NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
[Flyers 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Can Carter Hart do it again?
Hart was the sixth of an NHL-record eight goalies to start at least one game for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, but the 21-year-old provided stability and a dependable presence almost immediately after making his debut Dec. 18. He had 16 wins, second among NHL rookie goalies, and played well under pressure; in 15 games when he faced at least 35 shots, he was 11-4-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. He also was one of 10 NHL goalies from the day of his debut to the end of the season with at least four 40-save games; Hart was the only one to go undefeated in those games (4-0-0).
He's expected to be the No. 1 goalie this season, but general manager Chuck Fletcher said nothing will be given to Hart.
"He certainly looks like he's going to be a very good goaltender for a very long time," Fletcher said. "Time will tell. It's a tough league for 20- and 21-year-old kids. … Over time, I think his talent is going to shine through and he will be our guy for a long time. But I don't want to put all the pressure in the world on him that he has to be our guy coming out of training camp."
Video: 31 in 31: Philadelphia Flyers 2019-20 season preview
2. How will they fix the special teams?
Philadelphia's power play was tied for 22nd in the NHL last season (17.1 percent) and its penalty kill ranked 26th (78.5 percent).
Coach Alain Vigneault, hired April 15, said those numbers are irrelevant to him. He and his staff still are working through ideas, but Vigneault said he's sure assistants Michel Therrien, who will run the power play, and Mike Yeo, who will oversee the penalty kill, each will come up with a successful game plan.
"I'm very confident that we'll be able to find a system there that's going to maximize what we have and make sure our power play and penalty-killing are one of the best in the League," Vigneault said.
3. How will the additions at defenseman fit?
Matt Niskanen, acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals for defenseman Radko Gudas on June 14, and Justin Braun, acquired in a trade from the San Jose Sharks for two draft picks June 18, will add veteran experience to a group that had five defensemen 26 and under play at least 20 games last season.
Braun, Niskanen and rookie Philippe Myers are all right-handed, giving the Flyers the ability to have a left-right combination on each defense pair.
Vigneault hasn't determined who will play where but said Niskanen will be as important off the ice as on it.
"He's a veteran player that has been through a lot of battles, he's bringing a tremendous amount of experience," Vigneault said. "He's won a Stanley Cup (with the Capitals in 2018). With his experience, with him being the quiet leader that he is, I see him being a real solid fit for our defensive group."
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