The Philadelphia Flyers are known for their pool of talented prospects. In fact, they have nine players at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. It’s the rookies currently on the team, however, that have been making their names known in the NHL. It all started with Shayne Gostisbehere last year. This year had three rookies make the Flyers squad. And all three are proving why they belong in the NHL.
Philadelphia Flyers Rookies Make an Impact
The biggest highlight would have to be blue liner Ivan Provorov. The soon-to-be 20-year old was drafted seventh overall by the Flyers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Many thought he would be able to come right into the NHL. However, GM Ron Hextall preached patience and left the young defenseman with his junior club, the Brandon Wheat Kings, for another season.
Being cut didn’t deter Provorov as he put up 73 points, (21 goals), to help his team win the WHL Championship. He was named the WHL Defenseman of the Year that same season.
Coming into the 2016-2017, it was not a lock for Provorov to make the Flyers roster. A log jam in the defensive end was still a factor coming into camp. He had seen two preseason games the past year before being sent back. This year was different, however. Provorov would survive the first round of cuts and the next few as well. The time had come where he would indeed be making the roster.
“My dad couldn’t fall asleep afterward. I couldn’t fall asleep until late last night, too. It was really exciting. This is what you work for in the summer, the whole 14 years of playing hockey. It’s kind of the end of one road, and starting a new one.”
First NHL Goal: 11/23/16 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
As a 19 year old, Provorov hasn’t missed a beat in the NHL. He would make his debut on October 14th and would record his first point in the game as well. His first goal would come about a month later against the Lightning.
Everything culminated for the Yaroslavl native when the team faced the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3rd. Not only did the team win 3-1, but Provorov would score two goals in 31 seconds. He also saved a goal from going in behind goaltender Steve Mason, swatting the puck away at the last minute.
“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable.”
Just a few months into the NHL season, Provorov is already considered one of the Flyers best defenseman. He is trusted to face guys such as Connor McDavid and Jaromir Jagr, guys that he has proven to shut down as well.
Another rookie making a big impact is Travis Konecny. He was drafted 24th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. His journey to the Flyers was quite similar Provorov. Konecny also appeared in two games before being sent back to his junior club, the Ottawa 67’s.
Konecny played in 29 games, tallying 45 points with the 67’s, before being traded to the Sarnia Sting in a blockbuster deal that included 10 draft picks. In 31 games for the Sting, he put up 56 points, 23 goals and 33 assists. That would give him 104 points in just 60 games.
Konecny would make the Flyers on the same day as Provorov did. In fact, the two were in the same hotel room when they got the message from Hextall.
“Me and Provy were pretty nervous walking over here. Getting the news about staying around here was awesome. I couldn’t be more happy.”
First NHL Goal: 10/25/16 vs Buffalo Sabres
Konecny would see his first NHL goal a lot sooner. His first would come against the Sabres on October 25th, in a 4-3 shootout victory. It came off of a re-directed shot from Provorov.
Teammates enjoy when players stick up for each other. Konecny earned the respect of his when he dropped the gloves for the first time against Brandon Pirri in a loss against the New York Rangers on November 25th. Pirri had previously boarded Brandon Manning and Konecny took immediate offense to that.
“We talked about team toughness and making sure we’re sticking up for each other. When a guy gets hit like that, I was the one in position to do something about it and I did what I had to.”
Spending time on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, the trio often finds themselves with chances in the offensive line. Konecny has been able to make plays happen with the tremendous speed and tenacity he possesses. Even though the young forward is currently in a long goal drought at 21 games, he is still noticable in every game.
Provorov and Konecny were expected to make impacts for the Flyers. There’s another rookie on the team that has proven himself as well. Roman Lyubimov was signed as an un-drafted free agent on July 11th. He had spent the last six years in the KHL. He had set a career high with seven goals and 14 points in 52 contests for CSKA Moscow in ’15-16.
“He’s a big guy, he skates well. He plays a solid, two-way game. Kind of an up-and-downer. We’ve had our eye on him for a couple years, but he kind of really popped at the World Championships this past year.”
-Ron Hextall, Flyers General Manager
The Flyers had tried this experiment before the previous season. Defenseman Evgeny Medvedev spent only one season with the team. The Flyers have also had luck with this tactic before. Michael Raffl and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare have stuck with the Flyers and found key roles with the team, with the former logging time on the top line and former a key cog in the 13th ranked penalty kill and bottom six.
A wild card coming into camp, Lyubimov found his way onto the NHL club as the season began. The 24-year old forward would make his debut on October 18th against the Blackhawks. After that, playing time came at a premium. He would spend most games in the press box as a healthy scratch.
First NHL Goal: 11/2/16 vs Detroit Red Wings
The hard work Lyubimov had showed during camp and the small amount of games he played in would finally pay off on November 2nd against Detroit.
It would be a while before Lyubimov would get the chance to make another impact. He didn’t waste time against the Calgary Flames on November 11th. He would tally a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win. The game saw a new look fourth line for the team that also included Schenn and Chris VandeVelde. The line would produce four points in Anthony Stolarz‘s first NHL victory.
Lyubimov has found a way to stick in the NHL for the entire season and is finally getting his opportunity to play consistent minutes. He has recored three goals and four points in 26 games so far this season. It’s his play in the defensive zone and his ability to fire shots at will that has given him this opportunity.
With production from all three rookies, the Flyers have been able to make some noise in the ever so strong Metropolitan Division. The impacts from these players, as well as other contributions, have given the Flyers an opportunity to make a run as a wild card.
Quotes courtesy of Philly.com, NHL.com, and CSNPhilly.com