Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.
Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included – so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Philadelphia.
Undoubtedly, the future is looking incredibly bright in Philadelphia – maybe too bright if you’re a prospect fighting for a spot in the coming years. The Flyers will reap the benefits of years of astute drafting and there will be fierce competition for spots. Age will downgrade the roles of captain Giroux and several other veterans, while it seems unlikely that players like James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton will stay in town once their current contracts are up. In their stead, a bunch of exciting youngsters led by Farabee and Frost. German Rubtsov, Oskar Lindblom, Tanner Laczynski and Mikhail Vorobyov are other options here.
The defense is similar to the forwards, as many options will be popping up in the coming years. By 2023-24, the ‘D’ corps will have Provorov and Gostisbehere as the veterans, but many of the others will have decent experience, too. Due to a glut of high-end left shots, I’m moving Provorov over to the right side with York, whose offensive skill set dictates a top-four role. There’s a nice balance of talents here and some good internal competition. Adam Ginning can bring size and defense if the Flyers want a different look.
The starter’s role here is pretty much unquestioned already. Hart will be in his prime years for 2023-24 and will continue to be elite after that. The bigger question regards his backup. The Flyers have drafted a good deal of goaltenders lately and while Ustimenko earns the job here, he’ll have to fight off Felix Sandstrom, Samuel Ersson, Roddy Ross and Matej Tomek, among others. It’s a good problem to have, especially since Hart looks entrenched as the No. 1 right now.
Overall, the Flyers are in great shape for the future. There is a ton of talent up front and really, the only question is one of deployment. Can Frost usurp Couturier as the No. 1 center? Couturier will be on the other side of 30 by then, but it’s hard to see his game falling off much by then. If anything, this lineup just presents a lot of match-up problems for opponents. The Flyers have high-end talent, size and tenacity. The same can be said for the defense corps, especially if York hits the heights expected of him. If this team gels, they could be a real problem for the rest of the NHL in five years.
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