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Season Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

More offense from Jakub Voracek, others key to playoff return

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
At a glance

2015-16 record: 41-27-14, 96 points, 5th in Metropolitan Division, 7th in Eastern Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost to Washington Capitals in six games in Eastern Conference First Round

Additions: F: Boyd Gordon, Roman Lyubimov, Dale Weise; D: TJ Brennan

Subtractions: F: Sam Gagner, R.J. Umberger; D: Evgeny Medvedev

 

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

*Brayden Schenn -- Claude Giroux -- Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny -- Sean Couturier -- Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl -- Nick Cousins -- Dale Weise

Chris VandeVelde -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Boyd Gordon

Matt Read

Defensemen

Michael Del Zotto -- Shayne Gostisbehere

Mark Streit -- Nick Schultz

Ivan Provorov -- Radko Gudas

Brandon Manning

Goalies

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Alex Lyon

*- Suspended first three games of season

Video: NYI@PHI: Weise chips the puck over Gibson

The Philadelphia Flyers return almost the same roster that made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. That could be a good thing and a bad thing.

After a rocky start under first-year coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers went 22-12-7 in their final 41 games; their 51 points from Jan. 14 to the end of the regular season were tied for fifth-most in the NHL. 

That came in part because of strong goaltending from Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, who combined for a .933 save percentage at 5-on-5, second in the League to the New York Rangers (.934), according to Corsica Hockey.

The offense failed to provide much support, averaging 2.57 goals per game, 22nd in the League. Most of the production came from the top line of Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, who combined to score 80 of the Flyers' 211 goals (37.9 percent).

To help improve their offense, the Flyers signed unrestricted free agent forward Dale Weise, who had an NHL career-high 14 goals with the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks last season.

"I think the size (6-foot-2, 206 pounds), he brings some tenacious play that we lost … and he's support scoring," general manager Ron Hextall said. "In a perfect world, you bring in a guy who's an elite scorer, but those guys don't fall off trees. When you can't do that, you tend to look at depth scoring and we felt we added depth scoring for our lineup."

If the offense is going to be better, more will be needed from a number of holdovers. That includes right wing Jakub Voracek, who dipped to 55 points last season after finishing fourth in the League with 81 points in 2014-15.

Voracek said he feels better this season, in part because he played in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. 

"I was playing playoff games in September," he said. "And it wasn't only the three games at the World Cup; it was the [pretournament] games before that. It helps. I feel it in practice. I got my feet moving. I'm in midseason [form], basically. It's very good for me."

Voracek isn't the only forward who needs to step up. After the top line, the highest-scoring forward was Michael Raffl (13 goals).

Travis Konecny, 19, the 24th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, could add some needed youthful energy to the offense. He had 30 goals and 101 points in the Ontario Hockey League last season and has been impressive during training camp and in preseason games. With Brayden Schenn suspended the first three games of the season and Scott Laughton out 3-4 weeks because of a lower-body injury, Konecny could have a chance to show if he is NHL ready.

The defense also will need to be better in front of whoever is in goal. The Flyers allowed 30.7 shots per game, more than 15 of the 16 teams that made the playoffs last season (Blackhawks, 30.8).

 

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The goaltending tandem of Mason and Neuvirth stays healthy and plays at the same level as last season, Voracek rebounds offensively, and they take another step in Hakstol's second season. 

Video: NYR@PHI: Mason robs Pirri with terrific stick save

 
Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The goaltending can't make up for a defense that struggles against physical play, and there isn't enough offense beyond the first line of Schenn, Giroux and Simmonds. 

 

Breakout candidate

Ivan Provorov. The No. 7 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft was named the best defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League last season. He's shown during training camp that at 19 he has the size (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) and skills to be in the opening night lineup.

 

On the hot seat

Matt Read. After scoring more than 20 goals twice in his first three NHL seasons, he has a total of 19 in the past two. A high ankle sprain limited Read's effectiveness in 2014-15, but he was healthy last season and scored 11 goals in 79 games. The Flyers need secondary scoring; Read will be depended on to provide it. 

 

Trophy candidates

Giroux (Hart); Provorov (Calder)

 

Quotable

"Only year that I had a good start was two years ago and I ended up with 81 points. … I don't know point-wise how it's going to start, but I know if I play good I'm a game-changer." -- forward Jakub Voracek

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