Matt Niskanen could be the glue that holds the Flyers defense together

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Will the offseason just end already? Will Travis Konecny just re-sign already? There are a lot of players arriving early for camp with the likes of Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee, Alex Lyon, Kirill Ustimenko, Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, Brian Elliott, and Nate Prosser. Hockey is almost back for the orange and black.

There are some players on the Flyers roster that have a lot to prove this coming season. If these players do not improve from last year, then the end result might be the Flyers missing the playoffs for the second straight year. In the final of this series, let’s take a look at newly acquired Matt Niskanen.

Matt Niskanen was dealt to the Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas this past offseason. It was a cap saving move by the Washington Capitals to part ways with Niskanen. For the Flyers, it signaled a change in a big way on the backend for this coming season. Gone are Gudas and Andrew MacDonald. Enter Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen. One thing that has become apparent on the backend is that Chuck Fletcher wanted stability, and the ability to make it difficult for opponents to enter the Flyers zone. Moreover, Fletcher wanted voices, and those that can properly teach the young Flyers blueline to have successful hockey careers. Niskanen definitely provides all the above.

In 2017-18, Niskanen’s Corsi-For percentage was 49.84%, his expected goals was 52.90%, and high danger chances was 52.20%. This past season, Niskanen’s Corsi-For dropped down to 36.99% (-12.85% from prior year), his expected goals was 44.44% (-7.46% from prior year), and high-danger chances was 45.65% (-6.55% from prior year).

Simply put, Niskanen had a down year. A down year by his standards. However, Niskanen remained fantastic in the locker room, according to his teammates. Moreover, his ability to take away space on the ice is something that the Flyers could benefit from in a big way. Especially, with how young the Flyers blueline currently is with the average age being 26.17-years-old.

Offensively, Niskanen’s numbers were similar from the Stanley Cup run in 2017-18. He tallied 8 goals last season, which was a one goal improvement from last year. In addition, his 17 assists were 5 less than the previous year. Keep in mind that Niskanen missed some time with injuries in 2017-18, as well, so his numbers could have been higher if were 100% healthy the entire year.

Overall, Niskanen has to be better this season for a Flyers young blueline that needs the glue to hold it together. He can be that instrumental voice that holds the Defense together in a big way for the orange and black. The key for Niskanen is staying healthy. If Niskanen does, in fact, rebound this season, then the Flyers could ride high to the playoffs.

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