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MELTZER'S MIDSEASON FLYERS AWARDS

Flyers contributor gives his take on the annual end of season awards

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer

With 50 games played to date, the Flyers are somewhat past the statistical midpoint of the 2019-20 regular season but the NHL All-Star break and team bye week is more officially recognized line of demarcation of the campaign. Keeping that in mind, here is how I would vote for each of the Flyers' team awards if the season ended today. 

BOBBY CLARKE TROPHY (Most Valuable Player):  
SEAN COUTURIER

This is a very tough field in the season to date, with first-time NHL All-Star Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov also having made strong cases for the award. In truth, the Flyers would be hard-pressed to be without any of these three players as each occupies a crucial place in the lineup. The vote here goes to Couturier as a back-to-back winner. It is the game-in and game-out consistency as a 200-foot player, the difficulty of the matchups he absorbs and generally wins, and his ability to bring out the best in most every linemate he centers that gives him the nod. 

Offensively, Couturier's goal-scoring pace is down a bit -- he'd need 17 goals over the final 32 games to record his third straight 30-goal season -- but he has posted 21 points (5g, 16a) over the team's last 20 games; i.e., one-quarter of a season. In terms of analytics, Couturier has put up excellent individual numbers for years, and has hit new heights this season; having Kevin Hayes as a supporting center in the Flyers lineup to absorb his own share of the checking burden has enabled Couturier to get a few more offensive zone starts to supplement the self-created territorial advantages that Couturier and his linemates create. Meanwhile, if 21-year-old goaltender Carter Hart has an outstanding post All-Star break run -- his pre-break home performance has been stellar, but his road struggles and the split-time nature of the Flyers goalie tandem take him out of the running for the Clarke at this point -- he could make a case as well.

Runners-up: Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov

BARRY ASHBEE TROPHY: 
IVAN PROVOROV

It would be a surprise if Provorov does not capture the second Barry Ashbee Trophy of his four-year NHL career, and his first since his rookie season of 2016-17. Provorov absorbs the heaviest ice-time burden of any player on the team, and has more than bounced back from a somewhat down year last season to re-emerge as one of the top young all-around defensemen in the league. Provorov plays in all game situations and has improved on the power play side of the equation as he's gained experienced. 

On both the penalty kill and in terms of the work load he handles at five-on-five, Provorov has often been excellent this season. In terms of competition for the Ashbee Trophy, veteran acquisition Matt Niskanen has proven to be an excellent right-defense partner to Provorov on the left side, and a steadying influence not just on the top pair but to the blueline and team as a whole (an effect that Justin Braun has also had as the season has progressed). Niskanen would be my first runner-up choice. For second runner-up, while there has still been some inconsistency to his overall game at times, Travis Sanheim has also played at a very high level at times. 

Only recently, in the absence of the injured Shayne Gostisbehere, has Sanheim started to see somewhat regular power play usage. Nevertheless, he's on pace for the first double-digit goal season of his still-young NHL career. Defensively, while there are still some hiccups with gap management and puck management, there have also been games where Sanheim has been strong in those facets. The same can be said for Phil Myers; there is inconsistency but also evidence of high-end potential. 

Runners-up: Matt Niskanen, Travis Sanheim

YANICK DUPRE MEMORIAL CLASS GUY AWARD: 
SCOTT LAUGHTON

Laughton has become one of the local media's go-to players in both good times and rough ones. He's candid and honest in assessing both the team's performance and his own. He is especially good on between-game media availability in answering questions about attention-to-detail areas of the game. 

Meanwhile, both first-year Flyer Braun and longstanding team member Raffl, are good at getting straight to the point and also bring a good day-in and day-out sense of humor to the rink. Raffl may appear dry when the cameras are rolling and tape records are turned on, but he's often quite funny in non-interview dialogues with certain members of the media as well as among his teammates.

Runners-Up: Justin Braun, Michael Raffl

PELLE LINDBERGH MEMORIAL TROPHY: 
TRAVIS KONECNY

This award is selected by the Flyers' players themselves and goes to the player who demonstrates the most improvement over the course of the season. To me, Konecny is the clear-cut winner at the All-Star break. 

Not only has led the team in scoring and is flirting with averaging a point per game (he'd need 36 points over the final 32 games to hit that milestone) but Konency has also taken strides toward being a more well-rounded and more consistently focused player game-in and game-out than he was earlier in his career. It's been a process, but things have clicked for him in taking the next step as an NHL player without taking away from his gregarious, fun-loving personality and ability to get under opponents' skin on the ice. In the meantime, Farabee has experienced the up-and-downs that most teenaged or 20-year-old rookie pros navigate, and he's done so without cutting corners on his typically sound off-puck play and tenacity on the forecheck. 

His offensive game is just starting to grow at the NHL level, and will likely be a work in progress for another year or two, but should eventually click to where he's also an above-average offensive player in the league. Myers is still working on harnessing his massive physical potential into consistent play on the ice but there have been steps taken and both he and Farabee will, hopefully, be even more improved players by the end of the season than where they are at the All-Star break.

Runners-up: Joel Farabee, Phil Myers

GENE HART MEMORIAL AWARD: 
OSKAR LINDBLOM / SAMUEL MORIN (co-winners)

This award is voted on by the members of the official Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club. There has never been a co-winner situation for this or any of the Flyers' team awards but I simply could not choose between either of these courageous young athletes and outstanding young men. Both exude the sort of heart and determination -- on and off the ice -- on which this award is based. Both are kindly, approachable and upbeat people in their day-to-day life off the ice. Both have outstanding work ethics. 

Both have tackled whatever setbacks that been dealt to them -- a series of major injuries in Morin's case, an ongoing battle with Ewing's Sarcoma in Lindblom's -- in exemplary and inspirational fashion. If I absolutely had to pick one or the other and could not present the award to both, I'd go with Lindblom because his situation is a struggle for life and not "just" a professional career challenge. However, I believe that co-winners are appropriate given the circumstances. Veteran goaltender Brian Elliott, who battled back from core muscle injuries that scuttled much of the last two seasons, also deserves a mention as a candidate.

Runner-up: Brian Elliott
 

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