Philadelphia Flyers: NHL 2018/19 season preview

The Flyers made the playoffs last year with a fairly solid young team. Can they take the next step this year to become a contender?

Philadelphia Flyers: NHL 2018/19 season preview
Philadelphia Flyers: 2017-18 season preview. | Photo: hockeypngs.com/Ty Fisher Vavel.com

Last year during the 2017/18 season, the Philadelphia Flyers finished third in their division with 98 points.

Being led by their captain Claude Giroux, who eclipsed the century mark with an impressive total of 102 points, the Flyers combined youth and experience to secure a first-round matchup with their bitter nemesis in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In a wild matchup featuring a high-powered offense, lackluster defense, and atrocious goaltending, Philly eventually fell after six games. However, this is certainly not a team that’s on the downswing of things. Quite the opposite... actually.

Philly is only getting better, with significant contributions from young studs such as Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, and of course Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.

A fresh wave of excellent prospects is on its way as well, headlined by Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, Morgan Frost (not likely this year), and others.

However, the perpetual Achilles heel of the team is goaltending. Top prospect Carter Hart still needs another season or two before he’s NHL-ready, and he’s really the closest the Flyers have to be able to contribute.

This means Philly will have to sit through Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, neither of which is truly starter quality. This is an issue that must be fixed before the Philadelphia Flyers are able to truly contend in the playoffs.

Lineup

Forwards:

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny

James van Riemsdyk - Nolan Patrick - Jakub Voracek

Oskar Lindblom - Jordan Weal - Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defense:

Ivan Provorov - Shayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim - Andrew MacDonald

Robert Hagg - Radko Gudas

Goalies:

Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Best case scenario 

- Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek all prove that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan and post similar numbers to last year. Giroux gets some Hart Trophy buzz, as well as Couturier, becoming a Selke finalist.

- Third-year pro Ivan Provorov takes another leap forward in his already impressive career, eclipsing 50 points while establishing himself as a true number-one defenseman.

- Sophomores Travis Sanheim and Nolan Patrick each enjoy breakout seasons, with Sanheim playing solid minutes leading the second pair and Patrick becoming a vital second-line center.

- Travis Konecny continues his development and steps up to become a very solid 50-60 point winger.

- The tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth becomes passable, ideally, each above the (2017/18) league average .912 save percentage.

- James van Riemsdyk proves to be an excellent acquisition, finding instant chemistry with Nolan Patrick on the second line.

- Wayne Simmonds bounces back, achieving point totals in the 50-point range.

Worst case scenario

- Claude Giroux’s redemption season last year proves to be a fluke. He declines rapidly, as he is now on the wrong side of 30.

- Travis Sanheim and Nolan Patrick are unable to get any traction during the season and suffer the dreaded sophomore slump.

- Goaltending is either injury-plagued, terrible or both (all of which has been a problem for this team).

- JVR doesn’t pan out quite as planned.

Prediction

I actually like the way this team is constructed, especially moving forward (excluding the current goaltender situation). They already have a very solid top line, but the thing to watch is line two.

Nolan Patrick in all likelihood will breakout, already having significant natural talent as well as having two great wingers in van Riemsdyk and Voracek, which will only help him along.

The bottom six is also becoming more promising, as the Flyers have one of the deepest farm systems in the NHL. Oskar Lindblom will likely play a large role here, as well as Wayne Simmonds, who may be declining but can still score.

The defense might even show more promise, already showcasing some good young talent in Provorov and Gostisbehere. If Provorov can really take the next step--he certainly has the talent... then the NHL better watch out.

This is especially the case if Sanheim can breakout, and if solid prospect Philippe Myers can make the jump this season as well.

As mentioned before though, the goaltending is going to be the one thing that holds Philly back. Ultimately that must prevent fans of the team from getting too excited.

With all that said, I would expect them to--seriously--challenge the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the Metropolitan. They finished a mere two points behind last year, and they look to have markedly improve.

If Matt Murray fails to rebound, don’t be surprised if the Flyers go just above 100 points and beat out the Penguins for the number two spot.

However, I still can’t put them above Crosby & Co. due to goaltending problems. This writer expects third in the division, with a first or second round exit in the playoffs.

How do you think the Philadelphia Flyers will do this 2018/19 season? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!