Defenseman Sam Morin and recently signed Mike Vecchione, a forward, made their NHL debuts last Tuesday. During Sunday’s season finale, it was defenseman Robert Hagg’s turn, while rookie Anthony Stolarz started his fourth game in goal.
Before Saturday’s game, Ivan Provorov, just 20 years old, was named the winner of the Barry Ashbee Trophy, which is given to the team’s outstanding defenseman. It was the second consecutive year that a rookie has received the award after Shayne Gostisbehere last season.
Forward Travis Konecny, also 20, completed his first full season with the Flyers, and another first-year player, Jordan Weal, looked promising during his final 23 games. We haven’t even mentioned highly rated defensemen Travis Sanheim and Phillipe Myers, who are playing for the Phantoms and in juniors, respectively.
Needless to say, the Flyers are stocked with talented young players on the rise, which is one of the few positive takeaways from a disappointing season.
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“We know we have a lot of young guys coming in,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We know that that will be a good thing.”
At the top of the list is Provorov, who made the Flyers with a strong training camp, was the team’s No. 1 defenseman by midseason and averaged 20-plus minutes a night.
“Provy has had a very consistent season and playing on the back end that’s a big load,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
With only five defensemen signed next year, the Flyers will have at least two openings. Expect Morin and Hagg to get at least one of those spots, if not both. With goalie Steve Mason set to test free agency, expect Stolarz to get a long look at the backup job behind Michal Neuvirth. And on offense, expect Konecny to improve while Vecchione and Weal should each get a full season with the Flyers.
So while this season ended prematurely, it at least laid a lot of groundwork for the future.
“It’s disappointing to be starting to think about year-end meetings right now, but that’s reality,” Hakstol said. “There is a lot of good mixed in, though, like growth and development.”