Brooke Destra

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Matt Niskanen.

Destra

I’m not going to lie — I fell under the category of not fully understanding the trade for Niskanen during the offseason in a one-for-one deal, sending former Flyer Radko Gudas to the Capitals. At the time, the most appealing aspects about the deal were recognizing the level of veteran experience Niskanen was going to bring to the blue line and his extensive résumé when it came to the playoffs. 

Now, with his first regular season as a Flyer officially at an end, it’s safe to say he was an absolute steal. Way to win a trade, Chuck Fletcher. 

Not only did he post 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists), making him the second-best defenseman in points on the team, but he elevated his partner Ivan Provorov to new heights in his career as well. The duo built such powerful chemistry on the ice and Niskanen provided the skill set needed to help Provorov hone in on his talent.  

There couldn’t have been a better fit for the Flyers and Provorov. Whatever Niskanen’s next steps are in the NHL, let’s hope he wants to stay in Philadelphia for a little while longer. 

A+ for Niskanen — not bad for his 13th season in the league. 

Emmer

The Flyers went from averaging the third-most goals against per game (3.41) and a minus-37 goal differential in 2018-19 to then tying for the seventh-fewest goals against in the league and drawing a plus-36 goal differential this season. A major key for that success was Niskanen.

Niskanen had a lasting impact throughout the regular season on special teams. Most notably, the penalty kill, which he helped improve from 78.5 percent in 2018-19 (26th in NHL) to 81.8 percent (11th in NHL). His power play minutes were also impressive as the four goals scored on the man advantage were the highest in his career.

He brought leadership to the blue line and the dressing room and was a steady presence the Flyers and his defensive partner Provorov depended on throughout the regular season.

I give Niskanen an A.

Fordyce 

Niskanen, an experienced Stanley Cup-winning defenseman, came to the Flyers via trade for Gudas from the Capitals last offseason. His addition to the team added a veteran leader to the roster as well as a possible mentor for some of the Flyers' young defensemen. In his first season with the Flyers, he did both admirably.

Niskanen’s presence on that top defense pair with Provorov allowed Provorov to open up his game more and become a better overall player. Niskanen is a smart defenseman who is rarely out of position, and this allows Provorov as his defensive partner to freelance a bit more, which is one of the strengths of his game. Niskanen also has great puck skills from the point, getting pucks toward the net by pass or shot and creating opportunities. 

No-brainer, Niskanen gets an A.

Hall

What an acquisition by Fletcher. In the Gudas-Niskanen swap, the only other hit for the Flyers was salary related — obviously taking on Niskanen's $5.75 million cap hit as well as retaining 30 percent of Gudas' $3.35 million cap hit.

Niskanen made the trade unquestionably worth it for his new club.

Not only did the 33-year-old Stanley Cup champion significantly improve the Flyers at 5-on-5, on the power play and the penalty kill, but he also did wonders for the rebound of Provorov, a 23-year-old who had far too much on his shoulders last season.

Niskanen's winning pedigree has rubbed off on everyone. With eight goals and 25 assists, he also had a chance to crack 40 points for the second time in his well-established career before the regular season was cut short because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A well-deserved A for Niskanen.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Philippe Myers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Philippe Myers

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Philippe Myers.

Destra

Normally an injury as severe as a fractured patella would cause a player to be out for a significant amount of time to recover. Luckily for Myers, he missed only a single game because just days after his injury, the NHL season was officially suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

This could be viewed as a silver lining — considering Myers will now be ready to roll come the round robin and playoffs that will follow. Before his injury, we were able to see significant growth in the 23-year-old’s game — which made the thought of losing him for the remainder of the regular season much more difficult. 

It took just under a month before Myers was called up to the big club to start his season with the Flyers, and it made for an interesting dynamic, given how busy things were at the blue line. The Flyers went from having a couple solid defensemen, to having too much talent from top to bottom … it’s a good problem to have. 

If Myers continues to control the reins instead of attempting to be too flashy, he’s in for a bright future in the NHL.

Myers gets a B for 2019-20 — and expectations are definitely high for next season. 

Fordyce 

I think when Myers first came up in the '18-19 season, he did some things that caused people to put the cart before the horse with this young defenseman. During this season, Myers had some really bright spots, but also would get into stretches when it seemed he couldn’t get out of his own way. 

Myers played 50 of the Flyers' 69 games. The key number that stands out when looking at Myers' season is that he was a plus-17, good for second on the team behind only Sean Couturier and the best in terms of defensemen on the Flyers. There are several factors that go into that rating and while it’s a great rating, Myers still has some work to do. He showed promise this season, and with even or better ratings in eight of his last 10 games, Myers’ future could be bright. 

B for Myers.

Hall

There was a lot of excitement about Myers entering the 2019-20 season and understandably so. The 23-year-old defenseman has an NHL build at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, he’s a fluid skater with offensive skill, he was ranked a top-50 prospect by the NHL Network the previous season and looked primed for a full-time impact.

While Myers had a so-so training camp and preseason, missing the team’s season-opening roster, he made it back to the big club and showed plenty of promise. With time, he started looking more comfortable and like a regular. The undrafted product recorded 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) and a plus-17 rating in 50 games.

Myers has said he’s at his best when playing a composed game and not trying to do too much, which leads to his impressiveness offensively and making things happen. At times, he would press and be hard on himself, but that’s common for any young player who cares.

All in all, a solid B for Myers, who looks like a fixture on the team’s blue line.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Oskar Lindblom

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Oskar Lindblom

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Oskar Lindblom.

Destra

If I had the opportunity to list all of the qualities that make Lindblom the wonderful player and person he is, I’d probably be here until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In a season that started off looking so bright for the 23-year-old, his world, along with Flyers fans', were turned upside down when the team released a statement in December — that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. 

My heart broke with the news, but I knew he was going to be strong through it all. I thought seeing him back on the ice at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, a few weeks ago would’ve been the best news of 2020 — but the video of Lindblom ringing the bell, indicating that he finished his treatments, topped it tenfold.

Lindblom embodies strength, resilience and a sense of hope. He’s loved by his teammates and fans in Philadelphia — the support they have given through it all never went unnoticed. While there isn’t a definite timeline on his return, what a moment it will be when he dresses for a game once more. When that time does come, it’ll be one for the books. 

A+ for the strongest player on the Flyers this season. 

Fordyce 

Let’s start with the beginning of the season. On the ice, Lindblom was one of the best Flyers in the early going with 11 goals in 30 games and projected to surpass his career high with flying colors, but this is not Lindblom's story this season.

In mid-December, the Flyers announced that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in the bones or tissue surrounding the bones. Lindblom began battling the disease, while still being around the team from time to time.

Lindblom’s diagnosis also touched off the “Oskar Strong” campaign around the NHL with players from teams throughout the league wearing Oskar Strong T-shirts. This included the Flyers' heated rivals like the Penguins and Devils proving that hockey is, indeed, a family regardless of the sweater you wear.

Lindblom has since finished his treatments, receiving a standing ovation when leaving the hospital on the last day, and he’s recently been seen skating with Flyers players at the practice facility. 

A+ on and especially off the ice for Lindblom.

Hall

It's truly astounding to see the impact Lindblom had on the Flyers' 2019-20 regular season.

Not only was Lindblom one of the team's best forwards and projected to finish with 30 goals before being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in mid-December, but his courageous fight and bright smile also constantly uplifted the Flyers. He made this team better from Day 1 and still found a way to make it better while battling cancer at 23 years old.

Whenever Lindblom was able to visit the Flyers, his teammates were genuinely blown away by his strength, smile and selflessness through the circumstances. It was no coincidence that after seeing Lindblom at the Wells Fargo Center in December, the Flyers answered their lowest point of the season with four straight wins.

"He’s still like the same person, you can’t really tell what he’s going through," Robert Hagg said in March. "Nothing bothers him."

"He brings everyone into a happier place," Kevin Hayes said in March. "If you’re having a bad day, you don’t have a bad day anymore when you see Oskar."

"Oh, it’s awesome. His smile, you know, he’s just a great guy to have around," Justin Braun said in February. "He brightens your day."

Those words say it all. A+ for Lindblom and how he has impacted so many.

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