While the Philadelphia Flyers may struggle, the players have a great deal to play for. There will be new faces looking to grab a roster spot, and old faces trying to secure larger roles on the team. In each case there is plenty to look forward to, and even more to predict.
Cam York does not break 40 points PARLAY: Outscored by Sabres’ Owen Power
Cam York will be given every opportunity to secure the most ice time and fill the stat sheet. The question is, can he? Last season, York was sheltered; he started a hair over 52 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, second to only Tony DeAngelo amongst Flyers defensemen. With less offensive talent around him I expect York to struggle, and 40 points would be a stretch for him. By contrast, his Michigan teammate Owen Power – who is on the ascent – will surpass the 40 point total and start to cement his place as top-pair player in the NHL.
Wade Allison plays in at least 50 games with the Flyers
Wade Allison is playing for his NHL career. I think he now understands that. I expect the oft-injured forward will give maximum effort to stay in the lineup. This is by no means a lock, but I expect Allison will have a “playoff” mentality where he may be more willing to battle through injuries. While it is never wise to anticipate good health when the Flyers’ training staff is involved, Allison has much to play for, and he knows it. This season, Allison bucks the trend and will suit up for over 50 games.
Noah Cates scores over 20 goals
Noah Cates averaged just over 17 minutes of ice time last season playing every in game. The rookie picked up 13 goals for the Flyers even earned some votes for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward. This season look for Cates’ offense to take a step forward. Cates is extremely strong on his skates, meaning he is hard for defenders to move or push around. This ability makes him a force along the boards, and it will serve him well this season in and around the goalmouth. Look for Cates to start fast, even grabbing some power play minutes, and rack up at least 20 goals when the season is over.
Owen Tippett scores under 27 goals for the Flyers
Last season Owen Tippett was locked in, exceeding almost all of the media’s expectations. He built a connection with center Morgan Frost, playing a plurality of their minutes together. Frost will return next season, which is good news for the both of them. After Frost, Tippett was paired most with Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk – neither of whom are back with the club. Tippett struggled in Florida when he was shuffled between lines or out of the lineup entirely. There will be a lot of moving pieces and tinkering this season, which will undermine the comfort and consistency Tippett enjoyed last season.
The shifting landscape will prevent Tippett from gaining traction at times and result in lower goal totals. Look for the forward to play well and continue his growth, even if only scoring in the 22 to 25-goal range. Tippett’s lower scoring number says more about the state of the team than Tippett.
Rasmus Ristolainen takes a step back
It is hard to get anyone to say a nice word about Rasmus Ristolainen already, especially people who look at the advanced metrics. It will be harder after this season. Ristolainen will be 29 years old in October. By necessity, brought on by a thin roster, Rasmus will have his second tour as a top-pair defender. In the seasons where Ristolainen averaged over 24 minutes of nightly ice time, he recorded -25, -9, -21 and – 41 plus-minus scores. Yikes.
Ristolainen will again be playing massive minutes, but only because the Flyers have no better alternative. Even with more ice time, do not expect a leap offensively, but rather to see the big defender exposed on a nightly basis. Sadly, I don’t believe this season will make Ristolainen more appreciated in the Flyers fan community. Without upstream cover from Ivan Provorov, Ristolainen’s gaudy -4 plus-minus from 2022-23 will be remembered as the good old days. Look for Ristolainen to increase his TOI and to be in the neighborhood of -25 while also failing to exceed 30 points. What little support Ristolainen has in left the fanbase will evaporate by season’s end.
Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson combine for under 35 goals for the Flyers
This was unpleasant to write, and probably even less enjoyable to read, but I am throwing two of the best Flyers in recent years under the bus. Both Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson have not played competitive hockey since the 2021-22 season, and there is no guarantee that either of these players will be healthy enough to see extended playing time this season. Their health is just the beginning of daunting questions. If they are healthy, what kind of hockey are they capable of playing? If they are able to play, where do they fit in the line up? Do they fit in with a rebuild? How can they not be part of the rebuild with their contracts? A lot of things need to go right for Couturier and Atkinson to regain their form, and their collective recent histories have been the polar opposite.
Either of these players, in their primes, were capable of scoring 30 goals in a season individually, but as diminished players,15 each seems like a stretch. Both Couturier and Atkinson are easy to root for, and have been heart-and-soul players for this team, but there are significant headwinds each player will face. With a diminished team offense, and a year of rust and shaky health, they will not combine to tally 35 goals.
Morgan Frost leads the Flyers in points
Look for the recently signed Frost to be the focal point on the powerplay, especially now since the Flyers divested DeAngelo and Provorov, and the rest of the blueline is in a state of upheaval. Also expect Frost to be surrounded by the team’s best scorers during 5v5 play and potentially regularly double-shifted if the team needs offense. Frost took great strides last season and will look to improve upon last year’s career year, as he will command much of the team’s power play time as one of their primary offensive spark plugs.
Four or more rookies play at least 40 NHL games for the Flyers
With a thin roster, it is expected that this will be a test year for the Flyers. It should be a time where lowered expectation will allow the Flyers to take stock. This will afford several prospects a chance to stay with the big club. Zamula, Tanner Laczynski, and Tyson Foerster all seem to be good bets to make the lineup. Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, and Helge Grans have a chance to win a spot on the blueline. Bobby Brink and Elliot Desnoyers could try to grab a spot at forward, if not right out of camp, as fill-ins for injured players.
The youth movement will be in full swing this season and the Flyers must evaluate their prospect pool. This is at odds with Tortorella’s desire to win every night, and will stretch his patience at times, but if he wants to ‘teach his guys to play the right way’ he will have ample opportunity to do so. I like Tortorella, but this year, more than ever, he needs his walk to match his talk and develop the young players.
PARLAY: Yegor Zamula plays at least 60 NHL games
Yegor Zamula has been teasing the Flyers for years with his size and mobility. For the last two seasons there were glimpses that he could be a solid NHL contributor. But, for whatever reason, he has failed to stick. Look for the tall defender to avoid injury and Tortorella’s dog house. This will be the year where the big defensemen will solidify his spot on the NHL roster with his play.