Patiently and prudently, the Flyers have built up their back end since 2012, when they selected Shayne Gostisbehere in the third round of the NHL draft.
The following three drafts, they took a defenseman with their first pick and added five total in the first three rounds: Samuel Morin (first round, 2013), Robert Hagg (second round, 2013), Travis Sanheim (first round, 2014), Mark Friedman (third round, 2014) and Ivan Provorov (first round, 2015).
Add to the mix undrafted signings Philippe Myers (2015) and Egor Zamula (2018), as well as 2019 first-round pick Cam York, and the Flyers have a structure to be envious of for their immediate future:
Youth, talent and size on the back end punctuated by a 22-year-old franchise goalie in Carter Hart.
The Flyers' turnaround 2019-20 season fell short of the Eastern Conference Final with a second-round Game 7 loss to the Islanders. The 4-0 defeat was a thud for a veteran core up front that had won its first playoff series in Philly since 2012. Each year is precious and the clock is obviously ticking on some of the club's core pieces, but the organization has plenty of rationale to like its current picture and chances for an upcoming Cup run.
"I love their outlook," NBC Sports' NHL analyst Keith Jones said last Friday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I think that even prior to the pause, they looked like a team that could legitimately win the Stanley Cup this year, so we have to go back to that and think about what it would be like under normal circumstances, where this team would be, and I think they're right there again.
"And that's without making any significant changes in the offseason. I think they're in that conversation, I'm excited about where they're headed and a lot of it has to do with their goaltender and their young defensive core. That's the strength of this Flyers team and that's what's going to take them to the promised land."
The Flyers finished the regular season as a top-six club and were one of the NHL's hottest teams prior to the season being suspended in March because of the coronavirus outbreak. After an eye-opening round-robin sweep to earn the No. 1 seed in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers dried up offensively, which resulted in ill-timed breakdowns and the second-round ouster at the hands of New York.
They scored 2.08 goals per game in 13 contests over the first and second rounds with a minus-10 goal differential. The Flyers will have to get more consistent offense and playmaking in 2020-21. But just about every team in every offseason wants to improve its goal-scoring, and the Flyers scored the league's seventh-most goals per game (3.29) in the regular season, while being tied for the seventh-fewest allowed per game (2.77).
They can work off of that.
"I do believe that this team grew during the year, grew in the way that we played the game, grew in the way that we played an effective game — a game that can be effective and can have playoff success," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said this month. "I do think we need to continue in all aspects of our game. Our defensive game got better, our offensive game was, in my mind, on the right track as far as playing the right way. I do believe we have some young players, young pieces — we’re the team I think that played the most first-year players during the regular season this year — so I believe that we’re on the right track as far as moving forward to win a Stanley Cup."
A young piece that grew in 2019-20 was the 23-year-old Myers. The 6-foot-5 rookie played 50 games during the regular season and had a productive playoff run with three goals, 30 shots and strong play in the defensive end.
"I think he's going to be a star," Jones said. "He's showing us glimpses, which is remarkable when you look at the way he arrived in the NHL; he's going to be a top player. I like his attitude and I know he's got a lot of room to grow. I think the potential is probably what excites me more than what we've seen so far."