Hi folks! I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is another week has gone by. The bad news is that we still find ourselves in the depths of August. About a month and a half to go before it’s hockey time again. In the mean time, I had a nice little chat with Kelly Hinkle (@hinx), an Associate Editor over at Broad Street Hockey (@broadsthockey) where she covers all things Philadelphia Flyers related. Huge thanks to Kelly for taking the time out of her summer to answer some questions and provide so great insight!
Professor Oak: Looking back to the 2017 draft lottery, the Philadelphia Flyers were fortunate enough to win the second pick. With that they selected Nolan Patrick. He put up a 13-17-30 score line in 72 games. To someone who may not have watched him much or at all, that may seem to be below expectations for a second overall pick. What can you tell us about his season least year, his progression and what you may expect from him this year?
Kelly Hinkle: So if you just look at the numbers, yeah, on their face they may seem a bit lower than you’d want for a second overall pick. However, the most important thing to note is that Patrick was recovering from his core muscle injury surgery for the first half of the season. It impacted his game for sure, and once we got to the second half of the season I think we saw a more accurate picture of what we should expect from Nolan Patrick going forward. In the first half of the season he was scoring at a pace of about .24 PPG, which is, to be blunt, awful. But in his final 44 games he was up to .52 PPG and was a noticeable force on the ice. Given the way that he turned it on in the back half of last season and that this offseason was his first healthy offseason in years, I’m expecting a lot from him this season. Wouldn’t be surprised if he gets very near that point-per-game mark.
PO: It appears that Ivan Provorov doesn’t know what a sophomore slump is as he exploded onto the scene with 17 goals, 24 assists and 41 points. What should Avs fans fear when they watch the Avalanche play the Flyers twice next year? In what areas do you think Provorov should continue to grow?
KH: Ivan Provorov is so darn good, haha. I really don’t know how else to say it. Kid’s a legitimate #1 defenseman. When the Avs meet the Flyers you should expect to see Provy on the ice for the majority of the game against your top players. You should expect that he’ll do pretty well shutting them down and might even factor in on a couple of goals for the Flyers, given how good he is at breaking the puck out of his own zone. More than anything, he’s just fun to watch, regardless of who you’re rooting for.
PO: The Flyers made the playoffs finishing third in their division with 98 points. What was the key (or keys) to the season and what worries you moving forward?
KH: The keys to the Flyers’ success last season were the breakout year for Sean Couturier and the career bounce-back year for Claude Giroux. The two of them were a joy to watch last year and they are the reason they Flyers found themselves back in the playoffs. What worries me for this year is the fact that we can’t expect that duo to repeat their performances from last year, but hopefully the addition of JVR will allow the team to find some balance scoring-wise.
PO: The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in a peculiar series that went 6 games but only saw one game that I would consider close. What type of factor does this rivalry play in a playoff series like this, not only for the players, but for the fans as well?
KH: I think the rivalry makes things more fun for the fans, but I’m not sure it impacts the players too much. And from the Penguins side, I’m not sure it’s a factor at all. They’re coming off two Cups and the Flyers are barely a playoff team.
PO: What do the Flyers need to do (or what have they done) in order to get deeper into the playoffs?
KH: They need their coach to ice the best possible lineup. Dave Hakstol made some odd choices in that Pens series, from moving Travis Konecny off of the top line in favor of Michael Raffl to deciding that Travis Sanheim should be in the AHL. It wasn’t the optimal lineup and that showed on the ice. If the Flyers are going to really make a push, they need to maximize the talent on the ice rather than relying on role players who don’t contribute. Jori Lehtera comes to mind.
PO: The Colorado Avalanche surprised the NHL world last year by not only having a fairly successful season, but getting into the playoffs in a win-and-in game against the St. Louis Blues last year. What did you see as they keys to their success and where do you think they need to get better?
KH: From the outside, it seemed as though the team being able to finally move on from the Duchene drama played a big part in the team being able to focus on winning games and getting things done on the ice. Scoring was way up and obviously that MVP-caliber performance from MacKinnon was a huge part of the improvement. Getting Grubauer should improve the goaltending so if scoring stays consistent you guys might be a fun team to watch this year.
PO: During the draft, the Avalanche traded a 2nd round pick for Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik (who was bought out). What have you seen and what can we expect from Grubauer?
KH: I think this was a great pickup for you guys. Grubauer has always been fairly good with the Caps and was at times better than Holtby. I think he’s a very solid goaltender and will give your team a chance to win every night, which is what you need. Given Varlamov’s injury history he’s got a shot at being number one, and if he’s playing for that job I think you should expect good things.
PO: The Avalanche signed Matt Calvert and Ian Cole to three year deals during free agency. What insights can you provide on these players?
KH: I was never a big Ian Cole fan during his time with the Penguins. I think he’s one of those “just okay” NHL defensemen whose reputation is a bit inflated because he was on those Cup winning teams. Matt Calvert also never particularly impressed me, but sometimes a change of venue sparks something in these guys and they find another gear. Could happen here.
PO: Lastly, what can we expect from the Avalanche for the upcoming year?
KH: I would personally expect them to build on the improvements they made last year and sneak into the playoffs. The Central is a tough division so it’ll probably be a wild card spot, but who cares, right? Once you get in anything can happen. I think it’ll be a fun year for you guys.