Flyers

Fearless Forecast for the Flyers' 2019-20 season

Fearless Forecast for the Flyers' 2019-20 season

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.

Destra

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?

Anyways, #CootsForSelke.

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.

Emmer

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. 

Hall

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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Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Andy Welinski, who had been out with a lower-body injury, was deemed healthy Monday and placed on waivers.

If the 26-year-old defenseman expectedly clears, he will report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

The move is notable for a few reasons.

The Flyers' cap space will increase from $283,811 to $1,033,811, according to CapFriendly.com.

Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) remains on injured reserve and counts against the cap like Welinski did. When the 20-year-old center is healthy, the Flyers will have room for him because the roster is at 21 players. Patrick appears to be getting closer to a return as he is with the Flyers on their current three-game road trip.

The Flyers might still make a move when Patrick inserts the lineup. An odd man out could be Connor Bunnaman or Carsen Twarynski, both 21-year-old rookies. It would make sense if the Flyers want them playing games at Lehigh Valley rather than sitting in the press box as an extra forward.

If the Flyers decide to send one of those players down, it would also create more cap flexibility. Chris Stewart, a veteran winger who turns 32 years old this month, remains with the team on a pro tryout.

As for Welinski, he will help a young Phantoms team if he clears waivers. Welinski has played 146 career AHL games and appeared in a career-high 26 games for the Ducks last season.

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Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Jakub Voracek’s 14:30 ice time Saturday night was certainly noteworthy.

It marked the 30-year-old winger’s fewest minutes in a game since the 2015-16 season. When the Flyers were trailing, 2-1, during the third period, one of their best and most experienced playmakers saw no more than three minutes of the ice. In the final stanza, Voracek was bumped off the first line and had shifts with the team’s fourth unit.

The development, which comes in the third game of the season under a new head coach, is nothing to sweep under the rug as if it never happened.

Is it troubling, though? No, at least not yet.

The fact is the Flyers have great depth in their top six. So much so that James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer and the Flyers’ fourth-highest-paid player, opened the season on the third line.

On Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks (see observations), the Flyers were looking to spark their offense during the third period. They had one goal and 17 shots on net at the time. Head coach Alain Vigneault has said how he’s still searching for the best chemistry within his forward combinations and defensive pairs.

JVR, who finished with 15:11 and 15:37 minutes in the Flyers’ first two games, respectively, played 20:19 Saturday night. His jump to the first line was effective as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 14-6, during the third period with van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux creating plenty of offense.

When asked Tuesday if he was inclined to experiment with lines early in the season, Vigneault said:

Yes, until I find the chemistry. I’m a firm believer in I think players like to stay on the same line — chemistry gets formed and accountability gets formed also between linemates and D partners. Last game against Chicago was the first time that I felt throughout the four lines we had some chemistry that enabled us to play well defensively and generate some chances offensively. How long that’s going to stay? It’s going to depend obviously on the players’ performance. Until I find the right mix — it could be a duo with a guy going in and out, it could be a line. I’d prefer it be lines, but that obviously depends on the players’ performances.

Vigneault will switch things up and try different combinations. He will also spread out ice time to maximize his push-the-pace, hard-on-the-attack style.

If anything, this is an indication that competition is aplenty among the Flyers’ forwards. There is talent available and minutes are up for grabs.

If you want those minutes, you have to earn them and then keep them.

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