An early look at the Flyers' projected lineup
After trading Brayden Schenn and drafting Nolan Patrick, the Flyers will have a different look in 2017-18.
With the draft completed, a major trade in the books, and the Flyers not expected to be big players in the free-agent market, the team's 2017-18 roster is coming into focus.
General manager Ron Hextall will search for a goalie in free agency, which starts Saturday. Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliott, and Keith Kinkaid (another Union College guy) are among the goaltenders expected to hit the market. Hextall also said, unconvincingly, that Steve Mason is still an option.
Last week Hextall said he envisions a platoon in the nets, and Mason is on record as saying that kind of system doesn't work, so it would be surprising if he returned.
Aside from the goalie situation, the rest of the team isn't a big mystery. Oh, there will be spirited battles in training camp and there may be a few surprises. But barring injuries, the lineup could look something like this:
TOP LINE: Claude Giroux centering Travis Konecny and Jake Voracek.
Giroux (14 goals) needs a bounce-back campaign to help make up for the 25 goals that Brayden Schenn scored last season. Konecny, an 11-goal scorer as a rookie, is also expected to blossom.
SECOND LINE: Nolan Patrick centering Oskar Lindblom and Wayne Simmonds.
Patrick, who will turn 19 before the season, is going to be the Flyers' top center in a few years, so why not accelerate the process by putting him in the No. 2 spot as a rookie? Scouts say he is going to be a star, and physically, he is ready for the NHL. The hardworking Simmonds would be the perfect player to help nurture the growth of the two rookies on this line.
THIRD LINE: Sean Couturier centering Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula.
Couturier, who will be starting his seventh NHL season, has shown he is better-suited to be a third-line center than a second-liner. Weal and Filppula had very good chemistry together late last season. The Flyers are still trying to re-sign Weal, a prospective unrestricted free agent who has a dozen teams showing interest, including Vancouver, his home city. If Weal heads elsewhere, his spot could be filled by Michael Raffl or Matt Read — or perhaps someone on the fourth line (Dale Weise?) can advance.
FOURTH LINE: Mike Vecchione or Scott Laughton centering Jori Lehtera and Weise.
Laughton, who made major strides after being demoted to the AHL's Phantoms last season, and Vecchione figure to battle for the fourth-line center spot in training camp. Lehtera, acquired along with two No. 1 draft picks in the deal that sent Schenn to St. Louis, is trying to rebound from a miserable season (seven goals, 22 points ). Weise managed just eight goals and 15 points last season, but he played well late in the year.
Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald: They will be back as the No. 1 pairing, and, with a pro season under his belt, look for Provorov's offensive numbers (six goals last season) to climb.
Radko Gudas and Robert Hagg: Hagg is ready for The Show after paying his dues in the AHL.
Shayne Gostisbehere and Sam Morin: The perfect pairing — a puck-mover (Gostisbehere) and a stay-at-home defender (Morin) who will allow his partner to take more chances up ice.
Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim will also contend for a defensive spot, but Sanheim probably needs a little more AHL seasoning, and Manning is a good bet to be the seventh defenseman.
GOALIES: Right now, it's Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz, but look for Hextall to add a goalie in free agency. Because Neuvirth is injury-prone, Hextall doesn't seem comfortable with him and Stolarz as the duo.
Among the potential free agents: Bernier, Elliott, Mason, Kinkaid, Princeton alum Mike Condon, and past-his-prime Ryan Miller.