Last Word on Hockey’s Puck Drop Previews are back for the 2023-24 season! As the regular season approaches, Last Word will preview each team’s current outlook and stories to watch for the upcoming year. We’ll also do our best to project how things will go for each team throughout the campaign. Today, we’re previewing the 2023-24 Philadelphia Flyers.
2023-24 Philadelphia Flyers
A very disappointing season for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022-23. They finished with a 31-38 record, which ultimately placed them eighth in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers now haven’t made the playoffs since the 2020 campaign. They have gone into full rebuild mode since, making trades and acquiring some young talent they hope pans out in the near future. With some key players’ futures in the question, the Flyers hope to surprise even themselves this year and turn their struggling franchise around.
The Flyers were plenty busy this offseason trying to reload. Their first move of the summer turned out to be their biggest. They traded away Ivan Provorov to Columbus in a three-team deal that landed Philly the 22nd overall pick in 2023, a pair of second-round picks, defence prospect Helge Grans as well as Calvin Petersen (Cal) and Sean Walker.
Kevin Hayes was also traded this offseason. Eventually, after all the rumors he was dealt to St. Louis for a sixth-round pick. The Flyers still have issues dealing with his contract, where they’ll still pay $3.6 million over the next three years due to Hayes.
The draft went pretty well for the Flyers. Key drafts include Matvei Michkov and Oliver Bonk. The problem with Michkov is they’ll have to wait three years to see if he’ll even come over to the States. But if he does, it was a huge pickup for the Flyers in the seventh overall pick. Bonk signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Flyers this August.
Another possible key pickup for the Flyers was Ryan Poehling in free agency. The expectations are necessarily high from him considering his lifetime numbers include 20 goals and 36 points in 138 career NHL games. But he brings a strong defensive center role to the team.
If the top six can stay healthy this season for the 2023-24 Flyers, they have a chance to compete in a lot of games. Joel Farabee was one of the guys who did stay healthy and had a good season. If Farabee can continue to progress, we will see him get more involved and his contributions will continue to grow. Noah Cates also stayed healthy, playing every game last season. He totaled 38 points, but still has a lot of room to grow. He is still a very young player and needs more experience which is what John Tortorella will want to give him. Especially if this season is a rebuilding year, expect Cates to see the ice a lot.
Travis Konecny is a player who missed some games last season. Due to an upper-body injury, he missed 16 straight games. Even with the extended absence he recorded 31 goals and 30 assists. If he can stay healthy for the entire year his numbers could peak off the charts. Sean Couturier is also a guy who has struggled immensely with injuries. Having multiple back surgeries, he hasn’t seen the ice since December of 2021. The question with Couturier is will he be the same player he originally was? We won’t know that until the season starts, but his experience matters and it can help grow the Flyers. Cam Atkinson is in the exact same scenario missing the entire last season due to neck/tricep surgery he underwent. Rounding up the top six Owen Tippett is a player who had a fairly decent 2022-23 campaign and is looking to grow on it. With more time on the ice, he’ll only get better, especially learning from the older players.
Depending on how the season goes for the 2023-24 Flyers, some of these players can move up in the ranks rather quickly. A player like Morgan Frost, who had 46 points in 81 games will be on Tortorella’s radar. Scott Laughton is another player who played well last season. He can certainly get in the mix, or at least he will have to prove himself in the time he gets to see the ice more.
Players like Ryan Poehling are trying to prove themselves to revive their careers. Then you have a player like Nicolas Deslauriers who can be a teacher to younger players and help them progress. Deslauriers is on his way out of the league, so him being in a position to help younger players can be a huge benefit to the Flyers. If Philly struggles early in the year, don’t be surprised if they start mixing up their top and bottom six.
These guys are going to carry the load for the 2023-24 Flyers. The top four play a major role this year for Philly. The Flyers allowed just over three goals a game last season, which put them 23rd in the league in goals allowed. This is a team sport, yes, but the defence is the last line. Travis Sanheim is a returner who will be a leader on the ice. He played in 81 games last season and showed Tortorella he is dependable. Rasmus Ristolainen also had a great year last season. These two will be the main defencemen that will make a huge difference on the ice.
The young Cameron York (Cam) will be leaned on more this season. He and the Experienced Marc Staal make an interesting grouping. One that can be easily relied on more than usual if Philly struggles on defence. These four defencemen are a strong staple on the roster, one that Tortorella will have to rely on to get the job done. The Flyers have to be strong on the blue line if they expect to win games this year.
The bottom pair for the 2023-24 Flyers could be on standby. If things don’t go smoothly they could see the ice more than expected. Nick Steeler had a great season last year. His odds of proving himself to be more than a guy at the bottom of the totem pole are growing. Sean Walker needs to show Tortorella he is a trusted defenceman and he can give valuable time on the ice. These two defencemen aren’t players who can easily be looked over. Expect them to compete to see the ice more.
Carter Hart is the guy in Philly – for now. Hart will be a RFA at the end of this season, meaning his future isn’t quite certain. Hart had a .907 save percentage in 2022-23, with a 2.94 GAA. He’s a sturdy player in the net for Philly and likely will be the main reason for a lot of wins and losses this season. He is an X-factor for the Flyers. Cal Pettersen is a reliable guy to have as backup. In his career, Peterson holds a .905 save percentage. That’s the kind of netkeeper you want to have on your depth chart. These two are vastly important to the Flyers this season and will be relied on heavily.
Players to Watch
Couturier is a guy to watch mostly because of all the adversity he has had. As mentioned earlier, he has had multiple back surgeries and hasn’t seen the ice since December of 2021. Couturier himself has wondered if it’s worth coming back to the ice, but he still thinks he has a lot to give. He’s a player who could have a breakout season. Finally healthy, his excitement to play the game is back. He could be a huge part of Philly’s success; be on the lookout for him this year.
The biggest player to watch for the 2023-24 Flyers is the goalie. Hart is extremely important, for obvious reasons – and not-so-obvious reasons. He’s a huge factor to whether the Flyers win games this season, sure, but his future is also unknown. This upcoming season will have a great impact on what happens with him in the offseason. If things go right, and he thinks Philly is his lifelong home, we could see a big deal being made to keep him with the Flyers. If things don’t go as he wants, the organization and Hart might want different things. Besides that, Hart is someone who can single-handedly help this franchise to a winning season if he has an excellent season. Watch out for him to have a stellar season in 2023-24.
Prediction for the 2023-24 Flyers
The 2023-24 Flyers will want redemption from their poor season a year ago. They will have more experience, and another year under Tortorella will certainly help. These factors help, but they won’t change the franchise in one short year. The Flyers will reflect their tough and gritty city. They will compete like it’s life or death every night on the ice. This being said, they likely won’t be in the race for a playoff spot. They may jump up in the standings and be more toward the middle of the Metropolitan Division instead of at the bottom of it, but that’s about it. I see them likely being around a .500 team, if not a bit worse, and being on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
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