The Flyers’ forward group, for better or worse, is returning relatively in-tact from this past season, with the lone exception being Jake Voracek. There’s a good mix of veteran talent and young players looking to make their marks on the team, which should make for a good, competitive environment. But the current lineup doesn’t come without question marks. There is a lot of hoping players will bounce back from down years or that the vets can produce at a high level for one more season.
Captain Claude returns for his 14th NHL season and will turn 34 in January. He has been a bit of an ageless wonder to this point of his career, but has shown signs of faltering over the last few years. But to give credit to G, even an off day for him is still better than most. Points wise, he will always seem to hover at at least the 20-goal, 50-point mark. He was on pace for closer to 70 points over the last two covid-effected seasons. It’s only a matter of time before his ice time starts taking a dip, especially at 5-on-5, but as long as he is still seeing top powerplay time, his final results should be normal.
Prediction- 21 goals, 64 points
James van Riemsdyk
Even though JVR is a streaky scorer, he still somehow manages to rack up the points every year. Even though he technically hasn’t sniffed 20 goals over the last two seasons, pro-rating the pandemic years would put him around the 25-goal, 60-point mark. Depending on how the lineups shake out and whether or not Giroux will be on the wing or at center, He could very well lock down the second line left wing spot, lining up with Kevin Hayes. His bread and butter will still come on the powerplay, a role that he could see less of if Wade Allison makes some noise during his rookie season, but until that happens, expect a normal, infuriatingly streaky season from JVR.
Prediction- 23 goals, 51 points
Over the last season or two, Couturier may have passed Claude Giroux for the most important forward on the team, and those expectations will linger for at least another year. Couturier, who has a contract extension on the horizon, will need to ball out once again if he wants top dollar when he sits down for contract negotiations next summer. He had 18 goals and 41 points in 45 games during the 2021 season, and that includes battling a rib injury that kept him sidelined during the early part of the season. He may not be the biggest offensive dynamo on the team, but given he’s relied upon heavily in every situation, the points should continue to roll in for Couturier.
Prediction- 27 goals, 73 points
All eyes will be on Kevin Hayes during the 2021-22 season after he’s displayed two very different sides to his game during his first two seasons in Philly. In 2019-20 he was a borderline elite penalty killer who was well on his way to scoring 30 goals before the coronavirus pandemic hit. He returned in 2020-21 but looked like a shell of his former self, often skating aimlessly when just the season before he always had a target. He later admitted to playing injured and underwent core muscle surgery during the offseason to repair the issue. It’s not an easy procedure to come back from. To pile on to that, his 2019-20 season was a personal best from Hayes, which means his likelihood of replicating that season is slim. He’s typically good for 15-20 goals and 45 points, so assuming he’s good to go from the surgery, expect him to take a big role, be better than last season, but maybe not the force he was in 2019.
Prediction- 16 goals, 41 points
For the first time in his 10-year career, Cam Atkinson will put on a different sweater other than the Blue Jackets’. His arrival in Philly sparks a new interest in the lineups. Due to the lack of diversity in terms of style from the Flyers’ forward group, Atkinson could slot in anywhere from the first to third line. The most intriguing thing Atkinson will bring to the lineup is his shorthanded magic. The Flyers have needed a facelift to their penalty kill for years and this could be the move that gets the ship back on track. This is a guy with 35 and 41 goal seasons under his belt, so the potential to produce big on offense is there, it will just depend on how he gets deployed.
Prediction- 26 goals, 53 points
Allison was one of the lone bright spots during the dying days of the 2021 season and will undoubtedly make the roster out of camp. The energy and life he brought to the team was unmatched and something the Flyers haven’t seen in quite some time, but will that liveliness stick around over a full 82-game campaign? He posted four goals and seven points in 14 games, which boils down to half-a-point per game. It would be an impressive pace to keep for the rookie forward and equates close to a 20-goal, 40-point point pace. Allison was glued to Farabee during his short stint with the Flyers, which boosted his value, and if he rides shotgun with him again next season, there’s no reason to think Allison will struggle much during the 2021-22 campaign.
Prediction- 14 goals, 30 points
Speaking of Farabee, he had himself a bit of a breakout season during 2021. He finished the year with 20 goals, the only Flyer to hit that mark, and 38 points in 55 games, easily topping his eight-goal, 21-point campaign from his rookie season. Now that the bar is raised for the 21-year-old and he’ll have his first opportunity to play a full 82-game season, it seems like the ceiling for Farabee could be pretty high. If he continues to grow as a player, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could hit the 30-goal plateau. He’s been more of a goalscorer than a playmaker so far in his career, but he will probably easily hit the 20-assist mark during a full campaign if not higher.
Prediction- 30 goals, 55 points
Lindblom made his triumphant return to the NHL lineup during the 2021 season after battling and beating cancer during the 2019-20 outing. He set a rather high bar for himself during the games he did play in 2019 by scoring 11 goals and 18 points in 30 games, easily on pace to decimate his previous career highs in both categories. When he returned to the NHL, he posted eight goals and 14 points in 50 games. Both he and head coach Alain Vigneault admitted his was slowly worked back into the lineup and given rest as he re-acclimated to the NHL game. If he is back, or close to, full strength during the 2021-22 season, he should at least get back into the teens in goals, though that potential he flashed for a minute as a goalscorer may not have been accurate, but rather simply catching lightning in a bottle during a hit stretch of games. He’s still the perfect middle six winger who is solid defensively, can produce offensively when give the chance, and has a very high hockey IQ.
Prediction- 14 goals, 31 points
Travis Konecny enters the 2021-22 season with a massive chip on his shoulder. After posting a career year in 2019-20 before the pandemic cut it short, he was invisible during the 2020 playoffs and wasn’t able to shake those struggles during the 2021 regular season. Konency seems to be a player whose play goes with the ebbs and flows of the team around him. When things are overall good, he seems to play much better than when the team in on the downswing. Considering the Flyers focused on fixing the moral on the team during the offseason, it is possible somebody like Konecny, who seems to thrive in a good environment, will re-find his form from 2019-20. It’s just a safe bet Konecny will finish with either 11 or 24 goals, It’s the only two options he’s finished with during his first five NHL seasons.
Prediction- 24 goals, 48 points
Laughton comes back to the Flyers for his fifth full NHL season, and eighth overall, with a shiny new five-year contract in tow. He’s a bit of an interesting figure when it comes to his role in the lineup. He falls in the same boat as Travis Konecny where his play dipped during the 2020 playoffs and never really got back on track during the 2021 regular season. The thing with Laughton is he really doesn’t have a defined role in the lineup. He mainly finds himself as either the third line left winger or center, but has seen time on the second line and fourth line over the last year as well. When he sneaks up into the middle six, he’s expected to produce some level of offense, even though he’s never been a big scorer, highlighted last season when he went on a 20-game pointless drought concurrent with a whopping 25-game goalless drought. His career high is 13 goals and 32 points over a full 82-game campaign, he finished with 9 goals and 20 points last season in 53 games. He will need to find a way to re-elevate his two-way game and continue to produce at a 30-point clip as well. Due to the uncertainties as to how the lineup shakes out, it’s hard to predict where Laughton will start the season, but expect it to be somewhere in the bottom six.
Predictions- 10 goals, 26 points
Laczynski’s first crack at NHL ice was cut short by a hip injury that required surgery. He didn’t see too much ice time when he was healthy, only suiting up for about 50 minutes of total TOI in five games. Though he was playing well for the Phantoms before his call up and registered six goals and 10 points in 14 games. Until he carves out a full-time roster spot, he could be bounced around as the 12th or 13th forward with Nate Thompson, or may start the season in Lehigh to get some rehab time under his belt. Either way, expect a quiet start to the season for Laczynski.
Prediction- 2 goals, 8 points
Through his first two professional seasons, Aube-Kubel has displayed two very different sides of himself. His rookie campaign he was almost the perfect bottom-six winger, a speedy, physical, hard working guy who had a hell of a shot on him, but last year he was a careless, penalty-taking, non-factor that was beyond irritating to watch every night. He’s back for the final year of his contract and it’s time for Aube-Kubel to pick a path. The Flyers are top heavy on the right side and it’s not impossible to believe Aube-Kubel could be the odd man out if his hijinks from last season continue. Though if he reverts back to his rookie form, he could be the Flyers’ secret weapon on the fourth line. Time will tell what player Aube-Kubel chooses to be, but his NHL career could depend on the style of hockey he plays this season.
Prediction: 2 goals, 10 points
He’s baaaaack. Nate Thomspon, who was a trade deadline acquisition in 2020 re-signs with the Flyers after a fairly impressive season in Winnipeg. Due to the uncertainty of the bottom six and who makes the opening night roster, it is possible Thompson finds himself on the fourth line out of the gate. While I’m sure that will fill certain fans with rage, he was actually a perfectly fine fourth liner with the Jets, and provided Alain Vigneault doesn’t get trigger happy and increase his role, he should be able to carry some modicum of success to the Flyers’ fourth line too. Though more than likely Thompson will form a platoon with guys like Tanner Laczynski and Aube-Kubel for ice time based on the matchup that evening.
Prediction- 1 goal, 7 points
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: apnews.com