With the All-Star break wrapping up and the Philadelphia Flyers ready to resume their season, it’s time to check in on how the forward group has fared so far and grade their performances so far this year.
Entering the 12th season of his career, Cam Atkinson‘s 2023-24 brought about a lot of optimism for the Philadelphia Flyers. After missing the last 9 games of the 2021-22 season and then the entire 2022-23 campaign, Atkinson had to shake off the rust of a debilitating neck injury.
He scored a goal in the season opener against Columbus and added 6 goals and 9 points in his first 10 games before succumbing to a lengthy drought over his next 31 games. Atkinson scored just 2 goals and 9 points during that stretch, was a -9, had 95 shots on goal, but still averaged 16:54 TOI.
It culminated in his 26-game goalless drought, however upon snapping out of it in a shutout victory over the Winnipeg Jets with 2 goals, he has tallied 5 goals and 10 points in his last 8 games – giving him 13 goals and 28 points in 49 games this season.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old has done relatively well in short tenure with the Flyers with 36 goals and 78 points across 122 games, but he has gone through a few lengthy dry spells. Nevertheless, his two-way game, special teams play, and overall energy is what the Flyers desperately missed out on in 2022-23 and it has shown out so far in a big way this year.
He is currently 6th on the team in power play ice-time per game at 2:26 and 4th amongst forwards in shorthanded ice-time per game at 1:40. It’s been an up-and-down season for the veteran, however it looks like he has shaken off the rust of his early season struggles.
GRADE – C
The storyline surrounding Bobby Brink heading into training camp was that he had to absolutely impress his head coach and front office to earn an NHL roster spot. There weren’t many spots available and it seemed that one of the rookies would make it – not both.
They both played splendidly and with Rasmus Ristolainen on IR to start the season, it afforded the Flyers to roll with both rookies. After rehabbing from his injury, Brink spent the latter half of last season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms where he scored 12 goals and 28 points in 41 games, but now found himself with the big club.
He started the season going without a point in his first 2 games before scoring 5 goals and 14 points in his next 22 games, while averaging 14:57 TOI. His forechecking, his ability to get to the dirty areas, and full fledged aggressiveness was on full display. He then succumbed to a 14-game slump with just 2 goals and 4 points and nearly a minute and a half of ATOI chopped off.
He was assigned to the Phantoms recently but has made good on his opportunities with 3 goals – 2 on the power play – and 16 shots in 5 games. The Flyers wanted to see some more offensive potential out of Brink on his recent assignment with the Phantoms and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he returned back to the NHL club shortly after the All-Star break.
It’s been an up-and-down season but his analytical numbers have been pretty good as well with a 53.4 CF%, 3.2 CF% rel, 55.4 FF%, and a 3.3 FF% rel. He had seen 85 minutes on the power play and has 2 goals and 2 assists to show for. His plus-7 rating is 5th best on the team, his 12.7 shooting percentage is 3rd highest, and he’s become a staple in the shootouts with 4 attempts this season.
GRADE – C-
After a rookie season that earned himself a few Calder Trophy votes, Noah Cates struggled out of the gates to start the 2023-24 season. Without Atkinson and Sean Couturier in the lineup, John Tortorella used the rookie centre in every capacity imaginable.
Cates scored 13 goal and 38 points in 82 games, averaged 17:46 TOI, was a plus-3, registered 65 blocks and 86 hits, and had a ridiculous 60:13 takeaway to giveaway ratio. He also saw 150.8 minutes on the power play and a nearly identical 152.6 minutes while shorthanded. Overall he finished 7th on the team in goals, 6th in assists, and 8th in points. He was also 3rd amongst forwards in ATOI, 4th on the team in shorthanded ice-time per game and 2nd amongst amongst forwards.
Fast forward one season he has 1 goal and 5 points in 28 games, has seen his ice-time drop to 13:44 per game, but still possesses the strong two-way game that earned him Tortorella’s trust last year. Cates owns a 17:2 giveaway to takeaway ratio, while also seeing the most shorthanded ice time per game amongst a forward (1:56).
A broken foot sidelined him for nearly 2 months but he only collected 1 goal and 4 points in first 21 games before the injury. He was riding a 13-game point-less drought that jumped to 15 before he snapped out of it with an assist against Colorado last weekend. Also upon his arrival he has only averaged 11:41 TOI with only two games being above 14 minutes and two games under 10.
He saw a few shifts against Detroit with Couturier and Travis Konecny but it was short-lived due to the Red Wings jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, he’s relegated to the bottom-6 and seen more as a penalty killer with a full lineup and Tortorella entrusting the 11/7 formation with the top-6 being handed a heavier responsibility.
GRADE – C-
Having missed even more time than Atkinson, Sean Couturier was coming into the 2023-24 season with a lot to prove. The former Selke Trophy winner last played an NHL game in December of 2021 but returned with a bang in his first season under Tortorella.
The points have dried up a little in recent weeks but he has 10 goals and 31 points in 46 games this season, has averaged 19:57 TOI, is a plus-8, has only taken 16 PIMs, and is back to his strong two-way game with 35 takeaways to 21 giveaways.
He has seen 696.4 minutes on even strength, 145.8 minutes on the power play, and 63.2 minutes while shorthanded. He is for 3rd on the team in points and plus/minus, 4th in shots, 3rd in ice-time but 1st amongst forwards, and is 1st in face-offs by a wide margin at 52.5% and his 954 face-offs are 376 more than Scott Laughton who is 2nd.
Couturier also paces the club with 3:10 TOI per game while on the power play and while his shorthanded minutes are lower than expected it’s primarily because Tortorella has a lot more hands on deck this season – Couturier sits 11th on the team and 7th amongst forwards at 1:21.
Overall, the number one centre is back at full strength, healthy, and raring to go for the playoff-hungry Flyers.
GRADE – B+
After playing 80 games last season with 6 goals, 6 assists, and 136 PIM, Nicolas Deslauriers has seen a reduced role from his already reduced bottom-6 role from last season. After averaging 10:06 TOI and never riding the pine, Tortorella has scratched him a few times and his ATOI has dropped to 8:37.
His primary role of dropping the gloves and hitting anything that moves is still present with 53 PIM, 114 hits, and 7 fighting majors. He has yet to record a goal, which would be the first time in his career that’s happened since a 42-game stint with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016-17. He has 3 assists, is a minus-9, but does have 13 takeaways to 5 giveaways.
His ice-time and role has rapidly decreased ever since the arrival of Jamie Drysdale and the Flyers primarily rolling with the 11/7 formation, but even in his limited role he is still crunching bodies and providing energy as best he can. The Flyers acquiring Garnet Hathaway – a similar energy role player – also put a damper on his 23-24 season.
It remains to be seen if he’ll remain in the press box more so than on the ice once they come out of the break but Deslauriers still brings about an intangible that is required in today’s modern game – albeit at a minimal requirement.
GRADE – D
50 games into the 2023-24 season and Joel Farabee has already set a career-high in points with 40. After a difficult 2022-23 season where he rushed back from off-season surgery and played through the pain, Farabee has bounced back in a big way and is flexing his offensive muscles for a team that desperately needs it.
Farabee set career-highs last year in assists (24) and points (39) but played a full 82-game season. He went through a 45-game stretch last year where he scored just 4 goals and 13 points, which culminated in a 26-game goalless drought. As is the case with hockey players, once he snapped out of his slump he scored 6 goals and 12 points in 14 games to end the year on a high.
He hasn’t missed a beat in 2023-24 outside of a 6-game pointless drought at the end of November. He scored 8 goals and 15 points in his first 19 games, went through the 6-game drought, and has scored 9 goals and 25 points in his last 25 games. Farabee just had his 7-game point streak snapped against Detroit, where he scored 5 goals and 10 points.
Farabee has seen his ice-time spike almost 2 and a half minutes from the first quarter of the year and he is no longer playing a top-9 role as he is firmly implanted in the top two lines. Since being benched with just 0:56 of ice time in a game against New Jersey he has averaged 17:06 TOI in his last 26 games.
In totality, Farabee has 17 goals and 23 assists, is a plus-4, has 120 shots, a 14.2 shooting percentage, and 41 blocked shots – which is just 4 shy of his career high he set last year. He has seen his shorthanded ice-time nearly evaporate as he went from 81.2 minutes in 82 games last year to just 3.9 this year but primarily because of the reinforcements that have returned or were acquired in the offseason.
His 5-on-5 play has been extraordinary as he ranks amongst the NHL’s best in that category with just 6 of his points coming on the man advantage. If the Flyers are to continue their playoff push, look for Farabee to be leading the way as he looks to not only get to the 20-goal mark – just 3 away – and 50-point plateau – just 10 points away – but perhaps entertain 30 goals and 60+ points.
GRADE – A
After Tyson Foerster‘s electric first stint at the NHL-level, there was a lot of excitement and promise surrounding the 22-year-old forward. His rookie season hasn’t gone entirely as planned but Foerster has been playing a very strong two-way game that has not only earned him the praises of his coaching staff but a top-6 spot virtually locked all year long.
Foerster scored 3 goals and 7 points in his first 8-game stint at the NHL last year and has scored 9 goals and 20 points through his first 49 games this season. He has 101 shots and is only converting at a 8.7% rate, his ATOI has jumped from 16:34 to 16:59, he has 3 power play goals – which is tied for the team-lead – and has 34 blocked shots to go along with 37 hits. Foerster also carries a 23:6 takeaway to giveaway ratio.
Foerster’s CF% sits at 59.9, CF% rel is 11.8, FF% at 60.8, and FF% rel at 10.5. His even-strength analytics are fantastic because he sits 3rd on the team in even strength CF%, CF% rel, FF%, and FF% rel. The scoring hasn’t been there as evidenced by his low shooting percentage but at some point he’s going to break through with his strong two-game and top-6 position locked in.
GRADE – C+
Morgan Frost had a fantastic finish to his 2022-23 season after a paltry start to the year. He paced the club with 40 points in the final 54 games of the season and all but one came while on even-strength. The same could maybe be said about this year as he has looked to have turned the corner after an open dialogue with Tortorella.
After being made a healthy scratch 11 times this year, Frost had just 3 goals and 5 points in his first 16 games. Fast forward to the past 23 games and Frost has 4 goals and 17 points to go along with 53 shots in 15:40 ATOI. Frost also has 8 assists in his last 8 games, while averaging 16:52 ATOI.
His confidence is back, he is making silky smooth plays that earned him his first round moniker, and he is providing offensive capabilities for a team starving for goals and creativity. If he continues to produce the way he has over the last 23 games – and there’s no reason to believe he can’t – Frost should be well on his way of smashing his career-best 46 points he hit last year.
Frost is tied for 5th in assists, 7th in points, 6th in plus/minus, tied for 2nd in power play assists, and is 5th in TOI while on the power play at 2:29 – all of this in 10-11 less games than the rest of his counterparts. For his efforts while on the ice, Frost has had an underrated season and should be in line for a large roll as the Flyers make a push for the playoffs.
GRADE – B
Garnet Hathaway was a little bit of a surprise free agent acquisition because it didn’t seem like the Flyers needed him with a jam-packed bottom-6 on their hands and Deslauriers in the fold. However, despite not putting up as many points as he has over the last few seasons, Hathaway has had a decent first season with the Flyers.
In 2021-22, Hathaway scored 14 goals and 26 points in 76 games for Washington and then followed that up with 13 goals and 22 points in 84 games with the Capitals and Bruins last year. This year he has 4 goals and 6 points across 49 games, has 72 PIMs, and 121 hits while averaging 11:18 TOI.
Hathaway has played a great tertiary role for the penalty kill this year with 69.6 minutes under his belt but the more fascinating tidbit to his season is that when Deslauriers is either out of the lineup or playing a very reduced role, Hathaway thrives. His ice-time has risen over the last month to 13:50 per game and at times will be promoted to the third line.
He has the offensive knack from time to time but the Flyers lean on him more so for his physicality and aggressiveness – 13th in the NHL in hits – His spot in the lineup is virtually locked up as he represents a more agile and offensive version of Deslauriers.
GRADE – C
Travis Konecny is back to is scoring ways this season as he enters the break with a team-high 22 goals and 42 points. Similarly to Couturier, the points have dried up a little over the past week or so – not coincidentally, the Flyers have lost 5 straight.
Last year, Konecny exploded in a big way with 31 goals and 61 points in just 60 games. He had struggled between the COVID bubble and 2021-22 with just 27 goals across 145 games. However under interim coach Mike Yeo, Konecny looked to have turned the tides after a rough start to his 2021-22.
Under Tortorella, Konecny blossomed and turned into a responsible 2-way forward with penalty kill prowess. He formed a dynastic duo with Scott Laughton and he added 3 shorthanded goals and assists and has only improved with 5 goals this season.
Konecny is 1st in goals and points, 4th in assists, 2nd in plus/minus, 2nd in even strength and power play goals, 1st in shorthanded goals, 2nd in shots and shooting percentage, and 4th in ice-time and 2nd amongst forwards. On top of all of that, Konecny is 1st in CF% at even-strength, CF% rel, FF%, and FF% rel.
Konecny is the pacemaker, the heartbeat, and everything in between for the Flyers as he looks to push the club over the hump in their push for the playoffs. For his efforts this season, he earned a trip to the All-Star Game in Toronto.
GRADE – A
It hasn’t been the season that anyone anticipated from Scott Laughton, especially after how well he progressed last year under Tortorella. The soon-to-be 30-year-old entered his 11th season of his career but has just 5 goals and 20 points through 49 games.
Last year, Laughton had a career season in all categories as he scored 18 goals, 25 assists, 43 points, fired 170 shots, and averaged 18:17 TOI. He also scored his first career power play goal – before adding 4 more – while also adding a career-high 4 power plays assists, 3 shorthanded goals and 3 more assists, with 57 hits and 156 blocked shots.
This year, his average ice-time has dropped nearly 3 minutes per game as he sits at 15:19 but his offensive woes have been uncalled for after a tremendous 2022-23. He scored 1 goal in his first 23 games to go along with 10 assists. Since then he has 4 goals and 9 points over his last 27 games, including multiple 8+ game goal-less droughts.
His 73 hits are third to only Hathaway and Deslauriers and his 49.7% faceoff percentage is 2nd only to Couturier. Laughton looks the most dangerous while shorthanded, with a quarter of his points coming while a man down, but the Flyers need a lot more from the only lettered player on the club.
GRADE – C-
A surprise addition in the offseason, Ryan Poehling has played so well that he earned himself a 2-year extension worth $1.9 million per year. After struggling to find his footing with Montréal, Poehling had a good season with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year before walking as a free agent and signing with the Flyers.
He scored 7 goals and 14 points last year in 53 games for the Penguins and 9 goals and 17 points in 57 games for the Canadiens the year before that. He’s already at 14 points this year with 5 goals to his name in just 45 games and is averaging a career-high 13:31 TOI.
His 45 blocked shots has him ranked 6th on the club and 1st amongst forwards, he is 5th amongst forwards with TOI while shorthanded, has 12 takeaways to 6 giveaways, and is at 49.5% in the face-off circle. Poehling essentially gives the Flyers a scoring option in the bottom-6 and will be relied upon as the club will need all hands on deck in the final 2.5 months.
GRADE – C+
Owen Tippett‘s scoring ways have continued in a big way this season and because of it, it’s no surprise that Daniel Brière wanted to lock him up for the foreseeable future. After scoring 27 goals and 49 points in 77 games last year – his first full season as a Flyer – Tippett has 18 goals and 30 points through 46 games this year.
He was placed on IR with a lower-body injury that has cost him the last 4 games, and not coincidentally the Flyers’ losing streak has extended. Before going down, Tippett scored 6 goals and 8 points in his last 7 games with 31 shots on goal while averaging 16:54 TOI.
He started off the season slowly with just 2 goals and 6 points in his first 13 games but has since added 16 goals and 24 points in his last 33 games with 125 shots on goals, a plus-1 rating, and averaging nearly 16 minutes a game.
Tippett is 2nd on the team in goals, 3rd in points, 1st in shots on goal, 5th in shooting percentage, 6th in ATOI amongst forwards, and 4th on the team in hits. Tippett’s return to the lineup is of the utmost importance as the Flyers desperately need his offensive aggressiveness and scoring capabilities. The lengthy break has come at the perfect time in terms of Tippett’s health as he will be relied upon to pace the offense with Konecny and Farabee among others.
GRADE – B+
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