Next up in our series is arguably last year’s biggest playoff surprise, the Philadelphia Flyers. SB Nation NHL lead Travis Hughes came by to answer three questions for us.
1. The Flyers have four left-shooting defensemen likely to make opening day roster, as well as Andy MacDonald. What shot does Ivan Provorov have at cracking the roster out of training camp?
I think Provorov's chances are better then 50 percent. The Flyers can easily send MacDonald to the AHL in the event that they need to make room for Provorov. There aren't many people that doubt whether or not Provorov is good enough to play in the NHL, but it's really a question of whether he's good enough for Ron Hextall. The Flyers GM has been extremely stingy when it comes to calling up young players -- for example, injuries were the only reason Shayne Gostisbehere ever got a chance to play in the NHL last year -- and Provorov is going to have to do more than just prove he's NHL ready. He's going to have to give Hextall no choice. I think he's good enough right now to do that, but we'll see.
2. Steve Mason seems to have resurrected his career in Philly. That being said, a bad goal and a great opponent caused him to lose his starting job to Michal Neuvirth in the playoffs. Do the Flyers actually have a goaltending controversy, or was it just a case of a bad streak at a bad time?
I think it's still Mason's net to start the new season, but this is a big year for both goaltenders for a lot of reasons. Both are free agents after next season, and while they will probably both get plenty of ice time, it's going to essentially be a season-long competition to see which goalie will be here in 2017-18 and beyond. Mason starts with the upper hand based on his play since being traded to Philadelphia, and his recent track record is better than Neuvirth's. That said, it's not hard to imagine the scenario in which Neuvirth steals the job from Mason and keeps it, if his play in the postseason is any indication of what we'll see from him this season. The only thing we do know is that one guy will be here after this season, and that one of the young kids in the pipeline like Anthony Stolarz or Alex Lyon will try to factor in next season as well.
3. It seems likely Claude Giroux will lead the Flyers in points in 2016-17, but who is most likely to come in second? Will Voracek rebound from a 55-point season, will Wayne Simmonds continue his goal-scoring prowess, or will someone else rise to the occasion?
I think Voracek will rebound. His uncharacteristically low shooting percentage of just 5.2% last season was a major factor in his down year from a scoring perspective, and I would fully expect that to change just based on his career averages if nothing else. Part of his struggles stemmed from a rough go of things off the bat last season and he never really seemed to find his footing over the course of the season. I fully expect him to score up near 20 goals again this year, if not more, and I certainly expect him to score more than one power play goal again as well.