The Philadelphia Flyers made a big push in the second half of the season to secure a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals smacked them around early in the series going up 3-0 before Philly put up a valiant effort, ultimately succumbing in Game 6. Their roster is fairly thin in terms of fantasy assets but those assets are almost all on the elite side of the spectrum. Let’s take a look at what the Flyers are working with.
Steve Mason has settled into the #1 goalie role in Philly. Although he’s not used as a workhorse, Mason had his third straight quality season in a row for Philly posting a .918 sv%. He only had 23 wins in 53 starts and a 2.51 goals against average is below average. The other concern is that the Flyers have an elite backup, one that I was calling to get more playing time next season. Mason could end up being a #2 for fantasy but I think the Flyers goaltending situation is one where you want to take both goalies.
After a couple years in Buffalo where people didn’t realize how well he was playing because the team sucked, Michal Neuvirth signed with the Flyers and was outstanding last season. In 32 games played (29 starts), Neuvirth had a 2.27 GAA and a .927 sv%. In the playoffs, the Flyers turned to Neuvirth after game 3 and he stood on his head allowing 2 goals total in 3 games saving 103 of 105 shots. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Neuvirth ends up being on the good side of a platoon in Philly. In deep leagues, he’s one of my favorite goalie picks when most of the starters are off the board. Again, in standard leagues, if I ended up drafting a Flyers goalie I’d look to pair them together.
There’s no other place to start than with Shayne Gostisbehere. The kid took the league by storm once he was called up scoring 17 goals and added 29 assists in 64 games, including a whopping 22 power play points. The shots were a positive and the penalty minutes only a slight negative. What can we expect from Ghost this season? More of the same, really. The Flyers top power play unit is always terrific and Gostisbehere will surely be quarterbacking it. While he did slow down a bit in his last 20 games, that can be attributed to going through the NHL grind for the first time. The important thing is that his minutes started to rise despite the slump because of how dependent the Flyers are on him. He’ll surely be getting more time on ice than the 20 he averaged per game last season. He’ll be outside of my top 10 defensemen but won’t be too far behind. By next season, Ghost could crack the top 10.
Until last season, Mark Streit was the only Flyers defensemen you could count on. Now, I’m not sure we can even count on Streit. His injury opened up the door for Gostisbehere to be called up and his numbers fell off a cliff when he returned. Streit finished with only 23 points in 62 games after putting up 52 and 44 points the previous two seasons. His shots are below average, the penalty minutes fell off and his role on the first power play is gone outside of a Ghost injury. He’s undraftable in 12’ers now and should only go in 16 man leagues or deeper.
People might know the name Michael Del Zotto from his time with the Rangers but we don’t draft guys on name value. After a solid first year in Philly where he totaled 32 points in 64 games, his role completely changed last season. Del Zotto had 13 points in 52 games and simply can’t be counted on anymore.
Radko Gudas is a suspension waiting to happen at all times; there’s nobody scummier in the NHL than him. However, in some fantasy leagues, he can be extremely value. Gudas had 116 PIM last season and took almost 2 shots per game. Add in a whopping 304 hits and 157 blocked shots and you have a monster in leagues that include those two categories. In shallower head to head leagues, I could see streaming Gudas at the end of the week if you need penalty minutes. In deeper leagues that include hits and blocked shots, sad to say that I want him on my team in the later rounds.
The wild card of this group is the 7th overall pick from last year’s draft, Ivan Provorov. Provorov is an great offensive defenseman and should slide onto the second power play unit. Unlike most Russians, Provorov came over early to play junior hockey in Canada so he doesn’t need a transition period to get used to the smaller ice. In dynasties, he’s one of my favorite defensemen going forward. I can’t see him getting enough opportunity this season in redrafts barring an injury to Gostisbehere.
It sounds crazy to suggest that Claude Giroux isn’t the best fantasy player on the Flyers but I’m going to make that argument. I’m all aboard the Wayne Simmonds bandwagon, especially if you play in a rotisserie league. Simmonds has been a model of consistency in the goal scoring department since arriving in Philly. Prorating the lockout shortened season over 82 games, Simmonds has scored at least 27 goals in his 5 seasons in Philly, including a career best 32 last season. The shots reached an all-time high at almost 3 per game, he had over 20 PPP for the third straight season and his penalty minutes are through the roof with a career high 147 last season. His shooting percentage was right in line with career norms showing no indications of a fluke. Simmonds finally was bumped onto the first line and he took the league by storm once it happened. He’s in the middle of his prime and since he is elite in at least half of the categories, the player raters always love him. Simmonds will be in my top 30 overall.
Giroux will be in my top 30 as well just a spot or two behind Simmonds. He had his worst season offensively in years but only marginally, scoring 22 goals and 45 assists in 78 games. The shots remained elite at over 3 a game, he had an outrageous 29 STP (amazingly his lowest total in 3 years) and the penalty minutes were a career high at 53. He’s an excellent combination of assists and shots to take in the 3rd round of a redraft.
Brayden Schenn should be the third member of the first line. Much like Simmonds, Schenn broke out in a big way once he moved up to the first line, scoring a career high 26 goals and 33 assists. The penalty minutes and shots are both at an acceptable rate and like the rest of their top guys, he’s elite on the power play. At 24 years old, a repeat of last season or a slight uptick could certainly be in the cards. He’s a nice target in the middle rounds; Schenn will probably be in my top 150 but not the top 100.
A prime bounceback candidate for this year is Jakub Voracek. Voracek struggled mightily to start last season scoring his first goal in his 17th game and not scoring his second until game 31. He ended up finishing the season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games after an 81 point season in 2014-15. Here’s the good news: Voracek was extremely unlucky last season. He actually took more shots than the previous year, right at 3 per game, but only shot 5.2%, far below his norm. Voracek also ended up with only one power play goal which seems impossible. He had 8 or 11 goals on the power play in each of the three previous seasons so expect a bounceback there. He’s off the first line now but Voracek will still be on the point of the first power play unit and that gives him more shot opportunity on the second line. He should end up with a stat line very similar to Giroux’s, probably with 5 less goals and slightly worse shots. I will have him in my top 50 again despite last season.
Sean Couturier is known for his defensive prowess but he took a best step forward offensively last season. While his 39 points are right in line with the previous two seasons, Couts did it in only 63 games. That’s a 51 point pace. Playing with Voracek should continue his progression and while he won’t get on the first power play unit, he should be on the second. It’s bottom end but he’s worthy of a pick in the last couple rounds in RCL’s. If he somehow goes undrafted, he’s an elite stream.
At this point, I’ve given up on Michael Raffl ever being a hold in 12’ers. The days of him playing on the first line with Giroux and Voracek are over and while he should still be with Voracek and Couturier this year, we haven’t seen enough to think that improvement is on the horizon. The shot rate took a big step back last season and he probably won’t get power play time. I could see him becoming a streamer in the right matchups but nothing more.
If injuries were to happen to the top 6, Nick Cousins and Dale Weise would be the replacements. We know what Weise is at this point and it’s simply not good enough. Cousins has shown some flashes so he’s a name to keep on the radar, especially in deeper leagues. The shot rate will need to take a massive step forward though if he’s going to be relevant.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Ivan Provorov
2) Travis Konecny
3) Samuel Morin
4) German Rubtsov
5) Travis Sanheim
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the New York Islanders. I’ve also been working on my top 50 overall and I plan to release that Monday so be ready for that! Draft time is almost here. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Take care!