play away from the puck in the neutral zone was solid enough. In the offensive zone, Myers opted to shoot the puck too much and demonstrated little ability to get those attempts to the net, but he was solid enough when he didn’t decide to be the trigger man.

As a younger guy who went through one of the toughest seasons in recent memory, there’s reason to believe that Myers can regain his form from 2019-20 with the right coaching and environment. However, it’s a bit difficult to believe that was going to happen in Philadelphia given the team’s track record with developing defenders and assisting them in achieving consistency in the NHL. Hopefully Myers can become what he seemed destined to be a year or so ago and finds his game as a second pair guy in Nashville; given the Predators’ history of defensive excellence, it wouldn’t be shocking if that happens.


Three Questions

Did they live up to our expectations?

No. Phil Myers came into the year being heralded as a key piece of the young core of this team, one that would allow the Flyers to internally replace Matt Niskanen with minimal consequences. Instead, he often looked out of place against NHL competition, making poor reads and adding to questions surrounding the nebulous, yet all-important trait we call “hockey IQ.” He was traded and most fans were stunned that he was the centerpiece of a package for a top pair defender; that honestly says a lot.

What do we/can we expect next season?

Myers will be wearing a different team’s colors in October, so this question isn’t too important. In all probability, Phil will end up playing with one of Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm on Nashville’s blue line. Not a bad situation by any means, eh.

How would you grade their 2020-21 season?

I’d probably have to give Myers a D for his performance, mostly due to underperforming my expectations. While he wasn’t quite as abysmal as the eye test would suggest, the gaffes were aplenty and costly for a reason. As a Flyers/Predators fan, I remain stunned that Nashville was willing to trade Ellis for an asset like Myers whose value is arguably at its lowest point.