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Flyers at All-Star Break: Best, Worst, Surprises, Torts’ Gems

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John Tortorella, Philadelphia Flyers

Three of the Philadelphia Flyers’ best players — Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, and Ryan Ellis — have not played this season because of injuries.

The Flyers, forced to go with a younger lineup, have obviously missed those players, but they have persevered.

Against all odds, the Flyers have overcome a 10-game losing streak and are at “hockey 500” at the All-Star break with a 21-21-9 record. Somehow, they are just six points out of a playoff spot. (Playoffs!?)

Who led them there? Who were the disappointments?

Here we go:

Team’s MVP

Take a bow, Travis Konecny.

Despite not scoring in his last nine games before the break, Konecny is having a breakthrough season.

He has already equaled a career high with 24 goals, and he leads the Flyers in goals and points (49). The London, Ontario, native has also thrived in his new role on the penalty kill.

Konecny, 25,  is a building block for the future unless GM Chuck Fletcher is overwhelmed by a trade offer.

Honorable mention for MVP: Kevin Hayes and Carter Hart.

Most improved player

Owen Tippett, 23, has made huge strides this season and is on pace for 23 goals.

The big right winger was the centerpiece of last year’s trade that sent Claude Giroux to Florida. Tippett has set a career-high in goals (14) and assists (14), has played with an edge, and has shown surprising speed.

In 21 games with the Flyers last season, Tippett had just seven points (four goals, three assists).

Biggest surprise

The blossoming of so many young players.

Morgan Frost, Tippett, Noah Cates, Wade Allison, and goalie Sam Ersson (now with the Phantoms) have all made major strides. That’s a credit to them and new coach John Tortorella and his coaching staff.

Another surprise: The way enforcer Nick Deslauriers, who leads the NHL with nine fights, has created an impact with his aggressive style. The left winger has kept opposing teams on their toes.

Best rookie

Cates fits the bill.

Not only has he had to learn a new position — center — but he has done so with the poise of a veteran and has been the Flyers’ best defensive forward.

His offense needs to be more consistent, but that has picked up recently, and he looks like a big part of the future. Cates has eight goals, 22 points, and a plus-5 rating while playing against other teams’ top lines.

Most disappointing player

This one comes with an asterisk.

Joel Farabee has just nine goals and is on pace for just 14. He had 17 goals in 63 games last year, and 20 in 55 games in 2020-21.

But his slip this season follows offseason neck surgery, and it figured to take him a while to get back to form.

The effort has been there, but not the goals.

Best leader

Scott Laughton, the only player to wear a letter (“A”) on his jersey, has exemplified every leadership characteristic. — on and off the ice. He seems to be the leader in the clubhouse if Tortorella names a captain next season. Couturier would also be a great choice.

Laughton (12 goals, 29 points) is his having a career season, and he and Konecny have made the PK dangerous by each scoring three shorthanded goals.

Top defenseman

Ivan Provorov, who has been a shot-blocking machine, wins this award. He leads the Flyers in blocked shots (122) and time on ice (23:10 per game). The Russian native has 19 points and a minus-6 rating.

Provorov, 26, is tied for second in the NHL in blocked shots, and fifth in time on ice.

A first-round draft selection (No. 7 overall) in 2015, Provorov still needs to improve his decision-making. He has a team-high 48 giveaways.

Epilogue: Cam York (11 points, plus-10) was the Flyers’ best defenseman in January, but it’s difficult to give him the award because he has played only 24 NHL games this season.

Most unsung player

Hello, Nick Seeler.

The physical, 29-year-old defenseman has quietly been an effective player on the third pairing. He’s chipped in with nine points, including three goals, and has 82 blocked shots, which is fourth on the Flyers. He is tied for third on the team with a plus-5 rating.

Best quotes

Tortorella had plenty of them. My top three:

1. “I feel totally opposite about the game right now, especially with today’s athletes and an attention span of an amoeba. And just getting a couple minutes out of them, and I mean it.”

2. “It’s a young, dumb league. There are so many more mistakes made now in our game than back in the day.”

3. Morgan Frost is “up and down like a toilet seat.”

(P.S. I’m sure there are many others than could be on the list.)

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