The New York Islanders will be competing in a slightly altered division when the NHL season begins in under two weeks. Leading up to opening night, I’ll be looking at how the Islanders’ roster compares to other teams in the East Division. In yesterday’s article, we looked at how the Islanders compare to the New York Rangers, which you can read here.
In today’s article, we’ll compare how the Islanders could fare against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Travis Konecny had a huge year last season with the Flyers, while Sean Couturier has carried a pace of at least 70 points (per 82 games) in each of the last three seasons.
Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek could be nearing a decline but each player can still likely be counted on for around 65 points. Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk are solid pieces as well, while Scott Laughton took a step last season and Joel Farabee should continue his development this year. Oskar Lindblom should be an impact player as well and Nolan Patrick will also be returning, which could provide a boost to the forward group.
While I don’t think there’s a huge gap here, the Flyers do have more to work with at the top of their lineup. The Islanders have solid center depth with Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau but the Flyers should get more production from their wingers.
Ivan Provorov should play a key role for the Flyers once again this season but a couple defensemen will have to step up, after Matt Niskanen, who was playing the second-most minutes of any Flyers defenseman, retired in the offseason. Travis Sanheim is a good young defender, while Justin Braun will continue to provide defensive stability. Shayne Gostisbehere is now in a reduced role but will provide solid depth, while Erik Gustafsson can add offense and Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers will complete the group.
The losses of Devon Toews and Johnny Boychuk could potentially weaken New York’s defense group but the blue line will still certainly remain a strength for the team. Ryan Pulock is a great all-around defender, while fellow top-four members Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield are strong defensively. Nick Leddy and Andy Greene provide strong depth, while Noah Dobson will only get better. Overall, both teams have a strong defense group and it’s a fairly even comparison.
The Flyers have one of the best young goaltenders in the league, in Carter Hart. He did only have a .914 save percentage last season, which is identical to Semyon Varlamov’s 2019-20 save percentage, but we should expect him to only get better as continues to get more comfortable in the NHL. Another factor is Ilya Sorokin. We can’t be sure Sorokin will be a star in the NHL the way he has been in Russia but all signs are pointing in the right direction. For the Flyers, Brian Elliott also doesn’t make for an excellent backup, having posted an .899 save percentage last season. Overall, the goaltending battle for the upcoming season could be fairly even.
On paper, Philadelphia’s forward group could give them the edge to finish ahead of the Islanders in the standings again this season but the teams are fairly evenly matched overall (as we saw in the second round of the playoffs). We know the East Division will be tough and we should expect some close games between these two teams.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussions will be posted in a future article):
Do you think the Islanders will finish ahead of the Flyers in the standings this season?