Let’s have a little fun and think outside the box regarding the Philadelphia Flyers.
We know what we know about the Flyers: rebuilding, trying to work younger players into the lineup, need to strengthen the defense, need more offense.
Let’s take a look at what we don’t know, but what we think might happen. We present three bold predictions for the Flyers for 2023-24.
1. Carter Hart Will Be Dealt at Trade Deadline
Something’s happening with the Flyers’ goaltending situation. Besides Hart, they have Cal Petersen, Felix Sandstrom and Sam Ersson.
Petersen is a journeyman NHL goaltender. Ersson showed in his brief stint last season that he has the potential to play in the NHL.
The Flyers signed Ersson to a two-year deal earlier this month. He was 6-3 in the 10 games he started. He had a 3.07 goals-against average.
Sandstrom was 3-12-3 with a 3.72 goals-against average last season. Petersen is a career 44-42-10 with a 3.90 goals-against.
The Flyers have two goalies in Russia who experts believe are legitimate goaltenders. Ivan Fedotov is described as the best goalie in the world who is not playing in the NHL. Philadelphia just won the IIHF dispute over Fedotov’s contract and he could return within two weeks to the Flyers.
The Flyers signed Alexei Kolosov, 21, to a three-year, entry-level contract over the summer. He is on a one-year loan to Dinamo Minsk. The word on the 2021 third-round draft pick is that he is NHL-worthy.
Philadelphia drafted two goalies in this year’s draft. Carson Bjarnason was the highest-rated North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. Egor Zavragin is yet another Russian goalie the Flyers drafted in June.
This is what I think happens. Unless the Flyers play lights out and are seriously in a playoff hunt, they will make the most of their greatest asset — Carter Hart — at the trade deadline.
Hart’s future with the Flyers has been in question since general manager Daniel Briere said he would listen to trade scenarios on any player.
My stance then, and now, is to build around Hart. Improve the defense in front of him and as the team improves, so does the Flyers’ franchise goalie.
As February turns into March, if the Flyers are 10 points out of the playoffs, they are going to open the phone lines. They are going to see what they can get for Hart. They are going to find out which playoff team believes Hart is the guy who can facilitate a long playoff run. Or which team close to making the playoffs wants a goalie upgrade.
Bank on it. March 9, 2024, is the trading deadline. Expect more draft picks and a prospect or two for Hart. I would guess Ersson replaces Hart as the Flyers’ No. 1 goaltender.
2. Some Surprises Coming Out of Training Camp
There will be some shake-ups coming out of camp. Guys you expected to make the opening night roster will not make the opening night roster. This is not a 100-point team with nearly all positions locked in. This is a 75-point team that should thirst for change.
Change will be made among the forwards and defense. The Flyers’ defense is veteran-laden and it makes little sense to start the season with all of them. Give the kids a legitimate opportunity — even if there might be some growing pains along the way.
Emil Andrae, Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard probably can get plenty of ice time and play dominating hockey in the AHL. That’s great for the Phantoms, maybe not so great for their development. If they can handle the NHL’s speed and talent, let them start with the big club.
Among the forwards, I expect two prospect types to start the season in Philly. That’s not “bold.” That’s more like “necessary.” Tyson Foerster should be one of the prospects. There should be another one, too.
3. Flyers Will Be Better Than You Think
Expectations are low. Media outlets and sportsbooks aren’t counting on much from the Flyers.
The players, coaches and management have higher expectations. But 82 games show plenty about your team and expose weaknesses.
Philadelphia doesn’t have a roster as talented as others. That’s understood. The Flyers need many things to happen, to break the right way, to be relatively healthy, for a season that exceeds expectations.
I think the Flyers are going to rely on strong leadership to keep the locker room intact and focused. That starts with coach John Tortorella. That starts with Marc Staal, the newly acquired defenseman. And continues with Scott Laughton, coming off a leadership position with gold medal-winning Canada in the World Championships.
Does “better than you think” mean the playoffs for the Flyers? No. But you’re going to see a more disciplined team, fighting for points in most games.
The Flyers finished with 75 points last season. I’ll predict, boldly, a 10-point improvement.