Those who follow the Flyers have known for quite some time that Ron Hextall’s tendencies as a GM are to be conservative. After all, it was only after last week that it became apparent Hextall thinks the Flyers can be competitive, evidenced by the signing of James Van Riemsdyk (29). Ideally, the Flyers needed four main things this offseason:
- a goal scoring winger
- a good second-pair defenseman
- a 3rd line center
- possibly a decent goalie until Carter Hart is ready
The first of these needs was clearly addressed by the Van Riemsdyk signing. It can be argued that signing Christian Folin addresses the lack of depth on defence, either through playing Folin or having him act as a 7th man to sit in the press box while the spot is given to a younger player. As most of the big name free agents are now off the board, it is looking like Hextall has withdrawn his line from the free agency lake, which means that either the Flyers will promote from within, or that there will be *gasp* trades! Knowing Hextall however, I would lean toward the former being more likely than the latter, so I will be going off of this assumption for the following.
Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
This line is a no brainer. I figure most Flyers writers will have this combination penned in as the top line, considering their production last season. Dave Hakstol moving around this combination at the end of the season had me worried that the Flyers would keep Michael Raffl on the top line, but I don’t see that sticking, regardless of how mind boggling Hakstol’s choices can seem at times.
Van Riemsdyk – Patrick – Voracek
Another no-brainer, and so far, my projections are in line with what the folks at Broad Street Hockey have projected. You can read that article here.
Lindblom – Frost – Simmonds
Now here is where I differ from most projections. I legitimately think that Morgan Frost can make the team this year. Most writers are slotting in Mikhail Vorobyev into the 3C spot, as he played in the AHL last year, and is considered to be more adjusted. However, Frost has significantly increased his muscle mass and weight, and coupled with his outstanding season in Juniors last year, could very well steal that spot. I think he has a real shot if he performs well at camp.
Laughton – Lehtera – Weal
Personally, I have no faith that Hakstol will keep Lehtera out of the line-up. He was used on the POWERPLAY last year, even after he was clearly shown to be one of the worst forwards in hockey. Hakstol has shown that he has some players that will just simply make the roster regardless of their actual skill or value. Lehtera is one of them. Still though, he will most likely only play on the 4th line, so it is a minimal complaint considering the improvement at the top 9.
Provorov – Gostisbehere
I don’t think Hakstol will change this pairing. They are unbelievable together.
Sanheim – MacDonald
Yes, Andrew MacDonald will stay in the line-up, that is all but certain. Fortunately, or rather hopefully, Travis Sanheim will be too. This pairing worked surprisingly well when it was played last season, and hopefully it can continue to work well.
Hagg – Gudas
This pair was an absolute mess, but the Flyers do not have many other options at the position that isn’t Christian Folin, who can jump in to a 3rd pair role when needed. I would pencil Morin in here, but Morin’s ACL tear calls his whole season into question. However…
Wildcard: Philippe Myers in for Radko Gudas
Now this one is truly a long shot, but after the playoff series Gudas had, I can see the Flyers not trusting him. Hakstol clearly adores Robert Hagg, but has shown no such preference for Gudas. Myers won’t be called up to play as the 7th defenceman, but perhaps he could have a bigger role to play.
The Flyers are most definitely going to ice a better roster than they would have last season. Across their top 6, the Flyers have very solid top end talent. Where I have the most doubt is in their defence and goaltending. Assuming the pairing of Elliot and Neuvirth are back, will they provide somewhat adequate goaltending? Will Hagg-Gudas continue to be a miserable combination? These are questions we will have to wait to find an answer to, and only the start of NHL hockey will provide said answer.