Joel Farabee said he had high expectations for himself entering his sophomore NHL season at 20 years old.
"But I never thought about scoring 20 goals this year," Farabee said last week.
The 2018 first-round draft pick accomplished the feat with two goals in the Flyers' season finale, a 4-2 win over the Devils on May 10. It punctuated Farabee's big-time jump from his rookie season in which he finished with eight goals and 21 points over 52 games. This season, Farabee broke out for his team-leading 20 goals to go along with 38 points through 55 games.
His progress served as a beacon of light in a dark and disappointing 2020-21 campaign for the Flyers. The Flyers experienced regression almost across the board and were eliminated from postseason contention with six games left on their schedule a season after finishing one win shy of the Eastern Conference Final.
"I think everyone was affected differently this year," Farabee said. "It's a tough year and I can speak from experience, when things aren't going great, sometimes it can be really hard to find your game and stuff like that. I have a lot of faith in my teammates here, I think we have a really good group, we have a lot of good young guys. I think this summer will be really useful, it's kind of a normal summer and we'll be heading into a more normal camp and more normal season. So hopefully with that, guys are ready, and I'm pretty confident that all the young guys are going to take a step forward next year.
"I'm really confident that next year, we're really going to figure things out. I know that we have such a good team here and such a good group of guys, you saw glimpses of it a little bit this year, when we got rolling, we were a tough team to beat. Hopefully we can keep that momentum, kick it off early and keep that throughout next year."
Farabee's numbers were no joke. At 21 years, 74 days old, he became the second-youngest player in Flyers history to lead the club in goals during a season. Only Hall of Famer Eric Lindros pulled it off at an earlier age, a month younger than Farabee, when he scored 44 goals in 1993-94. Seventeen of Farabee's 20 markers came at even strength, more than guys like Alex Ovechkin (15 in 45 games), Leon Draisaitl (15 in 56 games) and Sebastian Aho (14 in 56 games).
Following a stretch of one goal and four assists in 19 games from late March to the end of April, the winger closed strong with five goals and two assists over the team's final six games.
"I definitely think I found a lot of confidence this year, so hopefully I can just build on that," Farabee said. "I think for me, one of the big things I want to focus on is just keeping it consistent, try not to have those 10-, 15-game stretches where things are going bad. ... If I can eliminate that and kind of bring it a little bit more every night, I think I can really help the team a bit more."
The key for Farabee and the Flyers is having the youngster lengthen those strides in this crucial 2021-22 season. In 2020-21, the Flyers had too many players fail to build off of success from last season.
"I would say really with the exception of Joel Farabee, I would say the majority of our young players either plateaued or took a step back this year," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "That’s a big concern for me. Since 2014, this franchise has put a lot of time and effort into drafting and developing young players. Frankly, for us to take a step forward, we’re going to need that group of players to take on a bigger role, play better and help us win games."
Training back home in the Syracuse, New York area, Farabee will set the bar higher.
"Should be set up for a pretty good summer," Farabee said. "After this year for me, I think I have a good grasp on some things I need to work on. I'm excited, definitely going to try to get a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger this summer like I did last year. Just keep trying to get better."
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