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Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Welcome Your 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers


After a nightmare 2021 campaign and busy offseason, the Flyers are looking to establish consistent success for the first time since the early 2010s in the 2021-22 season. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Welcome Your 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers

It’s October, folks, and you know what that means; another season of Flyers hockey is upon us. And boy this is ever a big one. After once again following a promising step forward with an absolute dud, Chuck Fletcher made sweeping changes to the Flyers. Franchise faces like Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere are no longer here, replaced by a new cast of controversial and beloved acquisitions hoping to finally get Philadelphia over the top for good. After all, the Flyers have won just one playoff series in the last nine years; and in 2020-21, they became the first team in NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL history to alternate making and missing the playoffs for a decade.

The Flyers are hoping to crank that streak up to eleven this year before finally letting it go in 2022-23. If they don’t accomplish that this year, it’s possible even more sweeping changes come about, and not just to the roster this time around. With so much to think about during the build-up to this season, it’s honestly easy to overlook the overall makeup of the team at times. Thanks to a series of injuries during training camp and the preseason, the Flyers are going into this year with only 21 healthy players, with the opening night lineup largely set in stone. With the team’s official roster submitted to the league on Monday, it’s finally time for the third edition of one of my favorite articles to write. Here are the 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers – in three sentences or less.

#25 LW James van Riemsdyk – 20-21: 17 G, 26 A, 43 PTS

JVR went from expendable to essential in the Flyers offense with a huge bounce-back year offensively. He rediscovered his touch on the power-play and showed tremendous 5v5 chemistry with Joel Farabee. His $7 million cap hit might mean this is the last year of his second stint in Orange and Black.

#28 LW Claude Giroux – 20-21: 16 G, 27 A, 43 PTS in 54 GP

The Flyers captain comes into 2021-22 one year away from hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time. It would be a surprise if he gets there, even though Giroux’s camp and the Flyers have paused contract talks until the offseason. Giroux is already one of the greatest players in Flyers history, but his time here will feel incomplete without more hardware, whether it comes this year or in the future.

#14 C Sean Couturier – 20-21: 18 G, 23 A, 41 PTS in 45 GP

Couturier followed up his first career Selke Trophy win with another solid season, albeit maybe not quite as outstanding as his 2019-20 campaign. He’s undoubtedly Philadelphia’s most important forward, and the 8-year, $7.75 million AAV extension he signed this summer emphasizes that. With Kevin Hayes out to start the year, Couturier will shoulder an even larger workload than normal.

#86 LW/RW Joel Farabee – 20-21: 20 G, 18 A, 38 PTS in 55 GP

Young Beezer’s development cut to the chase in 2021, as he was virtually the only under-25 Flyer not to regress. In fact, he did one better, leading the team with 20 goals and looking like a legit top-six winger, earning him a handsome extension. As he gets bigger and older, his tremendous hockey IQ should make him an outstanding play-driver, allowing him to take another step forward.

#89 RW Cam Atkinson – 20-21 (CBJ): 15 G, 19 A, 34 PTS

The Flyers sent long-time playmaker Jake Voracek (back) to Columbus for the energetic, shoot-first Atkinson. Maybe it’s an overall skill downgrade, but Atkinson’s playstyle should make a great fit at 5v5, the power-play, and especially on a Flyers PK that struggled mightily last year and infamously didn’t score a short-handed goal until late April. Atkinson averaged over 10 shots per 60 at 5v5 from 2017-18 to 2019-20, and his four shorties last year were T-3rd in the NHL.

#11 RW Travis Konecny – 20-21: 11 G, 23 A, 34 PTS in 50 GP

After three consecutive 24 goal campaigns, Konecny couldn’t shake the monkey from a goalless 2020 playoff run off his back all season. His defensive play improved after an early-season healthy scratch, but it was still Konecny’s worst offensive output since he scored just 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games as a rookie in 2016-17. With Atkinson entering the fold, he’s not the only shoot-first, high-energy right-winger in the fold anymore, amping the pressure to produce.

#13 Kevin Hayes – 20-21: 12 G, 19 A, 31 PTS in 55 GP

Hayes was more clutch than actually great in his first year in Philly, leading to a painful decline in year number two. The road only gets tougher from here, as Hayes is out 3-5 more weeks after undergoing his second surgery of the offseason in September. He’s joined by several of his former Rangers teammates this year, which will hopefully help him move forward after the tragic passing of his brother Jimmy – may he rest in peace.

#3 D Keith Yandle – 20-21 (FLA): 3 G, 24 A, 27 PTS

Yandle was bought out by Florida after the season, but he’s still a productive player, especially on the man advantage. He also has experience playing with Vigneault back in his Rangers days. If all goes well, Yandle will tie Doug Jarvis’ all-time consecutive games played streak at 964 on January 17 at Long Island, then pass him the next night at home against Detroit.

#9 D Ivan Provorov – 20-21: 7 G, 19 A, 26 PTS

Provorov wasn’t necessarily bad last year – he still scored at a solid rate and ran his consecutive games played streak to start his career up to 371 games, the longest for a defenseman on one team in league history. But anyone who watched Provy knew he wasn’t the same player as the one that had Matt Niskanen stapled to his hip the year prior. Provorov is still a key 5v5 and penalty killer who should lead the team in ice-time for the sixth straight year, but please get him off the power-play, where his indecisiveness and far too frequent mishandles just don’t work (random shooting bender in 2019-20 aside).

#21 C/LW Scott Laughton – 20-21: 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS in 53 GP

Laughton definitely felt the pressure of a contract year, going ice-cold offensively in the middle of the year as trade rumors swirled. Ultimately, Fletcher re-upped the versatile 2012 1st round pick on a 3 year, $15 million contract. It would be massive if Laughton can at least hold down a middle-six center spot while Hayes is out to start the year.

#19 C/LW Derick Brassard – 20-21 (ARI): 8 G, 12 A, 20 PTS in 53 GP

If nothing else, having Brassard means he can’t haunt the Flyers in the playoffs as he did for the Rangers in 2014, Penguins in 2018, and Islanders in 2020. Brassard was once a quality second-line center, but asking him to play a similar role now in the wake of Kevin Hayes’ injury is a tall order. Although he did score at nearly a .5 point per game pace as recently as 2019-20.

#70 D Rasmus Ristolainen – 20-21 (BUF): 4 G, 14 A, 18 PTS in 49 GP

Yes, getting Ristolianen off the Sabres top-pair should help him post better results. But he’ll need to improve dramatically to be a useful top-four defenseman after consistently putting up below-average numbers (both raw and relative to teammates) in Buffalo. For the cost of a 1st, a 2nd, and Robert Hägg, plus essentially Shayne Gostisbehere, a 2nd, and a 7th to figure out the cap, this better work, Chuck (though he’s out for tonight’s season-opener with a

#94 D Ryan Ellis – 20-21 (NSH): 5 G, 13 A, 18 PTS in 35 GP

At 19 years old, it honestly might be fair to say Ryan Ellis is the best right-handed Flyers defenseman of my lifetime. Acquired from Nashville, Ellis puts up points at 5v5 and the man advantage, is stout defensively, and has an amazing beard, which is a nice plus now and will be an even bigger one if the Flyers make the playoffs. Hopefully, last year’s somewhat down season was purely the result of a broken knuckle and not age-related decline for the 30-year old.

#71 LW/C Max Willman – 20-21 (Lehigh Valley, AHL): 9 G, 7 A, 16 PTS in 30 GP

Willman seems like the favorite to nab the opening night 4LW spot, as he practiced in that role following a call-up on Thursday. It would be an amazing story to see the 26-year old crack the Flyers, as he wasn’t even on an AHL contract, let alone an NHL deal, as recently as 2019-20. His upside isn’t very high, but I’m rooting for this kid – though I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t.

#6 D Travis Sanheim – 20-21: 3 G, 12 A, 15 PTS in 55 GP

Every mistake Sanheim made last year ended up in his net, evidenced by the Grand Canyon-sized gap between his expected goals percentage (52%) and actual goals percentage (38%). A two-year bridge deal signed over the summer has Sanheim poised to hit free agency in 2023. He’ll need to figure out how to mesh with the equally aggressive Ristolainen before he can worry about that.

#23 LW/RW Oskar Lindblom – 20-21: 8 G, 6 A, 14 PTS in 50 GP

It was amazing to see Lindblom return to the ice after missing the final 39 games and most of the 2020 playoffs due to cancer. He wasn’t the same player in 2021 as he was pre-diagnosis, but that is completely understandable. Lindblom is back to the same physical level he was at in 2019-20 when he posted stellar underlying numbers and was tied for the team lead with 11 goals through 30 contests.

#62 RW Nicolas Aubé-Kubel – 20-21: 3 G, 9 A, 12 PTS in 50 GP

It was incredibly frustrating to watch NAK regress from productive forechecking menace in 2019-20 to an unproductive liability in 2021. Aubé-Kubel’s lack of discipline, a problem he dealt with in the AHL, reared its ugly head last year and was probably the most notable deficiency of his game. He’s a lineup lock right now due to injuries but needs a return to form for that to remain the case.

#61 D Justin Braun – 20-21: 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS in 53 GP

Braun surprisingly held his own in a demanding top-pair role he’s just not built for any longer at 34 years old. He should mesh perfectly alongside the offensively-minded Keith Yandle on the third pair, but that’s what he all said about Shayne Gostisbehere when Braun first arrived in Philly. Yandle is likely the first player whose door may be knocked on by top prospects Cam York and Egor Zamula, but Braun isn’t totally out of the woods in that regard either.

#44 C/LW Nate Thompson – 20-21 (WPG): 2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS in 44 GP

The reaction from most of Flyers Twitter when the Flyers brought Thompson back on July 28 was largely “this guy again?” Thompson was probably overused as the permanent 4C during the 2020 playoffs, but the Flyers are probably happy to have him back given their current injury situation. Thompson can still be valuable as a defensively-minded, penalty-killing fourth liner, and his underlying numbers actually weren’t terrible for an awful possession team last year in Winnipeg.

#71 C Zack MacEwen – 20-21 (VAN): 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS in 36 GP

Philadelphia claimed the 6’5” forward off waivers from the Canucks on Wednesday, likely their final roster move before the beginning of the year (other than subsequently moving Kevin Hayes to LTIR for cap purposes). MacEwen showed some promise in 2019-20 with 5 goals in 17 games, but his pie-in-the-sky 29.4% shooting predictably fell back to Earth in 2020-21. He’ll be battling with the Flyers’ other recent waiver claim, Patrick Brown, and Willman (yes, I know they’re both listed as #71 for now) for a fourth-line start to start the year.

#5 D Samuel Morin – 20-21: 1 G, 0 A in 20 GP (Injured Reserve)

Morin was a feel-good story from last season, switching from defense to forward to try and finally carve out an NHL role after two ACL tears, only to sort of actually do so after moving back to defense mid-year. Morin’s physicality and willingness to fight are craved by some old-school fans, but he’s probably nothing more than a #7 defenseman on a playoff team, which the Flyers will hopefully be. Morin is out for roughly the same timetable as Hayes after undergoing knee surgery over the summer.

#36 RW Patrick Brown – 20-21 (VGK): 0 PTS in 4 GP

Brown became the newest second newest Flyer when the team claimed him off waivers from the Golden Knights on Monday. Brown has 33 regular season and 22 playoff contests to his name, spread out over six seasons in Carolina and Vegas. He’s a physical winger who is your average depth forward, which the Flyers needed more of with all of their current injuries, though he and MacEwen aren’t available to play just yet.

#24 D Nick Seeler – 2020-21: DNP

With Ristolainen out for the season opener with a lower-body injury, the Flyers promoted Seeler to fill in on the third pair. The 28-year old had a strong training camp after not playing at all last season, last playing in the NHL in 2019-20 in six-game stints with the Wild and Blackhawks. Chuck Fletcher drafted Seeler in the 5th round of the 2011 NHL Draft.

#79 G Carter Hart – 20-21: 9-11-5, .877 SV%, 3.67 GAA

No player in the entire NHL regressed more than Hart did last year, falling from strong starter to the worst save percentage of any goalie since Curtis Joseph in 2008-09 and a 3rd worst in the league -18.3 goals saved above expected. There’s little doubt Hart will be better this year with pandemic restrictions loosening and some signs of promise in April after a mid-season reset. The Flyers have no chance of reaching the playoffs if he isn’t at least decent this season.

Check out the latest episode of Vendetta’s flagship podcast to hear Gavin Daly preview the NHL season. Or the one before it to hear Emma Brown preview the NHL season. Or the one before that one to hear me do the same.

#35 G Martin Jones – 20-21 (SJ): 15-13-4, .896 SV%, 3.28 GAA

The only two goalies last year that allowed more goals saved above expected than Hart was former Flyers backup Brian Elliot (-19.3) and Jones (-18.9), who was bought out by San Jose over the summer. Jones is the Khris Davis of hockey, posting the exact same horrid .896 save percentage in each of the last three seasons. The Flyers are hoping their goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh, who filled the same role in L.A. when Jones arrived in the NHL almost a decade ago, can fix the 31-year old who went to the Stanley Cup Final as San Jose’s starter in 2016.

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick; Goals Saved Above Expected via Moneypuck.com

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