Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 report card: Forwards edition


Kevin Hayes (D+)

We all expected more from an alternate team captain. Kevin Hayes did disappoint, playing one of the worst seasons of his career.

The Philadelphia Flyers were nearly the last team to score their first shorthanded goal in 2020-2021. A season ago, Hayes led the league in shorthanded goals. Scott Laughton scored the sole shorthanded goal of this season for the team.

Hayes is supposed to be the chosen one under Alain Vigneault. He has spent more time in his system than any other player on the Flyers roster. Regressing as he did is a worry. Earning more than $7M, Hayes needs a brilliant 2021-2022 season.

In context, Hayes is trending downwards to an overly expensive bottom-six forward.

Sean Couturier (B)

Sean Couturier would likely have led the team in scoring had he stayed healthy. He missed time due to suffering a costochondral separation during his second shift against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 15th, 2021. This season, his health was the knock against him.

Similar to Claude Giroux, Couturier scored clutch goals to keep the Philadelphia Flyers close. He was two points away from making the team lead in points a four-way tie. Couturier played in less than fifty games. Only Joel Farabee scored more than Couturier this season.

If it seems like the concentration was on Couturier’s offense, you’re not mistaken. For only the second time in his career, he finished with a minus rating. Similarly, this is the second time Couturier didn’t receive a vote for the Frank J. Selke Trophy. As the reigning Selke Trophy winner, Couturier showed a rare regression on defense. Notably, this was his worst season since 2012-2013 (he played one fewer game in comparison this season.)

On the bright side, Couturier is consistent. There isn’t a worry about him revitalizing his role in 2021-2022.

Tanner Laczynski (C)

Tanner Laczynski provided energy to a flat lineup with his alert, physical play. His impression on Alain Vigneault lasted five games, simmering to a conclusion after misplacing his skill in the faceoff circle against the Washington Capitals.

He’s one of three Philadelphia Flyers players in a position to earn a spot in the bottom-six if Nolan Patrick leaves. Laczynski will battle for that role with Jackson Cates and Morgan Frost. Considering Patrick’s performance this season, an open position battle before faceoff weekend seems fair.

Laczynski could work well with Oskar Lindblom, who is a goal scorer. If Nicolas Aube-Kubel goes to the Seattle Kraken, the Flyers could sign someone like Wayne Simmonds from free agency. Suddenly, the bottom-six has improved while remaining inexpensive. Laczynski needs to keep healthy.

Jackson Cates (C-)

Comparably, Jackson Cates is more of a scoring threat than Tanner Laczynski. He’ll join Laczynski in the chase for Nolan Patrick’s spot in 2021-2022 (again, if he leaves.)

Cates notched an assist against the New Jersey Devils but sacrificed his two-hundred-foot game.

For that reason, Cates isn’t an odds-on-favorite to battle for the 4C role next season. Alain Vigneault stressed, above all else, that his forwards play “the right way.” Within his system, that means excellence in the offensive zone and neutral zone, with or without the puck. He didn’t sign his entry-level contract until the tail end of the regular season. Expect Cates to further develop with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms throughout 2021-2022.

Nolan Patrick (D-)

The only reason he isn’t receiving an F-grade is because of his return to full-contact hockey after battling a migraine disorder. His minus-thirty rating was among the worst in the entire league. Combined with his productivity, he may have been the worst center in the NHL.

Again, context is crucial. Eric Staal, who had the same plus-minus rating as Nolan Patrick, didn’t come back from missing an entire NHL season due to his health. Staal received $3.25mil. At least Chuck Fletcher was aware enough to settle under a million with Patrick.

Alain Vigneault and Fletcher still have faith in Patrick. They both want him back next season, but does Patrick want to keep pushing his luck with the Philadelphia Flyers?

When he has a regularly scheduled offseason to work with, Patrick is immensely better than his 2020-2021 season dictates.

Jakub Voracek (B)

Finally, we’ve arrived at the third man tied for the team lead in scoring. Jakub Voracek was serving hot dishes on the ice and the microphone in 2020-2021. Not only did he lead the team in jabs taken at the media in press conferences, but he also was the top playmaker on the Philadelphia Flyers.

Relative to his career, Voracek paced as he did during his final season with Dave Hakstol and Scott Gordon. Every other season, for the past six years, he’s fluctuated defensively. With 2020-2021 behind him, Voracek will bounce back if his trend continues. Another one who will benefit from a complete offseason, expect another reliable season from the veteran core with extensions from Joel Farabee.

The Flyers veteran group kept mentoring young players during a nightmare season. From that, specifically the bond between Voracek, Farabee, and Konecny, the forwards are on pace to bounce back from a collectively underachieving season.

Travis Konecny (B-)

Firstly, it’s right to acknowledge that Travis Konecny has improved his two-hundred-foot game. It’s why he is batting out of the C-grade range.

A season ago, Konecny led the Philadelphia Flyers in team scoring. This season, he was on the cusp of the top five. Comparably, Konecny has become a more well-rounded player in Alain Vigneault’s system.

Vigneault listed Konecny as a healthy scratch because he wanted him to focus on “the right way” to play.

Once he found his new footing, the offensive production found its way for Konecny. Eight times, he scored multiple points in a game. The breakthrough was that Konecny forced more takeaways than turnovers. Next season could be the light at the end of the dark 2020-2021 tunnel.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel (D)

Similar to Tanner Laczynski, Nicolas Aube-Kubel brought a spark to the ice as a forward. He played the most games of any season throughout his three-year career, regressing marginally from last season. Overall, Aube-Kubel had lackluster numbers, scoring the unexpected goal.

Physicality was the name of Aube-Kubel’s game. He totaled 120 hits, but his penalty minutes spiked because of his physical style, mostly exposing the awful Philadelphia Flyers penalty kill. Unfortunately, Aube-Kubel hurt the team’s play. His brand is a reminder of how undisciplined play can destroy a season.

Most other metrics depreciated. For the first time, Aube-Kubel turned the puck over more often and finished with a minus rating. Some penalties he took were reminiscent of Zac Rinaldo. He has another year left on his contract, entering his potential final year with the Flyers in 2021-2022. Aube-Kubel is also a prime candidate available to the Seattle Kraken.