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Carchidi Column: Time for Flyers’ Rookies, Youngsters to Step Up

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Tyson Foerster, Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers
Young wingers Tyson Foerster (left) and Joel Farabee (right) are former first-round picks being heavily counted upon by the Flyers. Photo: AP.

The Philadelphia Flyers have had some decent rookies in recent years, but it’s been a while since they’ve had a first-year player make a major impact.

It’s time.

The goal should be for Tyson Foerster to play in the top six and produce 20 to 25 goals this season.

Ditto Cutter Gauthier the following year.

It’s time.

The players that the Philadelphia Flyers have selected in the first round over the last decade have been underwhelming.

Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, German Rubtsov and Samuel Morin have been busts. Patrick and Morin never lived up to their billings because of injuries.

The team’s best first-round pick in the last decade was probably Travis Konecny, and the jury is still waiting as Matvei Michkov, Oliver Bonk, and Gauthier continue their development.

Future All-Stars?

If the Flyers are ever going to be viewed as a Stanley Cup contender down the road, the young players they drafted need to show they have the makings to be future stars.

Ivan Provorov, a first-round pick in 2015, didn’t reach those lofty aspirations in his seven years here and was traded to Columbus. He was good and a workhorse defenseman, but never became the standout you’d expect from a No. 7 overall pick. At least he netted a first-round pick and two second-rounders in a three-team deal.

The Flyers are still trying to find out about first-rounders Morgan Frost, who had 19 goals and took a step toward being a potential franchise cornerstone last season, and Joel Farabee. The latter is healthy now and needs to show he can be a consistent 25-goal scorer. Travis Sanheim and Cam York are other former first-round selections trying to become impact players.

It’s been a while since a Flyers rookie made an extremely significant contribution.

Oh, there have been the occasional nice seasons by a rookie. Winger Matt Read, for instance, had 24 goals and 47 points in 2011-12, but he then regressed. Noah Cates (13 goals) was steady last season, and hopefully he keeps improving. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was sensational as a rookie in 2015-16 (17 goals, 46 points in 64 games), but it turned out to be his best season as injuries slowed down his production in later years.

Gostisbehere’s eye-opening rookie season was an oddity for the Flyers. For the most part, their first-year players haven’t burst onto the scene and looked like they had All-Star potential.

Or beyond.

Long Wait

The last Flyers rookie forward to make a huge splash was probably Mikael Renberg, who had 38 goals and 82 points in 1993-94, playing on the famed Legion of Doom Line with Eric Lindros and John LeClair.

The previous season, Lindros had 41 goals and 75 points in just 61 games as a rookie center.

Some other Flyers forwards who had rookie seasons of note: Dave Poulin had 31 goals and 76 points in 1983-84; Brian Propp had 34 goals and 75 points in 1979-80; Ron Flockhart had 33 goals and 72 points in 1981-82; and Bill Barber had 30 goals and 62 points in 1972-73.

The point is, most of those rookies shined in the earlier days of the Flyers’ existence. Since then, developing players has become one of the team’s weaknesses.

It’s time for that to change. Fact is, it must change if the course of this franchise — which has missed the playoffs in four of the last five years — is going to be altered.

That’s the challenge that needs to be met by Foerster this season, Gauthier the following year, and Michkov down the road.

Gagne a Good Model

They don’t have to be the type of monster years put together by Lindros, Barber and Co. when they were rookies.

The Flyers would gladly settle for a rookie year like Simon Gagne had in 1999-20, a season that started when he was 19. Gagne had 20 goals and 48 points while being named to the NHL’s all-rookie team. More importantly, he built on it and got better each year.

Oddly, the Flyers have never had a rookie-of-the-year winner in franchise history.

Renberg was beaten by Martin Brodeur (2.40 GAA, 27-11-8 record) in 1994, Lindros was overtaken by Teemu Selanne (a ridiculous 76 goals and 132 points) in 1993, and Barber, an outstanding two-way player, was unfairly edged by Steve Vickers in 1973.

No one expects Foerster, 21, to beat out Chicago’s Connor Bedard this season, but they do expect big things from the powerful right winger.

It’s time.

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