By the end of this weekend, the Flyers will have hit the quarter mark of the season. The season has been a roller coaster, especially with a new coach and the infusion of a few new players. How has each player done so far this season? This week, we hand out first-quarter report cards for overall play of each player at every position.
Carter Hart- C-
The C- is rather generous considering the struggles that Hart has had early on. Hart has been a bit better as of late, but overall, his numbers have been abysmal. He currently has an .887 save percentage at even strength and a horrendous .762 short-handed. He has continued to show an ability to make big saves at key points in games. The season is early, and Hart is young, so fans need not worry. However, for the Flyers to stay in bubble playoff contention, Hart needs to be more consistent in his overall play.
Brian Elliott- B-
Elliott had low-to-no expectations coming into the season. Signed to a one-year contract, Elliott was expected to play 25-30 games in a backup role. So far, he has come as advertised. His numbers are surpassing Hart so far, and at times, he has usurped him for the starting role. He is a strong veteran presence for Hart and has helped stabilize the position somewhat so far this season.
Ivan Provorov- B+
Provorov has returned to form and then some so far this season. He is still clocking over 20 minutes a night and has 11 points so far this season. His underlying numbers are excellent, and he is excelling in all situations. He is leading the way on the back-end and showing why many believe he could be a franchise defender with continued progression.
Phil Myers- B-
It feels weird giving Myers the second-highest grade amongst defenders, but he has been a nice contributor offensively since his call-up with 4 points in 7 games. He is surprisingly not being sheltered either at 5-on-5. His possession numbers aren’t great, but that will likely come as he adjusts to the NHL game.
Matt Niskanen- C+
I, for one, was concerned about the Niskanen acquisition this past offseason. While I am not eating my words yet, Niskanen has been a pretty steady overall presence this season. He plays over 20 minutes a night and has a respectable 8 points this season. He does have negative possession metrics, showing that he may still be a player on the decline. For now, Niskanen has been okay overall, though unspectacular for a player making north of $5 million annually.
Shane Gostisbehere- C+
Gostisbehere has been thrown under the bus by many in the Flyers media and fan base so far this season. His C+ grade might seem a bit of a surprise here, but while his offense has suffered, his underlying numbers have not. Ghost has positive underlying possession metrics. He also has an extremely low shooting percentage, the lowest of his career. If he raises this to his career average as the season progresses, he will have a pretty normal season by his standards. Ghost is playing the lowest number of minutes so far in his NHL career, something to keep an eye on.
Travis Sanheim- C-
Sanheim was a player that was expected to take another positive step forward in his development, but instead, this season has been a bit of a bummer so far. Sanheim is playing more minutes than ever before but has had terrible possession numbers. He has also just looked off defensively and has struggled offensively and in transition. Even with the high minute totals, he is playing more sheltered minutes, starting more shifts in the offensive zone than defensively. With the high competition for minutes on the Flyers back-end, Sanheim may see a minute drop in quarter two unless he can turn his game around.
Justin Braun- D+
Unlike Niskanen, Braun’s decline is evident this season. The Flyers hoped that he could be a solid, steady defensive presence this season, and he hasn’t. Braun has had a negative on-ice impact for most of the season. He has struggled with giveaways in his own zone, even though his minutes are mostly sheltered as well. At $3.8 million this season, the Braun gamble looks like a poor one so far.
Robert Hagg- D-
We all knew Hagg was a third-pairing defender at best. However, he has played himself even out of that with his abysmal play. Hagg is more of a defensive-defenseman throw-back type, but that is about all he has shown. His foot-speed is in an issue, and he has lost the trust of Alain Vigneault. He is currently the Flyers’ 7th defender and could find himself on the waiver wire if his play doesn’t improve soon.
Travis Konecny- A+
It’s amazing what increased ice time will do. Konecny has had a two-minute increase this season compared to his career average, and he has become an offensive revelation. He is arguably the Flyers’ MVP so far this season. Konecny has always had excellent possession metrics and underlying numbers, and now his actual production is keeping pace. With 8 goals and 19 points, Konecny is on pace for 40 goals and over 80 points. Even though it is early in the season, it is highly likely Konecny can continue this pace and lead the Flyers in all offensive categories.
Oskar Lindblom- A
Lindblom has always shown flashes of offensive ability, but he was never given much in the way of opportunity. Under Vigneault, Lindblom has been put in some prime opportunities, and it is showing offensively. Lindblom is tied for the team lead with 8 goals, and so far he is outproducing most Flyers forwards. He is looking like a solid top-six forward, and while he is unlikely to score the 40 goals he is on pace for, 25 is not unquestioned given his underlying numbers and increased opportunities.
Sean Couturier- A-
Same old, same old. Couturier is the model of consistency, and he is once again the driving force behind any success the Flyers have had. He has incredible possession numbers, even though he plays some of the toughest minutes on the Flyers roster. He is a monster at even strength and has put up his normal point total. If not for Konecny’s amazing start, Couturier would be a likely MVP candidate.
Jakub Voracek- B
Similar to Ghostisbehere, Voracek has been a source of criticism from the Flyers’ fan base and media. However, he has had a pretty normal start to the season. He is on pace for his career average in points and has been contributing to possession in the positive. He could be more consistent from game to game, but he is likely to end up with around 60-65 points and be a positive overall contributor.
Joel Farabee- B
Farabee began the year in the minors, but after a great start, he was called up. Farabee has scored 2 goals in 12 games, both at even strength. He consistency shows off his skill set that made him a high first-round pick, and he has not looked out of place as a 19-year-old. His possession metrics are pretty bad, especially at five-on-five, but some of that is likely caused by getting used to the NHL game. Overall, Farabee’s youthful exuberance and energy have helped the Flyers.
Michael Raffl- B-
Raffl has been asked to do everything this season. And by everything, I mean everything. He has played center and both wing positions. At times, he has been asked to stabilize a terrible Flyers’ fourth line, and at others, to contribute in a top-six role. While his possession numbers have struggled, likely due to the inconsistency of playing with different line-mates, he has still put up decent numbers with 8 points so far this season.
James Van Riemsdyk- B-
J.V.R. was signed to score goals. That has been a problem this season, as he currently only has four. However, J.V.R. only has a 7% shooting percentage, 5% lower than his career average. His underlying numbers are basically the same. Look for him to have an increase in scoring in the next quarter.
Carson Twarnyski- B-
Currently playing in the AHL, Twarnyski was the surprise of training camp. He didn’t look of place on the Flyers fourth line and is likely to get a call-up at some point. He is a high energy player with low offensive upside, but he was beloved for his overall play from fans early on. Twarnyzki has jumped quite a few prospects so far this season with his play.
Claude Giroux- C+
Giroux has been inconsistent so far this year. His shot metrics have been all over the place, and he has even disappeared at times. If not for Couturier, Giroux would likely be having a worse season offensively than he is. The Flyers need him to get rolling, and consistently so. Here’s hoping for a better second quarter.
Kevin Hayes- D+
Hayes was signed to a massive contract to be a second-line center. So far, he has been anything but that. With only 7 points so far this season, he is on pace for a career-low of around 30. He has been bad in the face-off circle and has struggled in all zones. Hayes needs to have a massive turn around in the second quarter to give the Flyers any sort of value this season.
Tyler Pitlick- D+
Pitlick’s MO coming into the season was fourth line, consistent performer when healthy. He has been neither healthy nor consistent. At this point, he looks very replaceable, and the Flyers may do well to use a younger player in his position.
Chris Stewart- D+
Stewart was a great story in camp. After a few years out of the NHL, he had a great camp, and the Flyers gave him a contract. While his effort is great, he is very clearly not an NHL player. He has some of the worst underlying numbers of any player in the NHL. Stewart has been a scratch here and there, and that trend will likely continue. He is hurting the Flyers more than helping when he is on the ice, and really the Flyers should be using a player like Twarnyski to replace him.
Overall, the team is about where I thought they would: a bubble team in the wild card hunt. For them to stay there, they will need massive increases in point production and possession from players like Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux. They will also need average goaltending from Hart and Elliott. Flyers fans should remain hopeful but realistic as we head into the second quarter of the season.