Oskar Lindblom

5 youngsters on Flyers that need to own their roles in 2019-20 season

5 youngsters on Flyers that need to own their roles in 2019-20 season

With the moves Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher made this offseason, it seems like he is putting a lot of faith in the younger core (see story). While this is a big responsibility, these up-and-coming players are going to need to step up if the Flyers want to shift into a win-now mentality.

Oskar Lindblom

After having a taste of the NHL in 2017-18 playing 23 games, last season was Lindblom’s official rookie year and he sat out only a single game out of 82. His level of responsibility for the team and as a bottom-six player significantly increased as the season progressed, but there is much more that he can improve on heading into October.

There were a few stretches throughout last season when Lindblom showed everyone glimpses of the offensive powerhouse he could be one day, but a lack of confidence seemed to hold him back.

In the span of four games (against Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Arizona), the 22-year-old saw some of the longest stretches of time on ice in his career and tallied six points (two goals, four assists).

What stood out the most from his play and what the Flyers could desperately use heading into next season were the high-threat chances he was able to set up behind the net. He was able to sense exactly where the play was headed, make clean passes and did it so effortlessly that the opposing goaltenders couldn’t even see it coming.

The only issue, and it was a big one, was the level of inconsistency and never knowing if he was going to be reliable that night or fall short. Following his highly successful road trip performance, he then went through a 30-game stretch in which he contributed points-wise only four times ... not good.

On his A-game, Lindblom is one of the better two-way forwards on the team and was a solid addition to the penalty kill once he was added to it. This is a big year for Lindblom as he is due for a new contract at the end of the 2019-20 season. If he finds a way to add confidence and consistency to his game, he should be getting a solid pay raise.

Nolan Patrick

Patrick has the potential to have his best season yet for a few reasons. Yes, he was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft but his transition hasn’t been as smooth sailing as many hoped. Enter Kevin Hayes.

Hayes signed at probably the best possible time and will most likely start the season at 2C. This moves Patrick down to the third line, where he now has a little more wiggle room to grow into the player he’s expected to be (see story).

Of course, when the time comes, it’s almost evident that the two centers will switch lines, but for now? Patrick needs to seize this opportunity every time he hits the ice.

Patrick has also had his fair share of injuries/setbacks, which could be taken into account to his overall performance. Less time on ice this season may help him focus on getting the offensive side of his game going.

Significant droughts without producing offensively also raise a flag of concern and that was a big issue last season for Patrick. From Nov. 13 to Jan. 12, he went 24 games without a single goal.

If Patrick can stay healthy for an entire season, if he can grow his confidence on his new line and is able to be more of a leader on the ice, we should see a much different player with more positives than negatives.

Philippe Myers

Myers earned his roster spot toward the back end of last season and is expected to be a regular heading into October — and rightfully so (see story).

The 6-foot-5 defenseman did everything he needed to do in order to stand out when playing with the Phantoms. He earned his call-up mid-February and was with the Flyers up until the second-to-last game of the season before being sent back down to Lehigh Valley.

Aside from Carter Hart, Myers had the longest stint with the team after being called up from its AHL affiliate. Just like every other player who transitions to the NHL, Myers made some mistakes, but overall he was able to do a lot of little things that helped him mesh with the defense.

Overthinking when entering the zone is something that can happen to anyone — even a split moment of hesitation can affect the direction of play. While this happened from time to time, Myers was able to recover because of his ability to cover so much ground in a very little amount of time.

Travis Sanheim

Sanheim went from a roster-spot filler one year to one of the most important players on the blue line for the Flyers. With a new contract under his belt heading into this season, he has the perfect opportunity to have a breakout year.

After a full 82 games played, averaging just under 20 minutes of time on ice per game and ending the season second overall in points by a defenseman on the team, there is no time to go backwards.

He has always flown under the radar as far as up-and-coming players go, but after the productive season he had, he now has the chance to prove that he can handle top-pairing minutes and responsibilities.

So Sanheim needs to step up in a different way. He needs to be a leader ... and he has the potential to do so.

Carter Hart

The future of the franchise currently falls on the 20-year-old goaltender who played just 31 games with the Flyers last season.

After the expectations of playing a full season in the AHL went away because of the goalie instability in net, Hart jump-started a lot of optimism around the organization — something that had been fading for quite some time.

Heading into this season, Hart is expected to carry the team and could possibly get around 50 starts depending on how well he adjusts to being the go-to man between the pipes (see story).

A team can’t get anywhere without a goaltender to help it along the way and after decades of the Flyers not having a franchise goalie, Hart has the chance to be that saving grace.

Last season had a few bumps in the road, but that was expected in his first season playing at the professional level. He was pulled three times when starting, but we can chalk that up to growing pains.

Solid goaltending gives any team the chance at making a run to the postseason, so hopefully for the Flyers, Hart will be able to lead them there to have that opportunity.

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Why James van Riemsdyk could be Flyers' most important player in 2019-20 (and not for his goal-scoring)

Why James van Riemsdyk could be Flyers' most important player in 2019-20 (and not for his goal-scoring)

When James van Riemsdyk hit the free-agent market last summer, he had just scored a career-high 36 goals and was considered the second-biggest commodity to only John Tavares.

Signing with the Flyers presented a variety of selling points.

Five years, $35 million certainly whet the appetite.

Returning to the organization that drafted him second overall in 2007 was intriguing.

Being back near his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey, held special meaning.

But just as important as all those factors was this: He loved the Flyers' youth.

And still does, despite Year 1 of the reunion falling well short of expectations with a season marred by another slow start, inconsistency and dramatic change.

"That's the beauty of having young guys, we have guys that haven't hit their best hockey yet," van Riemsdyk said April 6 following the Flyers' season-finale loss. "We have a lot of high-end players, too. Everyone's got to be hungry going into the summer. It's not just a time to put your feet up, that's when you make your big strides as a player. You identify things you want to work on and you attack them."

There's excitement about what a healthy and comfortable van Riemsdyk can do for the Flyers throughout a full season in 2019-20 (see story).

However, he may be the Flyers' biggest difference-maker for a separate reason.

The very same youngsters that attracted van Riemsdyk to Philadelphia should attract to the 30-year-old. A proper word to describe van Riemsdyk is professional. He's enjoyed consistent success because of a complete and workmanlike approach that translates into results. 

In each of his last five full seasons, he's scored at least 27 goals. He's netted 30 or more twice. He scored 29 in 2016-17 and would have had over 30 this season if not for an injury that cost him 16 games. So he's awfully close to four 30-goal seasons by the age of 30 and he's played in 59 postseason games.

Sean Couturier is the only other Flyer with two 30-goal seasons and only Claude Giroux has appeared in more playoff games (69).

His young, impressionable teammates — Nolan Patrick (20 years old), Travis Konecny (22) and Oskar Lindblom (22), to name a few among the forwards — can learn from van Riemsdyk.

For the Flyers to have the bounce-back year they want next season, they'll need significant strides from their younger players — in other words, more consistency.

Carter Hart, who was lauded for his maturity entering the pros, took after van Riemsdyk to help with his NHL transition at 20 years old.

"JVR has been a real big help," Hart said in April. "He really pays attention to that side of the game and he's talked to me a little about his approach with the off-ice nutrition and sleep habits and all of his little things that he talks about. He's really helped me just open my eyes to his approach with the off-ice and nutrition and sleep habits, making sure that he's taking care of his body. He's always one of the first guys in the gym and he's always taking care of his body and doing the right thing. It's pretty cool for him to talk to me about that, and it has really opened my eyes."

Van Riemsdyk isn't the guy to get in your face and force-feed you tips on how to be better because he doesn't toot his own horn. But by watching him, by seeking him out, the Flyers can capitalize on more than just his goal production.

"It's something you can't fake, you can't just come in and be a guy who's rah-rah, do it my way, do it this way," van Riemsdyk said. "You've got to live it every day. I love what I do and I love trying to be the best I can be, try to be a good professional, just find an edge to keep improving and improving every single year that I can. You can't really come in Day 1 and beat your chest and say stuff. You remember being in some of the shoes of the young players not so long ago."

What did he do in those shoes?

"I remember just being a sponge in those situations where you're kind of watching and listening probably twice as much as you're saying anything," van Riemsdyk said. "Just kind of seeing the different things guys do to be successful and prepare to play at the best of their abilities every night.

"Just try to prepare the best I can. Be a good pro and set a good example in that respect. As you develop better relationships with guys — that just doesn't happen overnight — but as you develop those relationships with guys, you develop that trust where we can all learn different things from each other."

It could go a long way in the Flyers' 2019-20 aspirations. And it shouldn't require van Riemsdyk to beat his chest, either.

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Hurricanes 4, Flyers 3: Flyers stumble early again in season finale

Hurricanes 4, Flyers 3: Flyers stumble early again in season finale

BOX SCORE 

A tumultuous 2018-19 season ravaged by regression and firings came to an end Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers lost, 4-3, to the Hurricanes.

After throwing themselves into the playoff race with an 18-4-2 stretch from Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers (37-37-8) stumbled out of contention with a 3-10-0 finish.

The Flyers' 82 points are their fewest in a full season since 2006-07, when the team was dreadful and went 22-48-12 for 56 points.

The Hurricanes (46-29-7), led by former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour, are headed to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

• Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers.

Lindblom, a 22-year-old rookie, scored 17 goals in his first full season and took off after earning a larger portion of the pie under interim head coach Scott Gordon. He has 20-goal potential, impressive for a fifth-round pick.

Konecny matched his career high of 24 goals set last season but there's no denying he was inconsistent. When he's going, he's a game-breaker. When he's not, he blends in.

Important to remember: Konecny turned only 22 years old last month. How quickly the Flyers turn things around will rely heavily on the 2015 first-round pick's production.

Couturier finished with a career-high 33 goals after breaking out in 2017-18. Since the start of that season, he has 64 goals, the same number as Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Couturier is one of the few certainties for general manager Chuck Fletcher.

• The Flyers should be thankful for Carter Hart, who picked up the loss in his 30th start.

The 20-year-old breathed life into the season and provides optimism for the future. He went 16-13-1, lending much-needed stability to a situation that saw the Flyers play eight goalies, an NHL record for one season.

The injuries and netminders weren't the only problems, either.

The Flyers were far too shaky in front of the goalies. Is it personnel? Is it coaching?

The answer will be clearer in 2019-20.

• Mark Friedman, a 23-year-old defenseman, made his NHL debut in the loss. He played 12:33 and didn't look out of place.

He should be a solid call-up option next season (see story).

• The Flyers once again fell behind early and went into first intermission trailing 3-1.

They finished the season with a minus-31 goal differential in the first period, worst in the NHL.

The starts of games will have to be addressed in 2019-20.

• A look at the Flyers' unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents heading into the offseason:

Brian Elliott, G — UFA
Michal Neuvirth, G — UFA
Cam Talbot, G — UFA
Corban Knight, F — UFA
Phil Varone, F — UFA
Jori Lehtera, F — UFA
Scott Laughton, F — RFA
Travis Konecny, F — RFA
Ryan Hartman, F — RFA
Justin Bailey, F — RFA
Ivan Provorov, D — RFA
Travis Sanheim, D — RFA

• The Flyers handed out their annual team awards before the game (see story).

• Fletcher enters his first offseason as Flyers general manager. He'll have his work cut out for him. The Flyers fell well short of expectations and haven't made the postseason in consecutive years since 2010-12, when they last won a series.

Cleanout day is Sunday afternoon for the players.

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