With the season halfway over, we are looking at the grades the Philadelphia Flyers have earned. We've already looked at the forwards of the team previously. Now, we are going to grade the blueliners and netminders. Both units were put to task last season. Have they improved at all, or might they have to take the class again?
Travis Sanheim: What a difference a year makes. Last season, he was paired up with Tony DeAngelo and/or Ivan Provorov. Both have been dispatched, and it seemed Sanheim could be next. He was next, and a trade to send him to St. Louis fell through. Thank God!
Sanheim has found himself again. He's been in the top five in points on this team pretty much all season. He's already surpassed his points total from the previous season, and he could set new career highs in his offensive categories. He also could set new career highs in defensive takeaways, as he is already at 20 on the season (his career high is 23). He looks comfortable as the top defender and is having a great season. His best is, hopefully, yet to come.
Sean Walker: He's been probably the biggest surprise of the season. He was a throwaway piece in the Provorov trade; a salary cap toss-in. He had been a decent player, but injuries have taken their toll on him and LA gave up on him. It was assumed he'd be, at best, a piece to trade away at the trade deadline.
You could argue that he's been the team's best defensive player. He's having a career year offensively and defensively. He is thriving under John Tortorella and with his Flyers teammates. It's put the Flyers in a bit of a conundrum. Do they sign the older veteran during the youth movement to an extension or trade him and potentially get a high draft pick for him? We'll see, but so far, he's been outstanding.
Nick Seeler: Pretty much everything you just read about Walker, you can apply to Seeler. He's playing more minutes after a surprise breakthrough season last year. He's becoming more physical with opposing players. While his offensive stats are down a bit, he's doing more of the gritty, dirty work you want a defensive player to do. He's matched up with almost every defender this season. He's solid and dependable. Again, he could be someone the team extends or trades away from a pretty penny. Either way, he's been a great addition to this team.
Rasmus Risotolainen: Much like Sanheim, he was maligned and castigated last year. However, Ristolainen began his turn around last year and was arguably the team's best defensive player. While he still has yet to be the offensive force he was promised to be, he has improved his defensive game tremendously. He's committed just two penalties all season. His defensive metrics have been solid. This also comes with him missing half of the season due to injuries. It's taking him some time to get his footing back, but he's been good.
Cam York: York is one of three defenders, with Seeler and Walker being the other two, that have played in every game. Offensively, he's been there and is having a career season (five goals and 10 assists). Defensively, he's improved from last year but still seems shaky at times. He's second on the team with just over 22 minutes of ice time. He's also just 23 and is learning. He is growing in confidence and is starting to become a dependable blueliner.
Egor Zamula: Zamula is one of the guys who gets rotated in and out, but he's been surprisingly steady. After having spot call ups over the last few years, he's been allowed to play. He's showing he deserves his role. He may be worth having around as part of this team's youth movement.
Marc Staal: Staal has only played in 17 games because of an injury that sidelined him after the season began. He's played well enough, but has been scratched often as well. His value is in how he is teaching the younger players. In that role, he has been invaluable. Staal has been a great teammate and a consummate veteran. Whether or not he is traded at the deadline is yet to be seen. As of now, he's doing what he can to guide this defensive corps forward.
Louis Belpedio: It was a great story there for a little bit. The 27-year-old career AHL journeyman scored his first two NHL goals this season after appearing in just four games since 2017-18. He played in 12 games for the Flyers while Staal and Ristolainen were hurt. Belpedio did well enough, but not well enough to earn a spot to stay here. Considering the Flyers' recent acquisition of Jamie Drysdale, and the young players the team has waiting in Allentown, such as Emil Andrae, Ronnie Attard, Helge Grans, and Adam Ginning, we've probably seen the last of him.
Jamie Drysdale: It's hard to judge him since he just arrived. However, he had an assist in his first two games in Philly. That's not bad. Tortorella seems to like his work ethic. The kid seems to have a nice future here. Let's see how he develops.
Emil Andrae: It's hard to judge him on just four games. It was clear that the kid wasn't ready for the big show yet. It's not that he played poorly. He just needed more seasoning. Perhaps we will see him return in another year or so.
Sam Ersson: He has three shutouts this season. Because he technically is a rookie, he has the most wins (11), lowest GAA (2.33), and second best save percentage (.910) of all rookie goaltenders. He could be a dark horse candidate to win the Calder Trophy; especially if Connor Bedard spends a lot of time recovering after being injured.
Ersson is also making a strong case for being the team's starting goaltender. At the very least, the team has two dependable guys in net that can share time; a 'la Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon on the '90s Detroit Red Wings.
Carter Hart: Hart is enjoying a nice bounce back year. He's also won 11 games, compared to 22 last season. He's performed well enough with a GAA of 2.70 and a save percentage of .911. You really can't complain much about his performance in the net.
His issue this season has been his health. He's been injured for part of the season. He also has been dealing with an undisclosed illness that has been bothering him for most of his career. Luckily, we have Ersson who can take the load off of Hart. Together, the two have been solid in the net.
He is a free agent at the end of the season. With several good prospects waiting in various levels of minor, junior, and foreign leagues, it is not clear where the team stands on Hart's future in Philadelphia. As for right now, he's the goalie and has been solid.
Cal Petersen: He's played in two games; winning one, and losing the other. In the game he lost, he was lit up for five goals. Like Walker, he was traded from an LA team that had given up on him. Unlike Walker, the change of scenery hasn't paid off. He's expensive ($5 million) and is struggling at the AHL level (3.20 GAA and .894 save percentage). Hopefully, the Flyers can figure out a way to jettison him after this season. It may not be fair to judge him after only two games, but the struggles he had in Los Angeles have followed him here.
Incomplete Grades: Victor Mete (1 game)
Overall Defender Score: B+
Overall Goaltender Score: A without Petersen included, B+ with Petersen