End to End: Will Prospective Youth Movement Result in More Scoring Depth? - NBC 10 Philadelphia

End to End: Will Prospective Youth Movement Result in More Scoring Depth?



    End to End: Will Prospective Youth Movement Result in More Scoring Depth?
    End to End: Will prospective youth movement result in more scoring depth?

    Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

    Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall, and Greg Paone.

    The topic: Will prospective youth movement result in more scoring depth?​

    One of the main criticisms of coach Dave Hakstol has been his lineup decisions. Specifically dressing Chris VandeVelde 97.6 percent of the Flyers' games the last two seasons.

    Yes, we're talking about the third and fourth lines today. I touched on this when we evaluated Hakstol's second season as the Flyers' head coach. I don't think Hakstol dressed the best possible lineup on a nightly basis last season. But that should change.

    With the prospective youth movement in 2017-18, the Flyers will have more young blood and skill in training camp competing for roster spots and playing time. We already expected two more defensemen injected into the mix and winger Oskar Lindblom.

    Let's add the No. 2 pick too. I think either Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick will be given a fair shake to make the team during camp. If either one makes it, it's more arduous for Hakstol.

    I'm not saying it's a bad thing, though. This is good. It means Hakstol has more skill to choose from. It also fuels competition in training camp. All good things.

    We have a general idea of seven forwards who will be in the lineup on opening night. That leaves five spots virtually up for grabs and one or two extra forward openings too. Adding the No. 2 pick into the fold gives the Flyers 10 forwards competing for those six/seven spots. If we factor in the expansion draft, that number could decrease to nine players.

    On Saturday, we discussed what landing the No. 2 pick meant for Mike Vecchione (see story). I'm not sure he'll crack the lineup, especially if Hischier/Patrick make the team. Jordan Weal and Michael Raffl - assuming Vegas stays away from him - should be in on a nightly basis.

    And we can probably pencil Pierre-Edouard Bellemare into the lineup too. Should he be an every night fixture of the Flyers' lineup is a debate for another day. But the Flyers love him and we shouldn't expect Hakstol to bench him. The rest of the spots are wild cards.

    Does Scott Laughton show enough to grab a bottom-six role in training camp? I'd prefer him on the fourth line than Bellemare. He's still very much in the mix here.

    Dale Weise came on at the end of 2016-17 and showed chemistry with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. He's likely to be in the lineup, but I wouldn't say it's a definite.

    Then there are Nick Cousins, Matt Read and Vecchione. What we know is the Flyers' forward depth looks a lot stronger going into the summer than it did this season. With that, scoring should be sprinkled throughout the lineup. Something that wasn't the case this season.

    Competition will ultimately decide who will be here and who will not. But here is my way-too-early prediction for the Flyers' 2017-18 opening night forward lineup:

    Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

    Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds

    Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Brayden Schenn

    Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Nico Hischier/Nolan Patrick-Michael Raffl

    Extra forwards: Dale Weise, Mike Vecchione

    On paper, you would think so, but we won't know until we see how fast the youth develops. If anything, though, it will create excitement as we see more of the future in front of us.

    At his end-of-the season press conference, general manager Ron Hextall was pretty adamant about it being time for the kids, so I expect to see some youth infused into the group of forwards.

    Similar to Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny last training camp, I think Patrick or Hischier will force Hextall's hand by showing they're ready to contribute at the NHL level. Hextall also sounded optimistic about Lindblom competing for a roster spot. However, it would not surprise me to see the Swede get some work at Lehigh Valley first.

    Although not a fan favorite, Read is valued by the Flyers for his work ethic and professionalism. I don't think he'll see a ton of the ice in 2017-18 (his final year under contract), but the Flyers will want him around to be an influence on the younger players and a reliable veteran backup.

    It will be interesting to see what the organization's plans are for Raffl. I could see him being dangled on the trade market and exposed/possibly selected in the expansion draft.

    Also, Hakstol really liked Couturier's line at the end of the season and, less than an hour after the finale, even foresaw them together at the start of 2017-18.

    So, with all that said, here's my early look for next season:

    Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

    Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds

    Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Brayden Schenn

    Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Nico Hischier/Nolan Patrick-Mike Vecchione

    Extra forwards: Michael Raffl, Matt Read

    Is it too early to talk about the Flyers' line combinations for next season? Of course, it is. We haven't even hit the expansion draft, the entry draft, free agency or the summer trade market yet. Heck, we're still in the conference final round of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    But as far as the Flyers are concerned, depth is an issue to look at now considering the dearth of secondary scoring last season that was magnified with Claude Giroux's struggles. The "Big 4" of Wayne Simmonds, Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Giroux accounted for 90 goals last season. The rest of the team accounted for just 122. So, Simmonds, Schenn, Voracek and Giroux accounted for 42.5 percent of the Flyers' goals last season.

    So, yes, depth is certainly worth looking at right now. 

    And now the question is: who will fill out the lineup behind the "Big 4?"

    To me, that answer points in the direction of youth, for a couple reasons. First, the Flyers are still hamstrung by their cap issues, so the odds of a free-agent splash are slim and they likely won't be able to make a big trade unless a team is willing to take some salary back. Second, the organization's youth has another year of seasoning under its belt and the timing could be right for a few of those players to join the big club.

    And we do know the Flyers are going to lose a player or two to Vegas in the expansion draft.

    If I had to guess here on May 21 what the Flyers' line combos will look like come October, here's what I would guess (I'd like to stress that these are bound to be totally wrong):

    Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

    Brayden Schenn-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds

    Jordan Weal-Nico Hischier/Nolan Patrick-Valtteri Filppula

    Oskar Lindblom-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Dale Weise

    Extra forwards: Mike Vecchione, Matt Read