Philadelphia Flyers Year End Reviews: Defense

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

For the first three-quarters of the year, the Flyers' defensive corps was probably its greatest strength. Which to be honest with you, seemed to be somewhat surprising. A year after losing Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo, and Justin Braun, the unit came on strong, especially on the penalty kill. Let's see how well this group did this year.

Travis Sanheim

Last year, Sanheim was almost ran out of town. He was sluggish and lethargic. He didn't play to the best of his abilities. He was benched and nearly traded away. The former first-rounder looked as if his time in Philly was over.

Last offseason, he rededicated himself to improving and shook off last season's rust. Statistically, he put up career highs in goals (10), assists (34), and points (44), all while averaging just under 24 minutes a game. The Flyers may have finally found their number-one defender.

Final Grade: A-

Nick Seeler

Seeler continues to surprise everyone. Nobody could have imagined that they would've become one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL when he was paired up with Sean Walker. For a guy who almost quit hockey, he's found himself.

More importantly, the Flyers found a dependable defensive player they can count on amidst their youth movement. He was signed to a four-year extension at the trade deadline while other teams were asking about his availability. It'll be nice to see him around here for a while longer.

Final Grade: A-

Cam York

Cam York is the one guy this team is counting on to be stellar. The highly touted prospect came out with a bang last year, then cooled off. He had some learning curves to deal with. Averaging over 22 minutes a game, York scored 10 goals with 20 assists, six of which came on the power play.

Defensively, he also improved his game. York was second on the team to Seeler with 174 blocked shots (Seeler had 205). He has room to grow, but he is just 23. His future looks bright. We may have a star in the making.

Final Grade: B+

Egor Zamula

Zamula was one of those "bubble guys" that you didn't know if he would make the team during training camp. With an injury to Rasmus Ristolainen to start the season, he was given a chance to prove himself. He played 66 games after appearing in just 26 over the last three seasons.

Zamula has room to grow. However, he scored five goals with 16 assists. Defensively, he has improved, placing sixth on the team with 79 blocked shots. He is one of the bright spots of this team and it will be interesting to see how far he can improve his game.

Final Grade: B

Marc Staal

Much like the aforementioned Braun, Staal was here to be the veteran guy who could help John Tortorella with the blueliners. He's a 37-year-old veteran of 17 years. He played in 35 games this year. He averaged less than 14 minutes of ice time, a career-low by about three minutes.

For what he did, his value came off the ice. You could see that his influences came during practice as the young players listened to someone who had played on teams that had made deep playoff runs. That's where his impact lies. How did he help Zamula, York, and others? Most likely he's retiring, but we knew that when he was signed. Hopefully, his impact will continue. After all, you don't last 17 years in the NHL if you aren't good.

Final Grade: C

Jamie Drysdale

Drysdale came over in the Cutter Gauthier trade. The jury on this trade is still out. It could end up being a boom or a bust. The problem with Drysdale is he has an injury history that followed him from Anaheim. Two days into his Flyers' career, he got sick and missed some time. A few weeks later, he got injured.

All in all, he played 29 games. He scored two goals, including one on the power play. That power-play goal is the key to his future as he is envisioned as a power-play quarterback type of player. It's too early to tell how good he will be. He has shown some promise, but his defensive game needs some help. We also need to remember, he is still just 21 years old. Let's get him healthy first.

Final Grade: C-

Erik Johnson

The Flyers traded a fourth-round pick to acquire the veteran, Stanley Cup-winning defender. It was hoped that the free-agent-to-be would provide a veteran boost down the stretch, especially after the Walker trade, as the team tried to make a playoff run. The idea behind it makes sense. Sadly, it didn't happen according to plan.

While he did score a goal during his 17-game tenure, his play was fairly forgettable. He won't be back. You almost wonder if it would've been better to try a younger player in that role instead.

Final Grade: D+

Rasmus Ristolainen

Last year, you could argue that Ristolainen was the Flyers' best defensive player. The team had high hopes for him this year. Then he got hurt in training camp. He didn't hit the ice until late November. He hadn't played since early February after another injury. When he did play, he was not effective.

He might be someone the Flyers part ways this offseason. Defenders are always in demand. However, what price will a team pay for a blueliner with an inconsistent history after an injury-filled season? And especially one that is high-priced. If he does return, there is a high chance he could be moved at next year's deadline.

Final Grade: D+

Ronnie Attard

Attard played in 12 games this year. He recorded two assists. Out of the young crop of blueliners waiting their turn in the AHL, he seems to either have the most confidence in team management or they are checking him out to see if he is worth hanging onto. We'll see soon enough. He seems to be doing better in his skills, but his game still needs some work.

Final Grade: INC