The Philadelphia Flyers are 21-21-9 heading into the NHL All-Star break. Sitting with a .500 record, they are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and six points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia began to sink but is playing better than anticipated. Still struggling against the NHL’s elite teams, the Flyers are holding their own against teams in the middle of the standings. They’re still in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, but the image of Bedard donning a Flyers sweater appears unlikely.
John Tortorella behind the bench has given management and the fans a sense of what players appear to be a part of Philadelphia’s solution and who will likely be on the way out. Since we’re at the halfway point of the season, here are the mid-season grades for the Flyers’ defenseman and goalies.
Carter Hart: A
Aside from Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes, Carter Hart is among the most valuable players for the Flyers. The 24-year-old franchise goaltender took a step forward after struggling the previous two seasons.
The Flyers’ defense is more structured this season. Not perfect, but Hart is reaping the benefits. He has fifteen wins already, beating his total of the previous two seasons. He recorded his first shutout this season last Saturday against the Jets and won four games while making 40+ saves. While the defense is not perfect by any means, it’s in a better position than last season.
Stats aside, Hart has been passing the eye test with flying colors. He makes flashy saves every game and keeps the Flyers alive when opponents try to take over. Without Hart, the Flyers would be much further down in the standings.
Samuel Ersson: B
Even though Samuel Ersson is back with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, his stints between the pipes in Philadelphia were spectacular.
After impressing during training camp, Ersson appeared to be the favorite, but Felix Sandstrom won the decision. After an illness struck Sandstrom in December, Ersson was called up and thrived.
In six starts, Ersson is 5-0-0 (.918SV%, 2.37GAA). He has one shutout with fifteen goals against. Ersson appears to be the future backup for Hart, but Sandstrom owns the position due to his waiver status.
Cam York: B
After not making the Flyers’ opening night roster, Cam York was called back up in early December. Playing in 24 games and seeing a substantial amount of time on the top pair, York is an example of how a stint in the AHL can benefit a young player.
York has 11 points (1G, 10A), beating last year’s total (10) in six fewer games. York has taken some unnecessary penalties at times, but his defensive awareness and positioning have mightily improved since his disappointing preseason. He’s finding stability alongside Ivan Provorov, helping him gain maturity in the NHL.
Nick Seeler: C+
Nick Seeler has exceeded all expectations this year. As a depth defenseman, his role is limited, but he’s been solid on the third pair. He’s been driving play at times, setting a new career high in points already with nine (3G, 6A).
Seeler’s physicality is present each night. By adding some offense into his game this year, he’s rounded out his skill set. Seeler knows his role on the team, and he’s checked all the boxes this year of what a depth defenseman should do, night in and night out.
Ivan Provorov: C+
Ivan Provorov needed a bounce-back season. After two disappointing previous campaigns, the former seventh-overall draft pick wasn’t living up to his potential. Lacking a stable pair partner hasn’t helped Provorov, but he shouldn’t need to rely on someone else to elevate his game.
Despite trade rumors surrounding Provorov, he has elevated his game of late. He found himself back on the powerplay after starting the year away from the unit, and he’s found some minor chemistry with Tony DeAngelo, even though York seems to gel with him better.
His defense continues to look the same as they have for the past three seasons, but he has made minor strides this year. Provorov is a trade target for potential contending teams as the deadline approaches, but Tortorella and management will decide if he is part of Philadelphia’s future.
Rasmus Ristolainen: C+
Rasmus Ristolainen did not have a great start to 2022-2023, and he acknowledged that in the victory over the Winnipeg Jets last Saturday. However, since the new year, Ristolainen has been one of the Flyers’ most exciting defensemen to watch.
He scored his first goal of the season on January 17th, 2023, against the Anaheim Ducks and has had seven points in seven games (2G, 5A) since then. His defense awareness and positioning have improved under the leadership of Tortorella and Brad Shaw, and he’s now regaining his offense. Ristolainen had four consecutive 40+ point seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Consistency will be critical for Ristolainen in the second half.
Tony DeAngelo: C-
Tony DeAngelo was the Flyers’ biggest player transaction last summer. Being acquired via trade on the second day of the 2022 draft, DeAngelo was brought in to upgrade the powerplay and find chemistry alongside Provorov.
DeAngelo is usually a frequent name on the scoresheet; they 30 points (9G, 21A) in 46 games. He had a strong season in 2021-2022 with the Carolina Hurricanes paired alongside Jaccob Slavin, but coming into Philadelphia, it was expected that DeAngelo could take a step backward.
His defense has been lackluster at times, which put Philadelphia in vulnerable positions. His offense bloomed recently, however. DeAngelo hasn’t been bad offensively; he just hasn’t proved to be the difference-maker on the blue line worth the Flyers’ future draft picks.
Travis Sanheim: C-
The Flyers inked Travis Sanheim to an 8-year/$50 million contract on opening night. He blossomed in 2021-22, which earned him a hefty payday. However, Sanheim has taken a step backward this year.
In 51 games played, Sanheim had 15 points (4G, 11A). He was aggressive last season and took risks that elevated his play. This season, he’s been more conservative. His ice time has decreased by over two minutes from last year, and his offense has lacked.
Sanheim is clearly in the Flyers’ plans due to his extension, but if he wants to be a focal part of the solution, he needs a consistent second half.
Justin Braun: D
Justin Braun has been a healthy scratch for the majority of the season. He has yet to register a point in 34 games played. On a one-year contract, Braun could be a player shipped out at the deadline. Last year, he was moved to the New York Rangers before being re-signed by the Flyers on the first day of free agency.
Felix Sandstrom: D
Sandstrom has held his ground between the pipes, but Ersson has outplayed him by a large margin. Sandstrom has one win in nine starts, along with a .886SV% and 3.45GAA. He’s made flashy saves but has had one or more pucks get by him that should’ve been saved.
Sandstrom can develop into a solid backup, but as of right now, Ersson has the advantage even though he’s in the AHL.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)