2022 was a year to forget for the Flyers and their fans. They finished 29th in the league during the 2021-22 season and would move down to fifth overall after the New Jersey Devils, again, won a draft lottery and picked above the Flyers and nixed their chances at Shane Wright falling to them. The 2022 portion of the 2022-23 season has been pretty forgetful as well, but 2023 could be a good year for the Flyers.
Top Three Pick in the 2023 Draft
Twenty years ago, the Nashville Predators hosted the 2003 Draft which has become one of, if not, the best drafts of all time and it’s looking like the 2023 draft, in Nashville, could be just as special, or even better. The Flyers are in somewhat of a prime spot to make a big splash at the draft. The big fish in this year’s draft is phenom Connor Bedard. Bedard became the first and only player to be granted exceptional status to enter the WHL as a 15-year-old. In 105 WHL games for the Regina Pats, Bedard has 90 goals and 102 assists for 192 points. In the World Juniors, Bedard has had a historic run in his two World Junior tournaments. In the short-lived first attempt at the 2022 World Juniors, Bedard broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for most goals in one game by a 16-year-old with a four-goal game against Austria and became the youngest to ever do so. When the World Juniors restarted in the summer, Bedard would add four more goals and four assists for eight points in the seven games needed for Canada to win gold. In 2023, Connor Bedard has tied Jordan Eberle for most goals in a tournament with 14 goals, since they still counted his number from those two winter games. He currently has six goals and 8 assists for 14 points in three games in the 2023 tournament, which makes 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points in 12 games. Oh, and Bedard is still 17.
Another top prospect for the 2023 Draft is Adam Fantilli. Fantilli currently plays for Michigan in the NCAA. He has 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 16 games as a freshman. With Canada in the 2023 World Juniors, Fantilli has one goal and two assists for three points in three games and is certainly looking like a good consolation prize for missing out on Bedard.
The most likely player to round out the top three is Leo Carlsson. Carlsson is in his second SHL season and had three goals and six assists for nine points in 35 SHL games during his rookie season and improved during his second year. He currently has three goals and 11 assists for 14 points in 25 games for Örebro HK. In the 2023 World Juniors for Sweden, Carlsson has two assists in three games.
Matvei Michkov is another top-rated prospect in the 2023 Draft. Michkov is a Russian winger who is a goal-scoring machine and is projected to be like an Ovi Jr. but his draft capital has dropped due to multiple reasons. First, he’s Russian. This is a big problem with how GMs will view him, especially as a top pick. His military status, along with the war in Ukraine has set back his stock along with other Russian prospects, just look at the Ivan Fedotov situation and the Kirill Kaprizov saga. He is also signed with SKA St. Petersburg until the end of the 2025-26 season. If the Flyers can somehow get back into the first round with another pick, or pick up a high second-round pick and he’s still there, they should pick him.
Get Rid of One of Hayes or Couturier
Bedard, Fantilli, and Carlsson are all centers. Cutter Gauthier, the fifth pick in 2022, is transitioning quite well into a center as well. The Flyers won’t need all those centers. the better option might be to trade Sean Couturier. he is the better player, but he is getting paid more for a lot longer. If the Flyers somehow get one of the three mentioned before, it might be in the best interest of the Flyers to cut ties with Couturier, seeing as he’s coming off of not playing for over an entire calendar year and two major surgeries in that same time frame, along with a major surgery before then too. Hayes can serve as an anchor during the time it takes for Cutter and Bedard/Fantilli/Carlsson to get into their groove. One major development that would help a lot would also be Morgan Frost becoming an actual second-line center to help let Gauthier go back to the wing and bolster the wing.
Trade One of Sanheim or Provorov
Cam York has come onto the scene this season and is playing like one of, if not, the best blue-liner for the Flyers. One problem, Provorov and Sanheim are both above him on the left-side depth chart. York has been getting minutes on the right side, but his natural side is the left side. Take your pick for who to get rid of. Provorov and Sanheim both have flaws in their games. Provorov looked poised to be a stalwart for the Flyers, but these past two seasons have been underwhelming to put it lightly. Sanheim has improved his game from the shortened 2020-21 season offensively, but still has flaws in his defensive game. Provorov is a UFA after the 2024-25 season and has a cap hit of 6.75 mil. Sanheim signed a seven-year extension worth 6.25 mil that starts next season all the way to the 2030-31 season. Provorov is the easier player to trade due to his contract being up sooner.
Get a Young Right-Handed Defenseman
The Flyers have been looking for a stud to play on. the right side of the blue line, but they have been pretty shit out of luck. They traded for Ellis, but now he probably never will never play again. Ristolainen has not been the answer. Justin Braun deserves better and will probably retire as early as this offseason. Attard looks promising as a potential second-pair guy if all goes well, but the Flyers don’t have a top guy to lean on if Tony Deangelo doesn’t stay after the 2023-24 season.
Fedotov Gets to Ccome Over
I mentioned him earlier, and I’m sure most diehard Flyers fans know his story, but to put it simply, the Flyers signed their highly touted Russian goalie prospect, Ivan Fedotov, to a rookie contract this summer. But before Fedotov could come to North America, he was arrested by the Russian military, claiming that he was skipping his military service. He is now stationed in the Arctic Circle and it’s unknown when, or if, the young goaltender will come over. If Fedotov comes over and continues his strong play from his days in the KHL, he could be a great backup for Carter Hart, who is showing more and more of that elite potential we saw in him during his junior career.
A New GM and Owner and Management
It’s no secret that Flyers fans are done with Chuck Fletcher along with Dave Scott (Comcast in general) and the front office of Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren. I don’t know who to name as a replacement, but the most likely next GM is Danny Briere. Flahr probably leaves if Fletcher leaves and Briere seems to be the heir apparent. Will Briere do well at GM? Who knows, but Chuck Fletcher is gone.
JVR Leaves, and More Cap
DO NOT RE-SIGN JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK!!!!! I know you’re thinking about it but don’t. In addition to not re-signing JVR, or even better getting assets for him at the trade deadline, getting more cap space is an absolute must. Carter Hart is playing like a man who knows he will get paid in the summer of 2024. Cam York is coming off his ELC this summer. Travis Konecny, Wade Allison, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Owen Tippett, Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo, and possibly Cutter Gauthier, will need new contracts within the next three years as well. Oh and don’t forget Sanheim’s extension that starts next season.
By Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24)
Photo creds: NBCSports.com (Fedotov), NHL.com (Bedard), Philadelphia Inquirer (Fletcher)