Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. What are these? These are players that have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams. Whether that’s as someone who finally finds their place in the NHL, or as someone who had previously been good but has struggled as of recently. Each day we will be looking at a different team! Today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Philadelphia Flyers key players.
Potential 2020-21 Philadelphia Flyers Candidates
Drafted 27th overall in 2017, Morgan Frost is the only breakout candidate on this list. Jumping from the OHL, where he put up spectacular numbers, Frost played most of the 2019-2020 shortened season with the Flyer’s AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 41 games, he put up 29 points which was good enough for second on the team in scoring. He was just one point behind Greg Carey. who played 16 more games than Frost. Frost established his spot as one of the Philadelphia Flyer’s top prospects.
Frost got his shot at the big leagues in November of 2019 after a fantastic showing in his first month with the Phantoms. Tallying two goals in his NHL debut, the 21-year-old centre put up seven points in the 20 games with the Flyers this past season. With the activation of Michael Raffl of injured reserve in late December, the Flyer’s front office decided to send Frost back down to the AHL. He spent the rest of the season gaining much-needed confidence back with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
There is no doubt that Morgan Frost will be a top-6 forward for the Flyers down the line. His speed, inherent skating ability, and playmaking skills make for a well-rounded centre that’s able to put the puck in the back of the net. While he still has some work to do, his selection as a “Black Ace” for the Flyers during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved his all-around talent hasn’t gone unnoticed by head coach Alain Vigneault and GM Chuck Fletcher. He is an excellent candidate for a breakout season, especially with the Flyer’s centre situation so up in the air.
Next up is left defenceman, Erik Gustafsson. Signed by the Flyers during free agency, Gustafsson is coming off of a pretty lousy and uncharacteristic season, points-wise. Tallying 26 points in 59 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and three points in seven games with the Calgary Flames, the 28-year-old had a pretty far fall from grace. During the 2018-19 season, Gustafsson put up 17 goals and 43 assists for the Blackhawks. Arguably, one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league and an offensive powerhouse, the Flyers are hoping they signed the Gustafsson of 2018.
In order to return to his former glory, Gustafsson will need to prove his worth on the power-play. As evidenced by their 2020 Stanley Cup run, the Flyers could use his help. Converting on only 7.7% of 52 power-play attempts, the Flyers clearly did not make it to the third round because of their special teams. If Gustafsson can come in and take point on the power play his value to the Flyers will shoot through the roof. Getting back to his offensive defencemen role will take work, especially on a team filled with them, but Gustafsson has the potential to bounce back this upcoming season.
Another defenceman that could bounce back this upcoming season for the 2020-21 Philadelphia Flyers is Shayne Gostisbehere. Or as he is more affectionately known to Flyer’s fans as “Ghost”. Drafted by the Flyers in 2012, Gostisbehere has spent most of the past five years holding down Philadelphia’s blue line. A stellar rookie season saw him nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy alongside Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin. Continuing to play at the highest level, Gostisbehere put up a career-high 65 point total during the 2017-18 season. The Flyers couldn’t have asked for a better, more consistent offensive defenceman. That is, until this past season.
Gostisbehere hit his sophomore slump a couple of years late, tallying just 12 points during the 2019-20 season. Known for flying through the neutral zone, beating the forecheck, and creating breakaway opportunities, “Ghost” was nowhere to be found this time last year. Gostisbehere has really struggled with his confidence this past year. He was benched by Vigneault and eventually relegated to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for conditioning. He did not play a single game for the Flyers during their 2020 Stanley Cup run.
Gostisbehere still has all the talent that got him nominated for the Calder, all the skill that allowed him to tally a 65 point season. Hopefully, he can find solid ground again in the 2020-21 season.
Officially, Nolan Patrick isn’t a part of this list. But, he deserves an honourable mention in case he does end up playing this season. Diagnosed with a migraine disorder a little over a year ago, the 21-year-old centre hasn’t played a game since. While reports of him skating surfaced before last season ended and rumours that he might be playing this upcoming season, no official information has been released on when he plans to return to the NHL.
If he is able to come, he is a great contender for a bounce-back season. Drafted 2nd overall in 2017, he put up 30 and 31 points in his first two years with the Flyers. On track for bigger and better things, his diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time, in terms of momentum. It might take a little while, but his return to the league means he can take one step closer to becoming the franchise player the Flyer’s drafted him to be.
Embed from Getty Images