It’s award season right now for the arts. The NHL awards don’t come until AFTER the season. However, since we are over halfway through the Flyers season now, let’s take some time and hand out some awards based on how the team has done thus far.
Some of these awards are given out by the team at the end of the season. Some of them are ones that I have made up.
Barry Ashbee Trophy for Best Defenseman: Rasmus Ristolainen
I’ve been one of his harshest critics since last year. I wasn’t a fan of the trade nor the extension that followed. I haven’t been a fan of his play. Like many Flyers fans, I thought he hasn’t been playing up to his potential and thought the writing on the wall for him was when he was publicly chewed out by Coach John Tortorella.
Fast forward three months. Out of the five defenders who have played 40+ games, only two have a +/- rating that isn’t negative. Nick Seeler has one that is a +5. Risto has a 0 rating; which when you consider where he started from, is pretty good. Only Cam York, who’s played in 24 games is better than Seeler and Risto with a +10.
For a guy who is supposed to be a offensive minded guy, his stats are kinda low. He didn’t start scoring until recently. What makes him the best defender is the overall play. Tony DeAngelo has put up the offensive stats, but has struggled defensively at times. Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim haven’t always been super consistent. Risto has grown a lot this year, especially after being called out by Torts.
If he can build on this, then everything that was traded to acquire him has been worth it. And he can be part of a great Flyers defensive core that includes Seeler, Provy, DeAngelo, Sanehim, and York. If they continue to gel and grow, they can be a formidable tandem. But his growth this year is what makes him the best defender on this team so far.
Runner Up: Tony DeAngelo
Bobby Clarke Trophy for Team MVP: Travis Konecny
Is there any doubt? Who else would it be this year? He’s tied his career high in goals (24) and has 49 points. This is also with him missing a few games in November.
More importantly, he is starting to take on the leadership role for the Flyers. He is taking this team on his shoulders and his back and all of his other body parts and leading the charge. He is usually the spark that starts this offense off. He is going to be “the guy” for the future of this team. And the best thing is, he is only 25 years old.
TK is to the Flyers what Bryce Harper, Jalen Hurts, and Joel Embiid are to the Phillies, Eagles, and Sixers. We are lucky to have him.
Runner Up: Carter Hart
Yanick Dupre Memorial for Class Guy: Scott Laughton
Laughton is the only guy on this team with a letter on. It’s just an “A” as the team is still captainless since trading Claude Giroux. But if any guy would be the captain on this team, it’s him; especially with Sean Couturier being out.
He is a quiet leader. He’s not the spark kind of guy (That’s what TK is for!). He’s the guy who steadies the team in the locker room and leads by example. He’s not the guy who’s gonna light up the scoreboard with awesome stats. But he is one goal away from tying his career high (29) and three points shy of his career high (32) in his 10th year in Philly.
Overall, what makes him a great Flyer is the fact that he is a great guy. He is active in the community and is a great member of the Flyers family. The things he does may not always show up on the stat sheet every night, but it doesn’t lessen his importance on this team. It’s a reason why he is one of the longest tenured players on this team.
Runner Up: Travis Konency
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial for Most Improved Award: Owen Tippett
When the Flyers acquired him last year, he was a player who showed some promise, but had yet to show it. He seemed to flourish with just 21 games in, scoring four goals. in comparison, he scored six goals in 48 games with Florida.
This year, Owen Tippett is taking full advantage of the opportunities given to him. He has been routinely playing on the top lines. As of right now, he has scored 14 goals and 14 assists. These are career highs for him and seem to be only the tip of what Tippett can offer this team.
He was a huge question mark at the beginning of the season and his efforts are paying off. He can be a bright spot on this team for years to come if he continues on this trajectory.
Runner Up: Rasmus Ristolainen
Gene Hart Award Work Ethic & Dedication: Noah Cates
Noah Cates is the epitome of what John Tortorella has wanted on the team. He is a hard worker who battles for the puck, goes into the corners, will do battle with other players, and brings it all to each game, and leaves it all on the ice every night.
Cates has probably been the biggest surprise on this team so far this year. His continued growth is amazing. He could project out to be a more physical version of Scott Laughton. Either way, his play has been incredible.
Cates, along with players like Tippett, Zach MacEwen, and Seeler have formed a young group of guys that play hard. They don’t give up and have helped to keep this team in a lot of games. That’s what Torts wants…a team that never, ever gives up.
Runner Up: Nick Seeler
Best Offseason Acquisition: Nicolas Deslauriers
In many ways this should be DeAngelo. He has brought an offensive mindedness to this team’s defense. He is very valuable to this team in many, many ways.
However, Nicolas Deslauriers has brought something else to this team. He’s not going to score. That’s not his job. His job is to protect and defend. And he does that with his fists.
Why is that important? This is a team of young players. They are going to get pushed around by a lot of physical guys in the toughest, most competitive division in all of hockey. These teams hate each other. Younger players, newer to the NHL, are going to be punished by many players on those teams.
In steps Deslauriers. He, along with MacEwen and Patrick Brown, have formed a very strong fourth line that will lay out other teams that think they can do the same to our guys. This gives the rookies and second-year players the confidence that: A:) My teammates have my back and B:) I can do my thing. That’s a big deal.
That’s not to take away from anything DeAngelo is doing. But Deslauriers is doing a lot to instill confidence in our younger players. You are seeing that growth a lot on the ice lately.
Runner Up: Tony DeAngelo
Best Performance by a Rookie: Samuel Ersson
There hasn’t been a lot to talk about here, to be honest with you. And in some cases, who is a rookie? A lot of these young guys have been called up and played, to some degree on and off the last few seasons. Is Cates a rookie? Is Egor Zamula?
Either way, Samuel Ersson has been a blessing. It’s a shame he’s back in AHL, but he needs to play every night. Sitting on the bench isn’t helping him. Likewise, the shutout he had against the Ducks shows what he can do. It helps when your team has a reliable backup. If something were to happen to Carter Hart, we’d know we are in good hands.
Runner Up: Cam York