When the Flyers head back to UBS Arena to take on the New York Islanders, they will be joined by Rasmus Ristolainen. Activated off LTIR, the defenseman will be making his season debut after an undisclosed injury has kept him out since training camp.
The Flyers have faired well, for the most part, in Ristolainen’s absence. Travis Sanheim has taken on the role of a top defenseman and is florishing. He is averaging the most minutes per game in his career (26:05) and is on pace to best his point total from last season. If he continues this play for the rest of the season, he could even break his previous career high of 35 points that he set back in the 2018-19 season. He has no points in this last three games, however. But he has certainly been a leader and taken a much needed step for the Flyers.
Another surprise this season has been the play of Sean Walker. Acquired from the Kings as a cap casualty, he has been playing bigger than that. Aside from Sanheim, he has been one of the Flyers’ most consistent blue liners. He is also on pace for a career season after around two years removed from a knee injury. He fell down the depth chart in LA but could be giving Philadelphia a lot to think about in terms of whether they should trade him or extend him.
Nick Seeler, who was rather steady for the Flyers this season, has formed a solid pairing with Walker. The two have been the best duo for Philadelphia in terms of driving play and creating chances. Seeler has chipped in five assists, three coming in his last five games. His time on ice is up over two minutes from a season ago so he’s being rewarded for what he gave the team last year.
Cam York make strides last season after a trip to Lehigh Valley to start the season. He hasn’t been as consistent this season, but he is averaging over 22 minutes per game, the most in his still young career. He has recently tied his career high in goals and does have three points in his last three games. For a defenseman known for his offense, seven points in 20 games isn’t going to cut it, however. Playing with Sanheim should help him find his way, though.
Egor Zamula, who has been in and out of the lineup, has struggled mightily this season. He is someone who thrives on using his size and being aggressive. He has even continued to add on muscle, something the team needed him to do. He is still showing inconsistencies and will once again be in the press box with Ristolainen’s return. Zamula is still young and only has 43 games under his belt. But it’s hard to see him in the lineup on a nightly basis right now.
Louie Belpedio was another surprise, but he has been out of the lineup since Marc Staal’s return. He was rewarded with 12 games, the most he has appeared in during his entire career. He even scored two goals and added in two assists as well. He wasn’t afraid to jump up in the play either. In limited minutes, Belpedio got the job done.
The Flyers defense will have yet another different look to it as Ristolainen is expected to play on the third pairing with Staal. With the latter having only played two games since a rib injury, expect the two to have limited minutes against the Islanders.