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Carchidi Column: Flyers Will Be Bad But Interesting; Projected Lineup



Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers
Owen Tippett (left) and Joel Farabee could be the Philadelphia Flyers' top two left wingers this season, which starts Oct. 12. Photo: AP.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ upcoming season can be viewed as either bleak or interesting.

It depends on your perspective.

Bleak: The Flyers, going through a massive rebuild, are widely expected to finish last in the Metropolitan Division and miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Interesting: At some point this season, several young players, including Tyson Foerster, Ronnie Attard, and Egor Zamula — and perhaps Elliot Desnoyers and Bobby Brink — could get a chance to show they belong in the NHL.

The Flyers also want players who began establishing themselves last season – guys like Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, and Cam York – to keep growing.

From that standpoint, it will be interesting to watch their progression.

“We want to continue to have our younger players develop into more than what they’ve already demonstrated,” said Keith Jones, the Flyers’ new president of hockey operations.  “We want improvement. We want our player development to become a really high standard for where we want to go.”

Unlike the previous regime, this front office – Jones, GM Danny Briere and club chairman Dan Hilferty – wants the Flyers to be more than playoff contenders in the future.

They want them to eventually challenge for the Stanley Cup.

That will take time, patience and, most importantly, smart drafting.

And a little luck.

Down the road …

“And when it’s time down the road, (we’ll) start to add free agents,” Jones said.

Not just bottom-liners, but an elite free agent(s).

“We want to have cap space to do that because we’ve managed things properly,” Jones said.

For the upcoming season, the Flyers have added some inexpensive free agents. But Jones believes the Flyers will need a sniper at some point in the future. Players in the mold of ex-Flyers like Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne.

Maybe Tippett, Foerster, Joel Farabee, Cutter Gauthier (now at Boston College) and/or Matvei Michkov will turn into that type of player. Or maybe Travis Konecny keeps growing.

Or maybe that high-scoring player comes from free agency in a couple years.

“That’s the type of talent we need to acquire by whatever means,” Jones said. “We would prefer to draft them, obviously. It’s much better when you’re developing those players. Those are the type of players we need; guys who are skyrocketing on the way up. We need more skill. We had some players emerge (last season) and show us there’s a lot there, but we need more of those guys.”

The Philadelphia Flyers’ 2023-24 roster seems set, though Briere is still working the phones. More than likely, only a few more tweaks will be made.

Projected lineup

Here’s my projected lineup for the Oct. 12 season opener in Columbus against Ivan Provorov, Johnny Gaudreau and the rest of the Blue Jackets:

Line 1: Sean Couturier centering Tippett and Konecny.

Comment: Couturier’s return from two back surgeries is key to the Flyers’ season. Konecny (31 goals, 61 points in 60 games), and Tippett (27 goals) are coming off career seasons. Tippett is a natural right winger but played well in the games he was used at left wing last season.

Line 2: Frost centering Farabee and Cam Atkinson.

Comment: This is another line that needs a veteran – in this case, Atkinson – to bounce back from (neck) surgery.  Frost, who blossomed into a 19-goal scorer in 2022-23, will be given more responsibility this year. Farabee (15 goals) should be much improved after being slowed last season by the effects of neck surgery. He could fit on the top line, but Tippett, based on his breakthrough season, deserves a chance to see if he can develop chemistry with the playmaking Couturier.

Line 3: Noah Cates centering Scott Laughton and Foerster.

Comment: Cates (13 goals) and Laughton (18) are hard-working, 200-foot players can both play center or wing. The promising Foerster, owner of perhaps the team’s hardest shots, is favored to win the right-wing spot. Injury-prone Wade Allison will give him competition. From here, it’s time to let Foerster loose.

Line 4: Ryan Poehling centering Nicolas Deslauriers and Garnet Hathaway.

Comment: This is the team’s most physical line. By far. It is composed of two hard-nosed wingers, Hathaway (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) and Deslauriers (6-1, 220), and a speedy center, Poehling  (6-2, 196), who also has good size.  Poehling, 24, a former first-round draft pick (selected two choices ahead of Frost in 2017) who has elite speed, and Hathaway were free-agent signings.

Defensive pairings, goalie

Defense 1: Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen.

Comment: Sanheim, coming off an inconsistent season, is the heir apparent to Provorov as the top lefthanded defenseman.  After a slow start, Ristolainen improved last season. On most NHL teams, this would be, at best, a No. 2 pairing.

Defense 2: Marc Staal and Cam York.

Comment: York, who can play either side, will benefit from the 36-year-old Staal’s experience. Staal played five seasons for John Tortorella with the New York Rangers and knows what to expect. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Flyers dealt Staal to a contender at the trade deadline, adding a draft pick and opening a spot for a youngster.

Defense 3: Nick Seeler and Sean Walker.

Comment: This is the most difficult pairing to predict. Seeler, 30, exceeded all expectations and was impressive last season, but if the Flyers truly value a rebuild, they might be better served having the 23-year-old Egor Zamula on this unit. Likewise, Walker, who turns 29 early in the season, may not have the long-term upside that 24-year-old Ronnie Attard possesses.

Goalie: Carter Hart, with Cal Petersen as the backup.

Comment: Hart (2.94 GAA, .907 SP), who turns 25 next month, should be motivated because he was in numerous trade rumors in the offseason and he wants to stay here. Petersen, 28, who struggled with the Kings last season but has some good work on his resume, will be challenged by Sam Ersson and Felix Sandstrom.

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