Niskanen has been as advertised and has been a consistent force for a young Philadelphia Flyers defense
Matt Niskanen spent a long time on the other side of a Philadelphia Flyers rivalry. He spent four seasons with Pittsburgh and five seasons with Washington. The Flyers were very familiar with what he brought to the table. So when the chance to trade for him came, they went for it. And it has been paying off for them.
When the Flyers pulled the trigger this offseason, the original focus was on Radko Gudas and why they retained money from his deal. They took on 30%, which comes out to $1.01M of his $3.35M cap hit. Most questioned that specific part of the move as the team continues to have issues with the cap.
But Niskanen’s play as a top pair defensemen with Ivan Provorov has helped quell fans’ thoughts. It’s rare that he has an off game and has been chipping in on the offense at a better rate than he had in his last two seasons in Washington. His 30 points are a bit away from his career-high of 46 back in 2013-14. That’s not why he was acquired and what the team expects from him, however.
He was brought in as a veteran defenseman who happened to have a Stanley Cup ring to his name. With a Flyers defense that’s very young, the team wanted someone with experience to help them along. It was especially helpful to have someone with his pedigree pair with Provorov.
Niskanen alone has been a steady force over his NHL career. His career CF% sits at 52.0, and he is hardly ever under 50%. Out of his 13 seasons in the NHL, he has finished under 50 CF% only four times. Two of those were just below it as 49.6 and 49.2. And this comes averaging mostly 1,500 minutes each season, once over 2,000 minutes.
Some might call Niskanen lucky as he’s finished with a PDO over 100 eight times in 13 seasons. But with a career PDO of 100.6, maybe Niskanen is just that consistent year in and year out. And that’s been a perfect recipe for the Flyers.
Going back to Niskanen and Provorov together, they have seen the most time together among Flyers defensive pairings with over 800 minutes of ice time. That’s the third most time across the entire league. Their 52.04 CF% is third-best among the top ten most consistent defensive pairings.
The offense isn’t a key for the two, but we’ll mention it briefly anyway. Provorov is the scorer between the two, as he has 11 goals to Niskanen’s seven. They both have 30 points altogether though. The two have an expected goals percentage of 51.17, fifth among the same top ten pairings. And their goals for percentage are the third-worst among those ten. But the two aren’t out there to necessarily score. They are typically out against top lines and are tasked with stopping them from scoring.
Acquiring Niskanen in the off-season was just one of Chuck Fletcher’s smart moves. The Flyers defenseman has been a model of consistency on the backend. And there’s no reason to think he’ll be anything but that during his Flyers tenure.