Grading the 2021-2022 Flyers: Defensemen and Goaltenders

Flyers' Travis Sanheim
Flyers’ Travis Sanheim (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

Completing the evaluation of the 2021-2022 Philadelphia Flyers, here are the grades for the defensemen and goaltenders. To keep a fair sample size, this focuses on the players who dressed for half of the season or more.

Related: 2021-2022 Philadelphia Flyers Forward Grades

Travis Sanheim: B+

One of the only players on the roster who improved his play throughout the season, Sanheim did struggle in October but then shined in the following months.

Sanheim paired well-enough with Rasmus Ristolainen, on the way to tying the points lead amongst the Flyers defensemen with 31pts (7G, 24A.) He finished with a +9 rating, the only defenseman to be on the positive end. Sanheim solidified his role as a top-four defenseman.

He took home the Barry Ashbee Trophy and the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy for the Flyers this season.

Carter Hart: B

Stats-wise, Hart wasn’t fantastic. He went 13-24-7 in 45 games, with a 90.5%SV and a 3.16GAA. Hart held his own behind one of the worst defenses.

Any goaltender would’ve struggled between the pipes for Philadelphia in 2021-2022, but Hart did everything in his power to remain competitive. He mentioned that he needs to be better next year during the Flyers’ Break Up Day, but he did take a positive step forward. His game did start to slide towards the end of the season, dealing with injuries, before getting shut down for the rest of the season.

Hart is the franchise goaltender of the organization. He showed resilience in 2021-2022, which was an improvement from 2020-2021.

Ivan Provorov: C

Provorov wasn’t all bad during the season, but there times where he didn’t look comfortable. Partnered alongside Justin Braun for most of the season didn’t help elevate his game. Provorov is a puck-moving, two-way defenseman, and Braun doesn’t complement the top pair.

Mike Yeo removed Provorov from the powerplay during the second half of the season. He almost always plays top pair minutes since 2016, but this season, he looked like a second pair defenseman for a spell.

Paired with Ryan Ellis, Provorov seemed dialed in. Both Ellis and Provorov complement each other and Philadelphia had a defense temporarily. When Ellis left following a season-ending injury, the defense became unbalanced.

Provorov still averaged 24:53 per game and was tied with Travis Sanheim for the most points of defense. His reliance on a top-pair partner who complements his game is a concern, however. If Ellis is healthy in 2022-2023, Provorov could notch 40pts. If not, there needs to be a backup plan.

Martin Jones: C

Along with Hart, Jones’ stats weren’t great either. Jones went 12-18-3, including a 90%SV, and a 3.42GAA. Again, the bad defense didn’t help out either goaltender this season.

Jones, in his role, did a solid job with the cards he was dealt. He was another mentor to Hart and a decent backup.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Flyers extend Jones, or if they’ll defer to Ivan Fedotov and Felix Sandstrom during training camp. The backup goaltender decision is critical ahead of 2022-2023.

Rasmus Ristolainen: C-

His arrival to Philadelphia was meant to be a change of scenery. A new team meant a new start. Ristolainen wasn’t all bad, but he wasn’t worth the price of the trade.

Ristolainen totaled 16pts (2G, 14A) in 66 games played during his first Flyers season. He posted four consecutive 40pt seasons with the Buffalo Sabres from 2015-2019, but regressed during his first season in Philadelphia. To be fair, so did most of the roster.

Without question, Ristolainen brings the physicality. Every night, he threw his weight and his teammates loved it. Ristolainen was at his best this season with Sanheim. Sanheim felt comfortable with Ristolainen, praising him during the 2021-2022 Flyers Break Up Day.

As much as he hits, he had a rough time with defensive positioning. Often, he was the culprit of poor net-front coverage and losing skaters in the defensive zone, resulting in an overall lack of defensive awareness. He’s mostly the same player he was for the Sabres. Nevertheless, Chuck Fletcher offered a lengthy new contract extension.

Nick Seeler: D

Seeler recently signed a two-year extension. He’s a seventh defenseman who played 43 games this season to a tune of 3pts (1G, 2A) and a -3 rating.

He should only see ice time in 2022-2023 if there is an injury, requiring a veteran call up while Yegor Zamula and Linus Hogberg further develop with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Justin Braun: D

Before heading to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, Braun was featured on the top-pair with Provorov. He was meant to stick on the third-pair with Keith Yandle.

Ellis’ injury adversely affected the defense, and pairing Braun with Provorov was a ripple effect. Braun wasn’t terrible, tying his career-high in goals (5) during his 61 games. He shouldn’t ever be a top pair defenseman at this stage of his career, and his grade would be higher if he were allowed to compete in his expected role.

Keith Yandle: F

Unfortunately, he was the worst of an awful defense. Yandle did play 989 consecutive games, earning his ironman streak, but it wasn’t because his performances earned him the ice time in 2021-2022. Beloved in the locker room, Yandle is in the dog days of his playing career. If there wasn’t a consecutive game streak to chase, Yandle would’ve been scratched before he was on April 2nd, 2022 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Honorable Mention – Cam York: C+

York played in 30 games this year and scored 10pts (3G, 7A.) Many expected York to be recalled earlier, but he stayed with the Phantoms for longer than expected.

His development paid off, landing on the top-pair with Provorov.

He’ll be a part of the defensive core in Philadelphia with the potential to grow into a solid top-four defenseman. If Ellis isn’t ready for the start of next season, a pairing featuring Provorov and York is a good buffer.

(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

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