Ready for Flyers hockey?
Let’s get you ready with our 2019-20 Flyers Fearless Forecast, featuring a random assortment of bold predictions from NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.
Couturier for Selke? Couturier for Selke!
Sean Couturier was a Selke finalist back in 2017-18 but fell short in the voting last season and ... it's still uncertain as to why. Couturier put up near-identical numbers the past two seasons and, if anything, his two-way game has only continued to improve.
Maybe it was because of his slow start in October. This time last year, he was coming off an injury, but now? Couturier is going into this season hungry.
I expect him to reach career-best numbers with at least 80 points and he will also be a Selke finalist. He'll finally get the national recognition he deserves — or at least I'm hoping, since he was not even ranked as a top-20 center in the league this past offseason. (I had him at 15, though.)
Is it too soon to start a #CootsForSelke hashtag?
A new milestone for T.K.
Travis Konecny has a new, bright and shiny contract but with that comes a lot more responsibility. The winger may even be the most important factor for a successful Flyers season.
Though he missed the first few days of training camp, once he arrived, it was like he didn't miss a beat. Pretty impressive work from the 22-year-old. And things are going to only improve.
I'd be shocked if he doesn't hit the 30-goal mark this season. If there was ever a time to do it, it'd be 2019-20. And to be frank, he would have hit that milestone last season if it weren't for the ongoing battle of him vs. the post.
Clear eyes, full Hart, 50-plus games
Yes, the Flyers played eight goaltenders last season, setting the NHL record, but I do not believe that will be the case this season.
I know they say to not put all your eggs in one basket, but I’m betting everything on Carter Hart.
It is the Carter Hart era in Philadelphia. If he stays healthy and is as successful as he was in his 31 games last season, I see him between the pipes for 50-plus games this year.
PK will finish top half in the league
The Flyers allowed the third-most goals in the league last season at 280.
Besides that and the whole goaltending situation, the penalty kill has struggled, as well.
Last season, the PK finished bottom six in the league. The season before that? Bottom three.
Since 2014-15, the Flyers’ penalty kill percentage is 78.4. Only one NHL team sports a worst mark during that stretch: the Oilers at 78.0.
General manager Chuck Fletcher knew this needed to be improved and focused on that in the offseason, bringing in Kevin Hayes and Matt Niskanen.
With the new personnel, I see the penalty kill drastically improving this season.
I see the Flyers finishing with an 82.0 penalty kill percentage or above.
Maybe even finish this season the same as the 2012-13 season as top five in the league? That’d be cool.
The century man … again
Claude Giroux followed up his career-resurgent 102-point season with a respectable 85 points in 2018-19.
The Flyers asked him to play different positions and switch roles on the power play, while the 31-year-old also saw the highest ice time of his career (1,759:27) and his most shorthanded minutes (142:14) since the 2011-12 season. He did so playing for two separate head coaches as the organization underwent sudden changes.
The captain was pretty good despite some dire circumstances.
Giroux has discovered a way to get better with age. The Flyers have improved depth and stability this season, while Giroux has shown no signs of slowing down.
He’s going to crack 100 points for the second time in his career.
Concerns about JVR
Concerns about James van Riemsdyk? It has nothing to do with his readiness. The 30-year-old is the epitome of a pro and fuels on preparation.
However, my concerns surround his role. Toward the end of the preseason, van Riemsdyk was playing on the third line and second-unit power play. Those spots are not where he is best suited. There’s no reason why van Riemsdyk shouldn’t be in the team’s top six and on the first-unit man advantage, where he can do damage.
Last season, from Jan. 10 to March 21, van Riemsdyk scored 20 goals in 31 games. No NHL player had more goals during that span. In that stretch, his role was prominent and the Flyers went 21-8-2.
Should we be wary of a slow start from van Riemsdyk? If his position in the lineup and on the power play is up and down and consistently changing, the concerns are real.
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