Flyers

End to End: Which Flyer needs to take the next step in 2018-19?

End to End: Which Flyer needs to take the next step in 2018-19?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which Flyer needs to take the next step in 2018-19?

Boruk
There’s a case to be made for several players who fall under this category. Travis Konecny has 30-goal potential. Defenseman Travis Sanheim endured an up-and-down rookie season and needs to develop consistency and Oskar Lindblom proved his game can compete at the NHL level.

But there’s one player that’s almost expected to elevate his game next season and that would be second-year center Nolan Patrick, who’s now two months shy of his 20th birthday. Patrick was primed to be my choice even before NHL Network’s Mike Johnson listed the Flyers' center as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season (see story).

Certainly, Patrick’s game may be still evolving, but from February to the end of the season, he was one of the Flyers' top players and clearly showed he had the skills to slide into that No. 2 center role, scoring 19 points over the final 32 games of the regular season. Against the Penguins, Patrick didn’t appear overwhelmed by the intensity of playoff hockey.

This is the first time since the summer of 2015 that Patrick will have a full offseason to recover, train and prepare for the upcoming season (see story). Patrick should enter the season with a ton of confidence and it wouldn’t surprise me if he explodes out of the gates in October. Realistically, expect him to score between 20-25 goals and 55-60 points next season and possibly more, depending on how much time he spends on the top power-play unit.

Dougherty
Scott Laughton found his footing as an NHL player last season as a fourth-line center and left winger, but it appears the Flyers are banking on him to do even more in 2018-19.

Laughton figures to be the early favorite for the Flyers' vacancy at third-line center. While a prospect such as Morgan Forst or Mikhail Vorobyev could grab it in training camp (see story), Laughton has the inside track. With that comes more offensive responsibility.

The 2012 first-round pick has yet to discover a scoring touch in the NHL but realized his path to The Show was responsible two-way play. We know he's a capable fourth-liner.

But can he elevate his game offensively? He'll have to in 2018-19 if he wants a bigger slice of the pie. The prospects are banging on the door and there are only so many spots.

What is in Laughton's corner, though, is versatility. He proved last season he can be effective at either center or wing, which should give him a spot on the team regardless.

The question will be, though, can he anchor the third line with Lindblom and, say, Wayne Simmonds? We'll find out in training camp and preseason, but he's the Flyer who has to take another step forward this season.

Hall
General manager Ron Hextall's work this offseason was a vote of confidence for Sanheim.

The Flyers let Brandon Manning walk and signed only Christian Folin, who is viewed as a seventh defenseman.

It was a clear sign Hextall is putting his faith in the 22-year-old Sanheim to make bigger strides. The 2014 first-round pick played 49 games last season, his first in the NHL. He also saw a stint down in the AHL, where he proved he was above the competition.

If Sanheim can start to bring his offensive ability to the table at the NHL level, while using his mobility and size in his own end, the Flyers will take another step. The lefty shot should have a greater leash to learn and play through his mistakes. He should also see more responsibility. How large of a jump Sanheim can make will be one of the more exciting storylines to watch in 2018-19.

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Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Flyers weren't kidding themselves about the process

Maybe Alain Vigneault wanted to make a point.

That it’s not all about goals.

Philly is a results city and, ultimately, the NHL is a results business. But Vigneault firmly believes in the process behind the results. He will see past the goal tallies bolded in the box score — if the process is being grown and done right.

The Flyers’ head coach constantly refers to the process. It’s what matters most when he attempts to build a contender, especially in Year 1 with a new team.

The process, one would think, looked pretty good Monday night … right? 

Especially during a four-goal second period in which the Flyers blew open an eventual 6-2 win over the Golden Knights (see observations). After all, the Flyers had scored only four goals over their past two games, both lopsided losses.

But Vigneault had other thoughts. He wasn’t about to forget the meaning of the process. He could have easily said the goals came because the Flyers stuck to it.

He didn’t go there.

“We had some puck luck in the second, found a way to score four and got outstanding goaltending,” Vigneault said. “In my mind, that could have been our least effective period in the last eight. But we found a way to win that period, 4-0. Sometimes it works out that way.”

Found a way to score four goals? A least-effective period of four goals?

The Flyers were outshot by Vegas in the middle stanza, 18-13. Brian Elliott came up with monstrous saves as the Flyers permitted some Grade A chances to a dangerous Western Conference team. After the past two losses, the Flyers had mentioned that they expected to be on the positive end of fortunate wins, too — as in that’s hockey, teams can get outplayed and still come away with victories.

The Flyers scored only one goal in the first period Monday but outshot the Golden Knights, 15-7, and really got after them in the offensive zone. The Flyers would take that opening frame over their second period just about every time.

“We thought we played better in the games that we lost,” Michael Raffl said. “We got away from it in the second period a little bit. We’ve got to keep doing what we do and it’s going to work. At the end of the day, when you work like that and keep outshooting opponents, you’ll be on the better end of the game at the end most of the time.”

The Flyers had to practically defend themselves following back-to-back losses by a combined score of 10-4. The Flyers outshot the opposition, 91-38, but uneven defeats don’t sit well with fans, especially ones that have become accustomed to mediocre Octobers.

“Last two games, I know we didn't have the result we wanted, we lost both games, but if you really look into the game, if you understand the game, you understand that we played great games,” Claude Giroux said after morning skate Monday.

The Flyers were OK admitting that they didn’t play their best game against Vegas.

Especially Vigneault.

He’ll be honest about the process — good or bad, no matter what the final score.

“In the second period, we scored four but I really believe that in our last eight periods, it could have been our least effective as far as going north-south a little bit quick, our puck management, making the right plays at the right time,” Vigneault said. “But when we didn’t do it the right way, we got big saves and when they made a mistake in that second period, we were able to make them pay, which we hadn’t been able to do for quite some time.”

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How's that for a breakthrough? Flyers catch fire and beat Golden Knights to snap losing streak

How's that for a breakthrough? Flyers catch fire and beat Golden Knights to snap losing streak

BOX SCORE 

The Flyers felt they had dominated their last two games.

The scoreboard said otherwise.

On Monday night, the Flyers quashed the debate by ripping off five goals through the first two periods en route to an emphatic 6-2 win over the Golden Knights at the Wells Fargo Center.

The victory for the Flyers (3-3-1) put a four-game losing streak to bed as Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Michael Raffl (two), Matt Niskanen and Oskar Lindblom all scored.

The Golden Knights (6-4-0) were coming off a shutout of the Penguins and their penalty kill was 33 for 35 on the season.

The Flyers impressively put up a six-spot on Vegas with two of the goals coming on the man advantage.

• Alain Vigneault’s team made a statement in the second period with four goals. Quite frankly, it needed to make a statement. Winning the shot battle is not a statement — putting up crooked numbers, though, speaks volumes (see story).

The Flyers had scored seven combined goals through the first and second periods this season. They weren’t giving up a ton, but they weren’t capitalizing, either.

This time, the Flyers did, and against a pretty good Western Conference contender.

Now it’s a matter of producing consistently.

• Let’s not forget how good Brian Elliott was against the Golden Knights. He converted big saves, many of which came before the score turned lopsided.

After the Flyers had yielded 10 goals in their previous two games, the 34-year-old picked up 33 stops. He has 76 saves on 81 shots in three career matchups with Vegas.

He could get the next game in Chicago.

Golden Knights backup Oscar Dansk had a rough outing.

• Joel Farabee, the 14th overall pick in the 2018 draft, made his anticipated NHL debut just five games into his pro career.

Last Saturday, Farabee’s mother, grandmother and older brother traveled from Cicero, New York (right outside of Syracuse) to watch his game at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

His mother Pam was back on the road Monday with Farabee’s father Dave to watch their son’s first NHL game at the Wells Fargo Center.

Farabee, a skilled and strategic goal-scoring winger, didn’t score but exhibited his sharp reads and angles to the puck. He gives the Flyers a flashy skill in the bottom six, a type of player who can make a play out of nothing.

• There has been no slowing down Konecny and Lindblom, who have been the Flyers’ two best players. The Flyers have desperately needed some of their promising youth to take big steps. So far, so good from the 22-year-old Konecny and 23-year-old Lindblom.

Konecny has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in seven games.

For some perspective on his start, the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau has eight points (three goals, five assists) in 10 games so far.

With his two-point effort, Lindblom has four goals and six points in seven games. Last season, he scored four goals in his first 45 games. The Flyers have put Lindblom in a position that suits him well and he’s taking advantage of it.

• The Flyers’ defensemen were strong and a combined plus-6.

• The unsung Raffl notched his first two-goal game since March 15, 2016.

• Four of the Flyers’ next five games are on the road.

To begin the stretch, the Flyers visit the Blackhawks on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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