NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Philadelphia Flyers are looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will rely on two former Metropolitan Division rivals to help them do so.
Alain Vigneault, who coached the New York Rangers from 2013-18, was hired as Flyers coach April 15. Center Kevin Hayes, who played for Vigneault in New York for his first four NHL seasons, signed a seven-year contract with Philadelphia on June 19 after being acquired in a trade from the Winnipeg Jets on June 3 for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
[Flyers 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]
The Flyers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, finishing 16 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference. They have not won a round in the postseason since the 2011-12 season.
Vigneault replaced Scott Gordon, who will return to Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League after going 25-22-4 with Philadelphia after taking over for Dave Hakstol as coach 31 games into last season.
The Flyers have an interesting mix of veterans and younger players, including center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and 21-year-old goalie Carter Hart, who made 30 starts in his first NHL season.
Patrick had 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 72 games last season. That followed the 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) he had in 73 games as a rookie in 2017-18. Patrick turns 21 on Sept. 19.
Video: Flyers come in at No. 4 in Prospect Pipeline
"He's starting to understand the game and understand what it takes to be a pro," Vigneault said. "He's understanding the consistency that we're going to need from him. I've heard from, whether it be our management group or scouting staff, there is not only a belief but a trust factor that we think that this kid is the real deal and he's going to become a really solid performer for us here."
Hayes said he is convinced Patrick can be a special player from what he has observed as an opponent. He also said he's excited to be on a team with forwards Travis Konecny, 22, and Oskar Lindblom, 23. Konecny had 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games last season but is unsigned as a restricted free agent, and Lindblom had 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) in 81 games.
"Those guys already are established NHL guys and they've only been in the League a couple years," Hayes said. "Those guys mixed with the core leadership group, veteran guys that do what they do every single night."
One key member of the core leadership group is forward Claude Giroux, who can permanently shift to left wing with the arrival of Hayes. When Giroux played there in 2017-18, he had 102 points (34 goals, 68 assists), second in the NHL behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid's 108. Last season, he moved between wing and center, and had 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists).
Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Giroux
With Sean Couturier and Hayes at center on the top two lines, it allows Patrick to play in the middle on the third line, where he could see more favorable matchups.
The Flyers' quest to improve their penalty-killing, which ranked 26th in the NHL last season (78.5 percent) could receive a boost from Hayes and defensemen 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 on June 18. Ivan Provorov, their No. 1 defenseman, remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.
Philadelphia should benefit from a full season with Hart, who was the sixth of an NHL-record eight goalies to start at least one game for the Flyers last season. He went 16-13-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 31 games as a rookie.
"We've got some good players," Vigneault said. "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."
Melding the newcomers and holdovers starts with training camp, some of which will take place in Europe. The Flyers open their regular season Oct. 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series.
"It's a group of 25 guys traveling to a different country, you spend a lot of time with each other," said Hayes, who had an NHL career-high 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) in 71 games with the Rangers and Jets last season. "Inevitably, I think you're going to start communicating with more guys. In order to be a successful team, you have to have a tight-knit group. I've heard that the Flyers have that, and they have a bunch that have been together for a while, and I'm excited to get things going."