This past Flyers season wasn’t good, but it was a remarkable improvement on the previous year. John Tortorella put his initial marks on the team and the Flyers are moving forward.
However, one of the parts of the team that was very much maligned, besides the lack of scoring from the offense, was the inconsistent play of the blueliners. The defense, at times, looked stellar and then would follow up the next game by coughing up lots of turnovers. It was hard to get a good read on the team. And with the relative youth of the back six, for the most part, it is hard to accurately judge how the team performed.
The team’s defense is also going to undergo a lot of transition this offseason. Justin Braun has hung up his skates and retired. Ryan Ellis will likely never play again and the Flyers are reportedly looking to trade his contract. Two veteran blueliners in the AHL, Louis Belpedio and Kevin Connauton may be re-signed for cheap, but will likely not see time in the NHL. It’s a good chance they won’t be around.
Because I don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know if someone will be traded or bought out. Likewise, we don’t know if the Flyers will add a free agent or trade to get some outside help. So for now, let’s just look at who the Flyers have on contract for next season on defense: DeAngelo, Sanheim, Provorov, Cam York, Nick Seeler, and Rasmus Ristolainen.
York should be a top line defender based on his play. Maybe he would best be paired up with Sanheim, but Seeler, a stable defender, might be better for him to maximize his offensive potential. As for the other four, you can kind of mix and match Sanheim, Provorov, Ristolainen, and DeAngelo. All of them think they can be strong on offense. Ristolainen has actually improved his defensive game quite a bit this year.
After these six, the Flyers have some in house options. Egor Zamula has just recently re-signed with Philly. When healthy, he’s shown he has some potential. His signing shows that the Flyers seem to be committed to giving him an opportunity to play at the NHL level some more. Other defensive prospects the Flyers have include: Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, and Linus Hogberg.
It’s probably safe to say that Zamula, Attard, Andrae, Ginning, and Hogberg will be in camp vying for a spot. Tortorella has shown that he will play anyone if they show effort over someone with a contract. That’s one of the reasons that Seeler got so much playing time this year while an expensive player like DeAngelo was benched.
One thing is for sure, look for this defense to get more experienced as the younger guys get their chances. And if they pan out the way that management hopes, this could be a good, tight unit for years to come.