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Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers Believe They Have Taken First Step Toward Relevance

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Cam Atkinson
RW Cam Atkinson is among the many Flyers who believe the team will be much improved next season.

There was a theme at the Philadelphia Flyers’ closeout interview sessions with the media Friday: The development of the young players this season was a positive first step toward playoff contention.

“I think it looks very promising,” said the team’s MVP, goalie Carter Hart.

“I don’t think we’re too far off,” right winger Cam Atkinson said.

Many more steps are needed, of course. The team still needs more speed, more talent, more finishers. And the special teams need to show marked improvement.

But the players believe they are on the track in the early stages of their Great Rebuild.

Young, unproven players like Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Cam York, and Morgan Frost blossomed. And Tyson Foerster and Sam Ersson opened eyes in their brief time with the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished seventh in the eighth-team Metropolitan Division with a 31-38-13 record and 75 points.

“I think the step that some of those young guys made, and just the feel around the room (was encouraging); it was a little bit different from maybe the year past and the belief within guys throughout the year,” said Scott Laughton, who set career highs in goals (18) and points (43). “Obviously, it wasn’t where we wanted it to be. But this is the situation we’re in, and we have a lot of young guys who have stepped up and and played bigger roles.”

Added Laughton: “It’s going to be a big summer for a lot of those guys.”

Tippett was the leader of the kids, scoring 27 goals in a breakthrough season. Cates, a rookie who was converted from a left winger to a center, looked like a future Selke candidate as the league’s best defensive forward. He had 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) and a plus-3 rating while matched against No. 1 lines.

Frost scored 19 goals and collected 46 points in his first full season, and York, 22, was one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ top defensemen.

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“It’s really exciting,” said Travis Konecny, the kinetic right winger who led the Flyers with a career-high 31 goals despite playing in just 60 games because of injuries. For the young players, “it’s so important to have that confidence going into next year. These guys all got a chance to show their skills and their hockey smarts and what they’re capable of doing.”

Getting Sean Couturier and Atkinson back next season after they had back and neck surgery, respectively, is also part of the reason for the Flyers’ optimism.

“It’s almost like getting two free-agent signings at this point,” defenseman Tony DeAngelo said.

“Not that we’re going to be the solution,” Atkinson said. “I think every guy needs to step up and do a little bit better job on both sides. But I think we’ll help a lot more than we hurt.”

Couturier and Atkinson will also help the Flyers’ sad-sack special teams.

“Those are big players with a ton of experience and the ability to help your team,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “So obviously it was hard to replace those players, but it kind of gave the younger guys the opportunity to show what they can do and learn.”

The Flyers finished with the league’s seventh-worst record, but there is hope. The young kids made strides. Couturier and Atkinson are returning. Now it’s up to interim GM Danny Briere to make some bold offseason moves to complement the roster and help make the Flyers relevant again.

Breakaways

Coach John Tortorella and Briere will address the media Monday. … The Flyers finished 29th out of 32 teams in goals per game (2.68); they were 23rd (3.37) in goals allowed per game.

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