Flyers

Flyers' defensemen grades and outlook for next season — Part 2

Flyers' defensemen grades and outlook for next season — Part 2

Over the next several days, we’ll evaluate the Flyers at each position, give a regular season and postseason grade and provide an outlook for their roster status for the 2018-19 season. Next up, Part 2 of the defensemen:

The 2017-18 season was one of growth for the Flyers' young defense with half of that six-man unit in their first or second years of NHL service. After the Flyers' three consecutive years of drafting defensemen in the first round, we finally received a glimpse of how the defensive core will look like over the next few years. We broke down the young blueliners Thursday, so let's now turn to the veterans.

Radko Gudas 

Regular season: C-

Playoffs: D

Gudas’ 10-game suspension continued to linger over his head after he returned to action. He struggled to find the delicate balance between playing physical and playing responsible. Gudas would get caught puck chasing in his own end and, along with Brandon Manning, was much of the reason why the Flyers would spend a good amount of time in the defensive zone. Gudas was erratic in the playoffs and his turnovers in Game 6 were part of the Flyers' eventual downfall in the series.

2018-19 outlook: Under contract for the next two seasons at $3.35 million, which makes the contract tough to trade if the Flyers elect to do so, especially considering his suspension history. Right now, Gudas is the only right-handed defenseman on the roster, which could change through free agency. Unless a deal presents itself, the Flyers will likely hold on to Gudas for next season. 

Andrew MacDonald

Regular season: B

Playoffs: B- 

As much as MacDonald seems to draw the ire of Flyers fans, he’s not a concern for the organization. In the second half of the season, MacDonald proved to be a solid playing partner for Travis Sanheim, whose game settled down after he returned from Lehigh Valley. MacDonald scored in two of the Flyers' playoff games and played very well defensively in those contests. I thought he was inconsistent with his penalty killing through the regular season.

2018-19 outlook: Two more seasons at $5 million — a cap hit that’s becoming mid-level salary as revenue increases throughout the league. With some of the young prospects still working their way through the system, MacDonald gives the blue line a steady, veteran presence. Expect MacDonald to be part of the Flyers' second pairing next season.

Brandon Manning

Regular season: C

Playoffs: C

Manning displayed more of an offensive upside in 2017-18, jumping into plays and finishing the season with seven goals, but he was clearly exposed defensively when mismatched against the opponent’s top two lines paired with Gudas. Manning would play a string of games and look like a steady NHL defenseman and then have an absolute clunker.

2018-19 outlook: An unrestricted free agent, Manning will not return next season, Ron Hextall confirmed Thursday (see story), as his departure opens up another spot on the team’s blue line. Either Hextall will find a more dependable veteran to replace Manning or elect for one of the prospects to slide into that role as a third-pairing defenseman.

Future Flyers Report: Egor Zamula continues to make a name for himself, Jay O'Brien dominating the BCHL

Future Flyers Report: Egor Zamula continues to make a name for himself, Jay O'Brien dominating the BCHL

Another week of hockey has come and gone, so it's time for another check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• Things were quiet for defenseman Egor Zamula last week, but he made sure to turn up the volume heading into the next one. 

Zamula added another two goals, giving him an impressive 17 points on the season. He ranks second in points with the Calgary Hitmen and first in assists with 11.

It is also worth noting that Zamula is first among defensemen in plus-minus with a plus-18. This also puts him as fourth-best in the league.

This is a pretty impressive and rather rare sight to see a player who went undrafted find so much success. The Flyers have lucked out in recent years with finding two undrafted defensemen that have quickly made names for themselves — Zamula being one and Philippe Myers the other. If his upside is as great as it's projected to be, talk about another steal and even more depth at the blue line.

Jay O'Brien continues to flourish in the BCHL. In three games with the Penticton Vees this past week, O'Brien tallied six points (three goals, three assists).

In addition to that, he also extended his point streak to eight games. He now has 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) through 23 games. Only two other players in the league — Kent Johnson and Michael Colella, who both play for the Trail Smoke Eaters — have more points.

The Vees also announced on Nov. 7 that O'Brien was their first ever player of the month for the month of October.


Quick hits

• It was another weekend of racking up points for Morgan Frost. He had a two-assist night on Saturday and also scored his fifth goal of the season on Sunday. He now has 12 points in 13 games.

It's also important to note the assist on Frost's goal came from Maksim Sushko. It was Sushko's only point of the weekend, but a beauty at that.

Alex Lyon had a solid performance Saturday night when the Phantoms won in overtime against the Hershey Bears, only letting in two goals. Through six games played this season, he is 3-1-2 with a 2.10 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Noah Cates had a pair of goals in as many games this weekend with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. That gives him four goals thus far in eight games. Funny enough, he and his brother Jackson Cates are tied in first for goals on the team.

• Shifting gears to Western Michigan, Ronnie Attard scored the game-winning goal on Nov. 8. In that game, Wade Allison also tallied an assist. That was Allison's first point since Oct. 12.

Wyatt Wylie had a successful weekend on the road with Everett, collecting three points (one goal, two assists) in a two-game span. He now leads the WHL in power play assists with 10. Wyatt and the Silvertips won both games and they currently lead the U.S. Division with a 13-4-0-0 record.

Felix Sandstrom did not dress for either game this weekend for the Reading Royals. Through six games, he has a .890 save percentage and 2.80 GAA.

Down at defense

• This past Wednesday, while on a conditioning stint with the Phantoms, Samuel Morin suffered a torn ACL in his right knee for the second time in 19 months. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

• It's still unknown how long Mark Friedman will be out for the Phantoms after he left Saturday's game in the first period. He was injured directly following a collision against the boards and needed assistance off the ice. The Phantoms also recalled defenseman James De Haas from Reading, which could imply Friedman's injury may keep him out for a significant amount of time.

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What Travis Konecny pondered this summer has him playing like a star for Flyers

What Travis Konecny pondered this summer has him playing like a star for Flyers

As Travis Konecny waited out the entire offseason before inking his new contract, signaling his first real payday in the NHL, there was ample time for self-reflection.

“I thought a lot this summer about who I am as a player,” Konecny said last week.

The 22-year-old was coming off back-to-back 24-goal seasons and looked poised for a significant leap in 2019-20, especially after signing a six-year, $33 million deal.

Konecny wasn’t daydreaming about lofty goals or inflated production.

“I really wanted to do what was best for the team and every single night focus on two points,” he said. “Individual stats kind of come with that, when you’re playing an all-around game for the team. I’m not saying I play an all-around game every single night. I try to do my best to help the team. Some nights are better than the others, but I think that’s been my main focus — really trying to give my best effort every night and be able to go home saying that I tried to do my part.”

On Sunday night, Konecny played more than just a mere part. This was a stage for stars, a game at TD Garden against a team with three Stanley Cup Final appearances and a title over the past nine seasons. Names like David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara were featured in the Bruins’ lineup, opposing Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and the Flyers.

And Konecny was a star.

He has been one this season for the Flyers, who are off to their best start since 2011-12, when the team last eclipsed 100 points and won a playoff series.

In just over a four-minute span Sunday, Konecny seized control of TD Garden with a goal and primary assist, handing the Flyers a surprising 2-0 lead during the first period. He finished with two points and a plus-2 mark as the Flyers took down the home-dominant Bruins, 3-2, in a shootout (see observations).

Both the mighty Pastrnak and the four-time Selke Trophy award winner Bergeron went scoreless, while Marchand potted a goal.

The Flyers didn’t receive big-time numbers from their household guys as Giroux and Voracek failed to crack the score sheet. James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes also went without a point.

But Konecny has made those types of games OK and winnable for the Flyers, even when facing a Bruins group that was 7-0-1 at home and among the NHL’s top-five teams in points, goals per game and fewest goals allowed per game.

Last season, the Flyers were 10-19-2 when Giroux went scoreless and 10-19-2 when Voracek went scoreless. This season, they already have five wins when Giroux has gone scoreless and seven wins when Voracek has gone scoreless.

Sure, Konecny has put up his fair share of points with a team-leading 19 (eight goals, 11 assists) to push the Flyers to a 10-5-2 record through 17 games.

Most importantly, though, he has stuck to what he thought about this summer — consistently doing what is best for his team every single night.

Right now, that’s playing like a star.

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