2023-2024 Flyers Midseason Grades: Defensemen and Goalies

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Flyers' Travis Sanheim
Philadelphia Flyers’ Travis Sanheim, left, and Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook collide during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Addition by subtraction contributed to the success of the Philadelphia Flyers (24-14-6). It’s not purely on the forwards, but the backend and goaltenders are as stable.

On Monday, the forwards received their midseason grades. Now, it’s all about the defensemen and goaltenders.

Travis Sanheim: B+

It wasn’t long ago that Travis Sanheim was linked to the St. Louis Blues, per trade rumors. If Torey Krug decided to waive his no-trade clause to go to Philadelphia, Sanheim would play hockey in St. Louis. However, Krug did not, and Sanheim remains with the Flyers. Looking back, Krug dismissing Philadelphia was the best possible decision.

He could’ve taken the potential trade to heart, but Sanheim used it as motivation. He is the most impressive player on the Flyers this season by far. His eight-year extension was activated this season, and Sanheim has 25 points (4G, 21A) in 43 games. He averages 24:25 minutes per game, the most ice time of his career.

Last season, he didn’t click with John Tortorella. Now, he earned the trust of his head coach by surfing up on offense; listening, and executing the finer details to accentuate his game.

After the departure of Ivan Provorov, Sanheim knew he had to step up into a heavier, more reliable role and is delivering.

Samuel Ersson: B+

Goaltending in the NHL isn’t what it used to be. It’s rare for teams to have a certified starting goaltender and a designated backup. Most teams have two stable goaltenders who share the heavy load of a regular season schedule.

Carter Hart seems like the starting goaltender, but Sam Ersson remains impressive, exploding this season. So far, Ersson played 19 games, starting 18, with an 11-5-3 record and a 2.33GAA with a 91%SV.

Ersson shut out the Winnipeg Jets last Saturday, 2-0, and is a critical reason the Flyers are successful in stretches. When Hart is out of the lineup or simply not the starter, Ersson elevates his game and usually puts on a show. In all, Ersson has three shutout performances and is undefeated in the shootout. He could be the featured goaltender on another NHL team, but Ersson and Hart are the most stable goaltending duo Philadelphia had in a long time.

Carter Hart: B

Hart appeared in 25 games, starting 24, and has a 12-8-3 record with a 2.67GAA and 91.2%SV. He missed some time due to an illness, but when healthy, he helps steal wins.

In the final year of his contract, there haven’t been any rumblings regarding his future in Philadelphia. The new front office likes keeping things quiet, but rumors previously swirled about Hart; he has a lot of value.

One thing the Flyers have is incredible goaltending depth. Alexei Kolosov has the potential to be an impressive NHL goaltender. Carson Bjarnason and Yegor Zavragin are brand new in the pipeline.

The 2022-2024 span is the best hockey Hart has played since before the COVID-19 era when we saw a drastic change in his performance. He’s been the backbone of this team in the turnover, and a contract extension seems to be the likely reality.

Sean Walker: B

Coming to Philadelphia when Provorov was dealt transformed Sean Walker‘s career. On the Los Angeles Kings, he experienced some success, but a change of scenery rejuvenated Walker.

In 44 games, Walker has 15 points (4G, 11A). He is a great skater and fits the style Brad Shaw and Tortorella demand.

Right-handed, puck-moving defensemen are a high commodity in the NHL. Walker draws interest from teams looking to add a right-handed defenseman to their blue line. After adding Jamie Drysdale by trading Cutter Gauthier to the Anaheim Ducks, Walker could become trade bait at the deadline if the right offer crosses Daniel Briere.

Cam York: B

Cam York averages 22:18 of ice time per game, second among the defense. It’s well deserved. He has 15 points (5G, 10A) in 44 games, setting the bar for his trajectory in his first full NHL season.

Under Tortorella, York is beginning to flourish. Last season, he didn’t make the opening night roster. Tortorella challenged him to become a game-changer in the AHL.

York plays a steady game, skates smoothly, and moves the puck with emphasis. York proved his NHL capability, gelled with Sanheim, and can do the same with Drysdale.

Egor Zamula: B-

Egor Zamula made immense strides in his growth this season. His NHL outlook seemed unclear, but he’s finding his place.

Zamula has 12 points (3G, 9A) in 35 games, but his improvement is noticeable. Tortorella gave Zamula an opportunity on the powerplay, evidence of the coaching staff’s trust. There are growing pains, but he is capitalizing on his chances.

Nick Seeler: C+

Nick Seeler is another name thrown around in trade rumors. He plays an important role as a locker room leader. Seeler is beloved and embraces what it means to be a Flyer at its core, like Garnet Hathaway and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Seeler competes hard and is a shot-blocking machine, ranking fifth in the NHL with 120 shots blocked. He will need a new contract at the end of the season, but he’ll be an intriguing name to watch as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches.

Rasmus Ristolainen: C-

Rasmus Ristolainen improved under Shaw and Tortorella. Instead of looking for the big hit, there is more emphasis on his positioning and overall defensive structure.

Ristolainen only played 24 games this season, averaging 17:10 on the ice, primarily on the third pair. He hasn’t been on the opening night roster since joining the Flyers for Robert Hagg and a pair of draft picks (2021 first-round, 2023 second-round).

He is a right-handed defenseman. It’s not out of the question that Ristolainen could receive interest from other teams willing to take on his contract or facilitate money with a third party.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)