The Philadelphia Flyers were one of the most irrelevant teams in the league last season. That’s not to say they were a complete bottom feeder, they certainly weren’t, but they were never truly in the playoff hunt either. The majority of their top players had down seasons leaving them with the third most points of any non-playoff team 7 points out. Luckily for them, the lottery gods were on their side as they hit a 7.3% chance of moving into the top three in the lottery, and more importantly, a 4.6% chance of moving into the top two. In comes Nolan Patrick to give them an elite young talent to add to their developing young core. Can their core members who are currently in their prime bounce back? Can their blue line be even average? What will they get in net? As Reid and I talked about in our Metro Division preview podcast, they are on the biggest wild cards in the league. Let’s take a look at what the Flyers are working with to see if we have any answers for fantasy this coming season:
Elite Talent – 30 goals, 100+ PIM, elite PPG and STP, above average shots. This is Wayne Simmonds year in and year out. I think we have a couple more years of Simmonds in his prime so take advantage of it while you can. I have him 37th overall in my Top 50 and would consider taking him higher if you end up with one of the players who pile up assists in the early round. Say you opened up with Seguin and Karlsson, I would consider Simmonds in the third round at that point. He’s a fit for any team towards the end of the third round, definitely in the fourth, due to being a stud in multiple categories.
Jakub Voracek bounced back from a disastrous 2015-16 but not all the way to 2014-15 levels. Voracek put up a solid 20 goals and 41 assists but more importantly, he was over three shots per game with above average PIM and PPP. The problem is that he was -24 last season. I don’t expect him or the rest of the top forwards on the Flyers to be that horrible in plus-minus again but it is somewhat of a concern. If I thought he would be a plus player, he’d crack my top 50, but since I expect them to be slightly minus, Jake ends up just outside my top 50.
Must Draft – It feels weird to not call Claude Giroux an elite fantasy talent but here we are. Giroux has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now since being a point per game player and last season was a disaster. Giroux had 14 goals and 44 assists playing every game with under 2.5 shots per game. He also was a -15 because he had a whopping 31 points on the power play. Sure, that’s amazing in one category, but it’s downgraded because of how poor he was at even strength. At this point, Giroux is a two category stud (assists and STP) with the possibility of being neutral in the other categories. I can’t see him topping 20 goals unless that shot rate drastically bounces back. He’ll still be in my top 100 because the upside is still there, he’s still 29, but don’t reach for him.
I don’t love Patrick for this year but I still think he’s worth taking the gamble on. I’ll focus on him in the prospects section but assuming he makes the roster, then he should be drafted in redrafts towards the middle to end of drafts. Since Patrick is a very well-rounded player for his age, my guess is that he sticks but time will tell.
Streamers With Upside – It sounds crazy because I like their forward depth but there aren’t many Flyers who are must draft. I was tempted to put Travis Konecny into the must-draft group and maybe I should. With Brayden Schenn shipped to St. Louis for draft picks, Konecny should move onto the top line with Giroux and Voracek. As a rookie, Konecny scored 11 goals and 17 assists in 70 games with 49 PIM and just under 2 shots per game. The important question is who will take Schenn’s spot on the first power play unit? If it’s Konecny, I want him as a late round pick in every league. If it looks like it will be someone else, then he’s an elite streamer for this year.
I was impressed with Jordan Weal when he received the chance to play important minutes last season. Weal scored 8 goals and added 4 assists in 23 games with 10 PIM and over 2 SOG. Again, it all depends who he’s playing with. If he’s getting time on the second line and second PP unit, there could be something here this season. Otherwise, he’ll be waiver wire fodder for one more year.
Safe Streamers – Sean Couturier is much better in real life than in fantasy. For our purposes, Couturier is a solid streamer. Lock him in for around 45 points and decent contributions outside of PPP. Couts had only 2 power play points last season so if he gets the opportunity, perhaps he can push towards elite streamer status or a bottom end hold. My guess is that he doesn’t receive the opportunity because the Flyers have a bunch of power play options.
If he gets the right role, Valtteri Filppula could be a decent streamer for assists. That’s about it. Everything else is meh at best (the shot rate is atrocious) so he’s solely a guy who if he plays on Sunday and you’re down in assists, you can use.
Must Draft – To say the Ghost Bear struggled at the start of last season is an understatement. He finished with an okay line but nowhere near what people were hoping for off his second place finish for the Calder Trophy. Shayne Gostisbehere posted a 7+32 line with elite shots for a defenseman and great power play points. Like a lot of his teammates, the problem was the plus-minus: -21. I do think he can bounce back and get into the low 50’s in points, mostly because his shooting percentage went from 11.2 to 3.5. Take Gostisbehere as a bottom end #2 on the hope that he gets back to #1 status.
Ivan Provorov is a pure upside play but a gamble worth taking as your last defenseman. The 20 year old was solid as a rookie posting 30 points (6+24) with decent PIM and shots. The Flyers blueline is so bad that I expect his minutes to push into the mid 20’s giving him some additional upside. My guess is that he gets around 40 points and doesn’t hurt you in any category making Provorov a must-own in 12’ers.
Do You Need PIM Only? – If the answer to that question is yes, you can take Radko Gudas as your last defenseman. That’s all I have to say on him.
After 5 years in St. Louis, Brian Elliott was traded to Calgary. He was the reason the Flames started so poorly; Elliott was a complete dumpster fire. The poor people who drafted him (thankfully not me!) probably dropped him before his hot run at the end of the year but even with that heater, Elliott finished with a 2.55/.910. Now he moves to Philly where goalies have all gone to die. I simply don’t trust him, in part because he’s behind a terrible defensive core but in part because his success came in an incredibly defensive system. I’d be happy if he’s my #3 and extremely worried if he’s my #2.
Michal Neuvirth was outstanding in 2015-16 and was one of the worst goalies in the entire NHL last season. In 28 games, Neuvirth had a .891 save percentage. That is simply awful; it’s shocking that his overall record was 11-11-1. Anyways, he was good to great the previous three seasons so I’m expecting a bounce back. At the beginning of the season, I would stream him only in good matchups, but I could see that changing as the season progresses.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
Gudas becomes an absolute monster; he had an incredible 280 hits and 124 blocked shots in 67 games last year. Going from crushing one category to three is kind of a big deal. Simmonds also moves into the second round with elite hits and great blocks for a forward. Provorov blocked 166 shots last season and was solid in hits making him a big sleeper in these formats and a clear pick.
The two defensemen both get big boosts with Ghost being 24 and Provorov 20. Konecny becomes a very high upside play for the long term. I’m not extremely bullish on Patrick and I’d have to think long and hard about where he would rank if you were drafting a dynasty tomorrow. Somewhere just outside the top 50 maybe? If I owned Simmonds, I would be looking to either sell high right now or after this coming season. He probably has a couple good years left but like many players that fit his prototype, they fall off very quickly.
Blue Chip – While I don’t think Nolan Patrick has massive long term upside in terms of fantasy hockey, I have little doubt that he’s going to be a top six center for more than a decade. Patrick simply does everything well which is highlighted by his excellent hockey sense. He knows how to change speeds when necessary, when to make the right pass and when to take it himself. If I was in a rookie draft, Patrick would be in consideration for #2 on my board. Casey Mittlestadt, Cale Makar and Owen Tippett probably have more fantasy upside but there’s virtually no chance of Patrick failing at the next level. He has a super high floor and still has a relatively high ceiling.
Ready To Make The Jump – I’m putting Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindbolm here because both have a good chance of cracking the opening night roster. At this point, I’d be shocked if Sanheim starts in the AHL. The former first round pick has a long way to go offensively to becomes fantasy relevant. That said, the upside was there as he right around a point per game in his last seasons for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL. In Lehigh Valley last season, Sanheim had 10+27 in 76 games. While I think he’s very safe in real life, in fantasy he is super low floor with a fairly high ceiling.
Lindbolm comes over from the Swedish League where he did very well for himself. 22 goals and 25 assists in 52 games is terrific for a player his age and that’s why I expect him to skip the AHL entirely. The former fifth round pick has seen his stock drastically rise since being picked and that’s where the difficulty in projecting him is. How much more can he progress? How much does he even have to progress to make an NHL impact? I assume he’s a player that’s a bit off the radar for non-Flyer fans but Lindbolm could be a nice gamble to take late in prospect drafts.
High Upside – Philippe Myers towers on the blue line and simply needs to fill out. The 6’5 defenseman was just over a point per game in the QMJHL last year although his season was limited to 34 regular season games and 13 playoff games due to injury. He’ll start this year in Lehigh Valley and while he’s a couple years away, Myers could turn into a viable fantasy option.
German Rubtsov is going to be a strong possession player in the league as a defensive specialist. The question is how much offense is he going to bring. Is he going to be another Couturier or can he go to another level? I think there’s some upside here but it’s also fairly unlikely he doesn’t reach that level. Still, he’s worth considering as a lottery ticket.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Monday with my preview of the Carolina Hurricanes. Spoiler, I think they could take a big jump this year. My current goal is to have my top 100 out on Tuesday so hopefully I can put that together for everyone. As always, please leave any questions or comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!