Among skaters, center is the most important position in the NHL.
That’s not good for the Philadelphia Flyers.
At center, the Flyers have more questions than answers. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.
TSN put the Flyers’ centers in perspective when it ranked them toward the bottom of the league, placing them in the fourth of five tiers.
Teams in the fourth tier were classified as “underperformers.”
Only the centers on Arizona, Columbus, and Chicago were ranked lower than the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers’ projected centers are Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Frost, and Patrick Brown. Tanner Laczynski will contend for a center spot in training camp, and he can also play wing.
Trying to bounce back
Three of the Flyers’ top five centers missed a majority of last season because of injuries.
Hence, the questions about whether they will be able to rebound.
Couturier, a top-line center who is the team’s best all-around player, had back surgery and played in just 29 games last season. Hayes had two abdominal surgeries before he was able to play last season. In January, he had a procedure to drain fluid because of an infection in the groin region.
Hayes was able to finish strong, and that is an encouraging sign heading into the 2022-23 season.
After returning March 8 from his latest surgery, Hayes finished with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in his last 28 games. He was the Philadelphia Flyers’ leading scorer in that span.
Laczynski missed most of last season because of surgery on his left hip.About six months earlier, he had surgery on his right hip.
Frost, who had five goals in 55 games last season, is still trying to prove himself, and Brown (four goals in 44 games) is a journeyman with just 77 career NHL games on his resume.
TSN ranked Edmonton, Florida, and Toronto as the teams with the best centers.
Edmonton has Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan McLeod, and Derek Ryan down the middle. Florida, with Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett, Anton Lundell, and Eetu Luostarinen, and Toronto (Auston Matthews, John Tavares, David Kampf, and Adam Gaudette) are also extremely talented at center.
As for the Flyers, they have gotten low grades from TSN at the three forward positions. They will also get low marks on defense if Ryan Ellis (pelvic injury) is not able to play to start the season.
In the nets, Carter Hart will probably be ranked in the bottom half of the league, and his expected backup, Felix Sandstrom, has promise but is unproven.
Yes, new coach John Tortorella has his work cut out for him.