The Hockey News is rolling out its 2017-18 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of Stanley Cup odds, until the start of the season. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Stanley Cup odds: 40-1
Key additions: Brian Elliott, G; Jori Lehtera, C; Nolan Patrick, C
Key departures: Steve Mason, G; Brayden Schenn, C; Michael Del Zotto, D; Nick Cousins, C; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, C
What should the expectations be on Nolan Patrick?
He was touted as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but slid to the Flyers when New Jersey opted for the dynamic Nico Hischier instead. Patrick’s size, scoring punch and responsible two-way game make him an alluring prospect, but his development was derailed by injuries the past year and a half. Because he is a late birthday, some of that might be mitigated, but getting him up to speed is a concern. The maladies went from unfortunate to farcical at Flyers rookie camp when Patrick came down with an abscess on his face, but with the main camp here, the youngster was pretty much ready to go. He has recovered from his June 13 hernia surgery and obviously wants to make his mark.
Now, keep in mind, the Flyers have a nice stable of forwards already: Patrick does not have to be a world-saver and he can count on veterans Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to do most of the heavy lifting at center for now. If the Flyers ease Patrick into the NHL, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, even if it limits his chances at a Calder BEST-CASE SCENARIO:
The Flyers were the biggest winners in the draft lottery, jumping 11 teams to snag the second overall pick, which they used on center Patrick. Given that he’ll be 19 once the season begins, there’s no reason to doubt Patrick can make an impact right away, especially since he can be sheltered by Giroux and Couturier. With that kind of talent down the middle and wingers such as Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia has the firepower to keep up in the Metro. Heck, with Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom still on the rise, Philly could have quite the forward group.
The defense looks even more promising. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov have already arrived, and there’s plenty more youth coming. Take your pick from Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg. Only a couple can make it, but the internal competition will be fantastic. In net, Brian Elliott enters into a perfect situation, as the veteran has always been better when he’s got something to prove. He’ll share the crease with Michal Neuvirth. All told, this is a playoff-caliber team.
Why must it always be goaltending in Philadelphia? Elliott is coming off a sour note in Calgary, where he was pretty much responsible for the Flames getting swept by Anaheim in the first round of the playoffs. Is Philly really the right atmosphere for a dented goalie to get his confidence back? Neuvirth is a 1B netminder at best, and that’s why the Flyers have been on the NHL margins for the past few years.
Up front, the Flyers will miss Brayden Schenn (traded for Jori Lehtera), and Patrick has already been through the ringer when it comes to injuries. On top of two abdominal surgeries in his young career, he somehow got an infection on his face during rookie camp. The omens around this kid are dark. Should he fail to find consistent health, he’d probably be better back in junior. While that’s not horrible for his long-term outlook, it would hurt the team’s depth. Even with their impressive defense corps, it will only take a few things to go slightly wrong for the Flyers to miss the playoffs again in a tough division. That would be tough pill to swallow as their top forwards start to age out of their primes.
THN’s PREDICTION: 6th in Metropolitan. The Flyers will be in the playoff hunt, but most likely miss in a deep Metropolitan Division. Goaltending will still be an issue and probably the team’s undoing in the end.
Previously: Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Colorado Avalanche | Detroit Red Wings | Florida Panthers | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights | Winnipeg Jets