Predicting the Flyers Lineup: Defense

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Photo by Heather Barry

The NHL offseason is quickly coming to an end. The regular season begins on October 14th when the Flyers face the LA Kings. Coming off a successful season, the Flyers made a few additions to the organization that should help with depth. What the Flyers did over the offseason was set the stage for an organization-wide competition. A competition to determine who makes the Flyers regular roster and possibly which young guys make themselves known as NHL ready players.

Make sure you catch up with all of our lineup predictions. 

Predictions for the top six

Predictions for the bottom six

 

When it comes to the backend of this Flyers lineup, there is a logjam of talent that leaves a lot of possibilities going into the season.  With the amount of young talent in the Flyers system, some veterans may lose their spots.

The Flyers defense at the start of the season will most likely look like this:

Michael Del Zotto – Radko Gudas

Andrew MacDonald – Shayne Gostisbehere

Nick Schultz – Mark Streit

Extras: Brandon Manning

When Mark Streit suffered a groin injury halfway through the season, Hextall’s timeline for the team may have been sped up by a few seasons. Suddenly, he had to make room for Shayne Gostisnehere, a young defenseman who arguably drug the Flyers to a post-season appearance.

With the doors wide open for younger players to force themselves into the lineup, the defense could be subjected to changes as the season goes on.

 

Shayne Gostisbehere 

Gostitbehere was called up midway through last season after Streit was injured. In 64 games with the club, Gostisbehere collected 17 goals and 29 assists in his rookie campaign which put him 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting. Ghost has become a Philadelphia sensation is already one of the most loved athletes in the city. His explosive speed gives him the ability to carry the puck from end to end and direct play. He is a threat to every opposing play when he is on the ice. His ability to enter the neutral and offensive zone is already at a veteran level. Ghost also has patience unlike any other defenseman in the league. That patience mixed with incredible speed and a deadly shot is captivating. Ghost is a player that coaches hate to prepare against, you have to worry about him every time his skates touch the ice. 

Michael Del Zotto 

Del Zotto has been a great addition to this team ever since he was signed in 2014. MDZ had a short season due to a broken wrist that required surgery. In his 52 games played, MDZ accumulated 13 points. His numbers do not do him justice. MDZ plays a huge role within Dave Hakstol’s system. MDZ can play at both ends of the ice. He is known for his speed and quick shot. He produces offense, it is as simple as that. With his absence last season, Gostisbehere was quick to step up and lead that defensive unit. With Del Zotto back and hopefully healthy, the Flyers defense is that much better than last year.

Radko Gudas
Gudas recently signed a 4-year extension worth 13.4 million. There’s a bit of debate over whether that signing was an overpayment or not. The Flyers didn’t sign him to score goals. Despite his reputation, Gudas is a decent puck mover who pushes play into the offensive zone, something that’s important to the Flyers system He does more than meets the eye. This Flyers team feeds off of the energy Gudas brings. This contract signing should motivate him to elevate his game even more.

Gudas suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist just before the World Cup of Hockey began, but Flyers management is confident he won’t miss the regular season.

 

Mark Streit

Streit is coming off a season where he digressed. Streit was coming off an ACL injury the previous season, and that was obvious to see as his play declined. 23 points in 62 games isn’t terrible, for but a soon-to-be 39-year-old with a cap hit of around 5.25M, it is hard not to comment. Age is obviously a factor in his play declining, but hopefully, he can step it up this year. If he steps up and shows teams that he has some gas still in the tank, a desperate playoff-bound team may want some veteran leadership added to their blue-line.

Nick Schultz

Schultz is the steady stay-at-home defenseman filling out the Flyers blueline. His possession statistics aren’t great, and he’s not an offensively gifted defender. You don’t expect Schultz to put up numbers like Gostisbehere. Schultz has played over 1,000 games in the NHL and is the Flyers main shot-blocker. He’s also one of the Flyers go-to penalty killers. Schultz isn’t great at getting the puck out of his own zone and as a result, the opposing team is able to take more shots while he’s on the ice. If a younger player were to force Hextall’s hand, Schult might be the first player he looks to trade.

 

Andrew MacDonald

MacDonald played most of last season with the Phantoms putting up 36 points in 43 games. Not only did this bury part of his contract, it kept him from being an anchor on the NHL lineup. After an injury to Del Zotto, MacDonald was called up to take his spot. MacDonald had 8 points in 28 games last season, but also was an anchor for his defensive partner, Shayne Gostisbehere. While he may have appeared somewhat useful in terms of scoring, he severely hampered Gostisbehere’s play and made the pairing much less effective.

His contract makes him nearly impossible to trade so that only leaves two options. Send him back to the Phantoms or live out his contract, or suffer through it and keep him on the NHL roster. He’s coming into this season fully aware that there’s competition

“I was kind of re-establishing myself,” MacDonald said. “I think it went a long way. I’m definitely a more confident player than I was at this point last year.” MacDonald told Sam Carchidi

 

Brandon Manning 

At 26 years old, Manning isn’t exactly past his prime, but he’s been fighting for a spot since 2010. Like Nick Schultz, Manning kind of blends in on the defense. He doesn’t make amazing plays, but he’s not completely useless either. Toward the end of the season, he got comfortable on a pair with Radko Gudas with Michael Del Zotto injured. Manning was recently signed to a two-year deal, which may have just been to fulfill expansion draft requirements.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have to add T.J. Brennan to this list. Like Jordan Weal, Brennan has had a hard time escaping the AHL. He’s had some impressive seasons and could find a home on his hometown team. Even if he doesn’t make the roster out of training camp, there’s a good chance he could be one of the first callups. As a 27-year-old, Brennan could add a bit of experience to an increasingly young blueline.

Flyers top defensive prospects include:

Ivan Provorov

Sam Morin

Travis Sanheim

Mark Alt

Robert Hagg

Mark Friedman

Phillippe Myers

Although the Flyers have some of the most talked about defensive prospects, the player with the most difficult time making the roster out of training camp is Ivan Provorov. There are high expectations for Provorov, but the bar is set pretty high. For Provorov to make the NHL roster right away, he doesn’t have to just outplay MacDonald or Manning, he has to show he can play against NHL level players consistently.

Ivan Provorov

Provorov was the 7th overall selection in the 2015 NHL draft. He is a 6’1, 200lbs, two-way defensive force. As a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the CHL, Provorov managed to put up 73 points in 62 games. In the 2015 World Junior Championships under 20 team, Provorov put up 8 assists in 7 games.  

Hextall on drafting Provorov: “We believe that you build from the back end out, and Ivan is going to be a big part of our defense moving forward,” Hextall told NBCSN. “We’re really excited to have him. Real good all-around player, great hockey sense.”

For Provorov, there is no breaking in halfway through the season. If he isn’t on the Flyers at the start of the season, he’ll go back to juniors and spend another season strengthening his game with the Wheat Kings.

Join the conversation!

Follow me at @phillyisflyer and be sure to follow @etsphilly for this season! 

Coming up next: Goaltending!

 

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