Flyers (4-3-0) vs. Oilers (2-4-0)
1 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 12:30
The best player in the world comes to South Philly today. Get your popcorn ready.
The Flyers, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Predators, host the Oilers in their first matinee of the season at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s Game 4 of the Flyers’ five-game homestand.
Let’s dive into some pregame thoughts before puck drop.
• Move over, Sidney Crosby. There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s time to anoint Connor McDavid as the best player in the world. Many already have. I’m fully on board now.
This kid is special, and each game he does something that blows your mind. On Thursday night, it was a ridiculous spin-o-rama assist against the Chicago Blackhawks.
What made the play exceptional was who he did it against, Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Between the two are seven All-Star Game appearances, two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy, so that’s no joke.
McDavid has three goals and five assists in six games this season. He has 156 points in 133 career games. He’s 20 years old. He should be the face of the league yesterday.
Market him better. I don’t care that he plays in Canada.
• It’s time to put the Brandon Manning-McDavid storyline to bed. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s overplayed (see story). If Manning is in McDavid’s head, it’s not for the better.
McDavid scored a goal and an assist last season in Philadelphia in his first game against the Flyers since Manning broke McDavid’s collarbone with a clean hockey play.
Then, in Edmonton, McDavid had a goal and two assists. Manning played both games. So if anything, it’s adding extra motivation for the best player in the world.
• It appears Travis Sanheim will remain in the lineup, a positive for two reasons:
1. Thursday against Nashville was Sanheim’s best game.
2. Sanheim’s speed and skating is a plus when having to defend McDavid.
Will Sanheim see much ice time against McDavid? I sure hope not. But the Oilers are a decent skating team, and McDavid’s speed is insane. You want as much speed against them as possible.
• You sure hope Jordan Weal can return after missing Thursday with an injury to part of his body. Weal is an important piece for the Flyers, and without him, Dave Hakstol will have to shuffle up his lines. Simply can’t replace Weal with Jori Lehtera on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.
That unit against the Predators was a disaster. If Weal is out again, I’d insert Matt Read into the lineup. He’s better suited for what the Flyers are doing now than Lehtera.
The good news is Weal practiced Friday. He’s expected to play.
• Three random Flyers stats:
1. Jakub Voracek needs two more points to reach 500 in his career. He will become the 23rd Czech player with 500 career points.
2. Shayne Gostisbehere’s 10 points are the most by a Flyers defenseman through the team’s first seven games dating back to the 1987-88 season.
3. Michal Neuvirth leads NHL goaltenders with a .957 save percentage. He was the worst qualified goalie last season in that category.
• The Oilers again will be without center Leon Draisaitl because of a concussion. Draisaitl practiced Friday but is still feeling symptoms. He hasn’t played since Oct. 9.
• Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers’ 2017 first-round pick, has seen an increased role with Draisaitl injured. Edmonton has four more games to decide whether it’ll keep Yamamoto or send him back to junior. Yamamoto enters today on a three-game assist streak.
Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Scratches: Forwards Jori Lehtera and Matt Read, and defenseman Brandon Manning.