Last year, things got out of hand for the Philadelphia Flyers with all the injuries that occurred, especially on the backend.
Before the 2021-22 season started, it seemed like Chuck Fletcher figured everything out when he acquired Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators to play on the top pairing with Ivan Provorov. He then acquired Rasmus Ristolainen to complete the top-4 with Travis Sanheim and then finished off the summer by signing offensively-minded Keith Yandle for the debilitating power play. So as everything stacked up, Ryan Ellis-Ivan Provorov were going to be the anchors up top, Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen were going to add a different dimension to the second pairing, and then Justin Braun-Keith Yandle would take over the rest of the minutes and be figures on the special teams.
Then the wheels started to come off when Ellis went down only a few games into the season. Everything had to be reshuffled and Braun jumped up to the top pair with Provorov, giving Nick Seeler a chance to enter the lineup and play alongside Keith Yandle. That turned out to be a near death sentence as Keith Yandle might’ve had the worst season of his career and anyone he was partnered with – outside of Braun at the start of the season – suffered immensely. Yandle finished the season at -47 and even though plus/minus has always been a contentious stat, you can’t look past a number that high.
Sanheim paced the backend with 80 games, Provorov behind him with 79, Yandle at 77, Ristolainen at 66, Braun at 61, and then Seeler at 43. They also had contributions from Ronnie Attard (15), Kevin Connauton (26), Linus Hogberg (5), Cam York (30), and Egor Zamula (10). There were very few standouts from this list outside of the second half renaissance of Sanheim and a pretty good showing for first timers like Ronnie Attard. However, the consensus about the third pair trio of Seeler, Connauton, Yandle was that they should not return. The Flyers let Yandle walk but then re-signed both Seeler and Connauton.
To start this season, Cam York looked to be a lock heading into opening night but his camp was cut short when head coach John Tortorella said he needed to shape up in the minors. His loss was Seeler’s gain as he has been a staple since day one.
Seeler is among 3 defensemen who have played all 31 games including Provorov and Sanheim and his ice time has increased to 14:10 a night compared to last year’s 13:05. He has also scored 2 goals and 5 points compared to his 1 goal and 3 points in 43 games from last year, and he is also currently a +5 on the season with 31 shot on goal, 50 blocked shots, and 46 hits registered.
His CF% has risen from 42.5 to 46 as his CF (Corsi for in all situations: shots + blocks + misses) to CA (Corsi against in all situations: shots + blocks + misses) ratio has improved. His FF% has also increased from 43.6 to 49.5 as FF (Fenwick for in all situations: shots + misses) to FA (Fenwick against in all situations: shots + misses) ratio has also sky rocketed. His PDO has increased slightly from last year’s 99.5 to 100.7, which calculates PDO in all situations: shooting % + save %.
In all aspects of his game, he has improved mightily from last year. To be as frank as possible, he was not good in 2021-22 but this year shows that that might’ve had a lot more to do with Keith Yandle or Kevin Connauton being his partner than anything else. This year he has played with Justin Braun, Cam York, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Tony DeAngelo – a far cry of much better players.
This year with the Flyers, you have to take everything into perspective and have to preface everything. This is not a good team, they are bereft of talent, and they have dealt with injuries from top to bottom. However, the coaching staff has made sure that they are tougher to play against, they have a stronger forecheck, and they block everything in sight.
Players like Nick Seeler and Rasmus Ristolainen – both of whom struggled immensely last year – have found a niche in the new system and for the time being have played a lot better than most have given them credit for, and they are playing better than most anticipated before heading into the season.