The Flyers begin the 2018-19 season on Thursday in Las Vegas, facing off against the Western Conference champion Golden Knights.
Here are Sam Carchidi and Sam Donnellon's predictions for the 2018-19 NHL season:
Sam Carchidi’s Flyers predictions
Record: 46-25-11,103 points. When they signed James van Riemsdyk, they went all in. They have a dynamic attack, and a great blend of youth and veterans. If the young defensemen keep progressing and Brian Elliott returns to form, the Flyers should take another step forward.
Where they'll finish in the East: Fifth. They had 98 points and were a surprising sixth last season.
Where they'll finish in the Metropolitan Division: Second, behind their hated cross-state rivals, the Penguins.
Playoffs: They win their first playoff series since 2012 before being knocked out in the second round. Baby steps.
Points for Claude Giroux: 85. Expect a slight drop off from a player who had 102 points and should have been the league's MVP last season.
Goals for van Riemsdyk: 28. It'll take him a while to match the long-time chemistry he had with his Toronto linemates and he won't match the 36 goals he had last season, but he WILL still be very productive, strengthening the lines and the power play.
When will Carter Hart play his first game with the Flyers?
I was going to say late December – before Cal Pickard was plucked off the waiver wire. Now I think Hart will spend the entire season with the Phantoms and won't be the Flyers' starter until the first game of 2019-20. Sorry, folks.
Goals for Wayne Simmonds: 27. If his one and only preseason game was any indication – he scored a goal while leaping over a defender before he collected a rebound – Simmonds is again healthy and will be back to being his old relentless self.
Stats for Elliott: 2.64 GAA, .909 save percentage. If Elliott's health becomes an issue, Pickard is a suitable backup.
>> READ MORE: Team-by-team NHL season preview, Vegas odds
Carchidi’s NHL predictions
Turnaround team: Beware of the Blues. St. Louis greatly improved its offense by adding Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Patrick Maroon. The Blues will be back in the playoffs and are an interesting Western Conference darkhorse.
Calder (rookie of year): Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo. I hate going with a "chalk" pick, but the 18-year-old defenseman looked like the real deal in preseason. Another one to keep an eye on: third-line Lightning center Anthony Cirelli.
Norris (top defenseman): Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay. He could become the first repeat winner since Nicklas Lidstrom won three in a row from 2005-06 to 2007-08. Look for the Flyers' Ivan Provorov to get some votes.
>> READ MORE: Ivan Provorov is creating 'his own mold' in NHL
Hart (MVP): Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay. Now in his sixth season, the 25-year-old winger has gotten better each year. He had 100 points last season.
Vezina (top goalie): Pekka Rinne, Nashville. It's hard to believe he wasn't drafted until the eighth round (258th overall) in 2004.
Jack Adams (coach of year): Mike Yeo, St. Louis. A rebound season for the Blues – who had the NHL's best record last Dec. 11 but couldn't overcome Jaden Schwartz's broken ankle and missed the playoffs – would put Yeo in the spotlight.
Carchidi’s division and Stanley Cup predictions
Metropolitan: Pittsburgh. The Penguins are loaded up the middle (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Derick Brassard) but need a bounce-back season from goalie Matt Murray.
Atlantic: Tampa Bay. The Lightning check all the boxes – offense, defense, goaltending – but will have to huff and puff to outlast John Tavares and Toronto.
Central: Winnipeg. The Jets have lots of offense, and goalie Connor Hellebuyck is the real deal.
Pacific: Vegas. Adding Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty to a 109-point team means it will be another magical season in Sin City.
Eastern Conference final: Tampa Bay over Washington. Yep. Repeating is hard to do, even for the Great Eight.
Western Conference final: Nashville over Vegas. Two of the NHL's best cities will be on display. Can Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury continue to get better with age? Doubtful.
Stanley Cup Finals: Tampa Bay over Nashville. It will be the Lightning's attack – Tampa led the league by averaging 3.54 goals a game last season – vs. the Predators' oh-so-dominating defense.
Sam Donnellon’s Flyers predictions
Record: 48-27-7, 103 points. The addition of JVR, the surprise of third-line center Mikhail Vorobyev, and maybe a little luck finally with a young goaltenders rids them of some ties and shootout losses.
Where they'll finish in the East: Sixth. For every team ahead of them that might slip, there appears to be an equal and opposite improved team. Toronto, New Jersey and, lest we forget, the Florida Panthers, who might have been the hottest team in the East when the season ended.
Where they'll finish in the Metropolitan Division: Second place.
Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals. Carter Hart becomes a second-half storyline but wears out after two stellar playoff rounds.
Points for Claude Giroux: 93. Sean Couturier's knee problems taper his captain's productivity.
Goals for James van Riemsdyk: 30. He won't match last year's total, simply because the Flyers won't score as many goals as Toronto did a year ago (277).
When will Carter Hart play his first game with the Flyers? Dec.14. He won't become a permanent fixture at that point (that comes in late January, early February), but with five road games over eight days starting in Buffalo and ending in Vancouver, this seems like a great spot to get his feet wet.
Goals for Wayne Simmonds: 30. Despite what it looked like at times, Simmonds put up numbers last year that were only slightly below his previous season and the one before that. He's 30, but incredibly fit. And he's in a contract season.
Goals and points for Nolan Patrick: 22-55. This is probably a modest proposal. If he's as ready to bust out as I think he is.
Stats for Brian Elliott: 2.94 GAA, .901 save percentage. Coming off two surgeries, Elliott gives them all he has for awhile. But he's 33, and banking him redoing his iron man act of a year ago seems foolish.
>> READ MORE: Dave Hakstol, unmasked
Donnellon’s NHL predictions
Turnaround team: Edmonton. They fell from a 103-point team to a 78-point team. They are young and talented.
Calder (rookie of year): Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay. Still rookie eligible, Cirelli had 11 points in 18 regular season games for the Lightning last year and added three points in the playoffs in limited action. Tampa Bay should score a ton of goals again.
Norris (top defenseman): Viktor Hedman, Tampa Bay. Might be the easiest award to repeat.
Hart (MVP): Connor McDavid, Edmonton. Young, talented and ticked off about last year.
Vezina (top goalie): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay. He will have the lead a lot.
Jack Adams (coach of year): Todd McLellan. Oilers added three new coaches including a penalty-killing whiz to assist him. He's either going to win this award or be fired.
Donnellon’s division and Stanley Cup predictions
Eastern Conference final: Tampa Bay over Philadelphia. With Hart doing his best Hextall, the Flyers take that next step, winning not one but two rounds before running out of gas.
Western Conference final: Colorado over Edmonton. Two young surprising teams go a full seven in a series all about the future.
Stanley Cup Finals: Tampa Bay over Colorado. Experience. Goaltending. Defense. Avs run out of gas.
>> Flyers position previews: Left wing now a strength • Competitive group of centers • If Wayne Simmonds is right, so is that side of the ice • Power play looks improved, but penalty kill has questions • Defense has strength and experience, but is it enough? • Goalie injuries wreak havoc on depth chart