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Projecting the Philadelphia Flyers’ Future Top 2 Forward Lines


The Philadelphia Flyers are on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2019-20 in a season deemed a rebuilding one for general manager (GM) Daniel Briere in his inaugural season in the position for the Orange and Black. As exciting as that is, the main focus has to be on the future.

As is, the Flyers are in a decent position to compete for a Stanley Cup down the line. But their job isn’t entirely done yet, and some big moves still need to be made. Generally, teams that do win championships have a lethal top-six forward group. What could that look like for Philadelphia?

Stacking the First Line

Typically, Stanley Cup teams will have great first lines. The Colorado Avalanche featured stars Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on it when they went the distance in 2022, while the Tampa Bay Lightning had both Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in both 2020 and 2021 when they won back-to-back championships. The Vegas Golden Knights had Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault in 2023 when they won, which is a slight step down but still fairly notable. Do the Flyers have what it takes to replicate that?

Left Wing: Tyson Foerster

Now, it is very rare for a first-line to have an elite player everywhere. But it is still essential to have those who can complement stars. A player who could end up serving as this is Tyson Foerster. The youngster is having a solid age-22 season, scoring at a 39-point pace if he were to have played all 82 games. For reference, that is within 10 points of what Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn, and Joel Farabee had in terms of point pace in their age-22 campaigns while being ahead of what Sean Couturier did.

The big thing to recognize with Foerster is that he is, objectively, more talented than his numbers say he is. He has taken on a forechecking role offensively for the Flyers, showing head coach John Tortorella that he can be used in various situations. He has made his talents evident when that leash is taken off of him. He has a world-class shot, great size, and decent skating ability to go along with that — the last of which was seen as a major downside in the drafting process.

If Foerster weren’t forced to play defensively, he would probably have better point totals than most of those players mentioned, and all of them ended up becoming top-six forwards in their prime. Many great first lines have a good defensive player on it, so he has that in his bag. He could be a formidable option with a great offensive skill set to go along with that.

Center: N/A

As of now, the Flyers don’t have their first-line centerman. Just looking at some of the centers on the aforementioned championship teams, all are stars. Perhaps all three of them could end up in the Hall of Fame. For almost every champion, the center has been quite the player.

Related: How Can the Flyers Add High-End Talent to the Roster?

There are a few ways the Flyers can get this type of player, but it will essentially come down to their drafting ability or the perfect player being available in either trade or free agency. The latter two seem relatively unlikely, as the last center before Eichel to have that kind of availability and be that caliber of player was Ryan O’Reilly before the 2018-19 season when he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. Even he hasn’t had a prime quite as good as Eichel’s.

So, the natural solution to getting a high-end center would be through the draft. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it’s the likely option. Now, the Flyers don’t have to sell their souls and finish with an awful record to get one, but it would make things a lot easier.

How the Flyers get their future center is yet to be determined, but they must be great players. Stanley Cup teams are the best they have been in the history of the NHL — anything less than a low-end superstar centerman is usually not met with a championship. It has to be a priority, and that cannot be understated.

Right Wing: Matvei Michkov

Getting to the player that gives the most hope for the Flyers, 19-year-old Matvei Michkov emerges. He has lived up to his “seventh-overall steal” hype in his first post-draft season and much more. In the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), he was two points shy of the all-time age-19 scoring record set by Kirill Kaprizov in 2016-17. With 41 points in 48 games, he was ahead of future NHL stars such as Evgeny Kuznetsov, Pavel Buchnevich, Artemi Panarin, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Michkov’s shooting was a big reason he has always been viewed so highly, but his overall offensive game has been a treat to watch. He can be a star creator on top of being an elite finisher, and that’s what makes him so special. Sure, he sometimes cheats defensively, but almost every superstar does the same thing. He’s a special player, no doubt. His ceiling could be through the roof, while his floor appears to be star-level regardless, based on other notable KHL players.

Matvei Michkov Philadelphia Flyers
Matvei Michkov of the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now, there’s no denying that Michkov is a fantastic player currently. He could even end up being one of the best players in Flyers’ history if everything goes right. But to win a championship, more is needed. He could be unstoppable if he can get that top-line center alongside him.

A Piece Away From an Elite Second Line

Regarding a second line, there are looser criteria for what qualifies to win a championship. Recent Stanley Cup teams like the Lightning and Golden Knights have featured stars such as Steven Stamkos and Mark Stone. The good news for the Flyers is that they already have the blueprint for a great one.

Left Wing: N/A

As of now, the Flyers’ right-wing talent vastly outweighs their left-wingers. Players like Bobby Brink, Samu Tuomaala, and Denver Barkey won’t even be featured in the top six, and each of them primarily plays on the right wing. Farabee, 24, could end up being the star left wing that the Flyers need, but he’s in the same predicament as the first-line center: it should be a cream-of-the-crop athlete.

While a superstar center might not be available in free agency or through trade very often, a star winger might be. Free-agent left-wingers for just the next three seasons could potentially include Jake Guentzel, Kyle Connor, Panarin, and Kaprizov, to name a few. These players wouldn’t necessarily be available as their teams would be unwise to let them go, but the free-agent market is always available.

Trading for an elite second-line player is quite plausible, too. Stone himself was a trade piece that the Ottawa Senators gifted the Golden Knights in 2018-19. Luck plays a factor, but these trades aren’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence like they are for a centerman.

An elite player would, in theory, take the Flyers over the hump from playoff contender to Stanley Cup contender. Whether the Flyers draft or acquire them in another way, said player could be huge for Philadelphia.

Center: Morgan Frost

It didn’t always seem like it, but 24-year-old Morgan Frost is starting to become something pretty special. He might never become an elite first-liner, but he does have what it takes to be a force on the second. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring first half of the season for him, offensively speaking, but the second half has been that and more. In 30 games since the latter half of the season began, he has five goals and 15 primary assists for 25 total points.

Over an entire season, that would put Frost at 68 points, averaging just over 16 minutes of ice time. That’s elite stuff from a player with that ice time, so maintaining that pace would make him a primary candidate to be the second-line center.

Morgan Frost Philadelphia Flyers
Morgan Frost of the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Beyond the numbers, Frost is just a great player. He is one of few Flyers who can actually generate for his teammates, as evidenced by his absurd primary assist total in his last 30 games, which, notably, are tied for 12th in the NHL in that span.

Frost is the perfect second-line center at this stage. He might not be big or hit often, but he gets solid defensive results and can set up teammates for quality looks. His game has only improved with time, and it’s especially inspiring that he plays his best against contenders. In 20 contests against the top-10 teams in the NHL, he has 15 points and a plus-9 rating. That could very well correlate to playoff success, too.

Right Wing: Owen Tippett/Travis Konecny

As for the right-wing, Owen Tippett would be a great linemate for Frost, backed up by their fantastic on-ice numbers. Tippett has 12 goals, seven primary assists, and 23 total points in 26 second-half games, putting him on pace for 73 points in an entire 82-game season. Doing so in primarily second-line minutes with the NHL’s worst power play is more than second-line material.

Tippett is 25 years old, so he’s not particularly young, but if he can build off of what he has done in the second half of 2023-24, that would be great for his future. Seventy points for a second-line player is borderline elite as is. If he has another great linemate and can finally have a usable power play (it has been the worst in the league during each of his three seasons as a Flyer), that might not be too challenging for him. He could end up being a high-end second-liner when all is said and done based on stats and his raw talent alike.

Finishing off, it’s important to note that while Travis Konecny is a great player currently for the Flyers, he is 27 and plays a game that could end up losing favor due to father time. He scores a large majority of his goals in transition, which is an ability that generally declines with age. By the time Michkov is in his prime, which would likely be around his age-26 season as it is for a lot of NHL players, Konecny would be 34 by the end of that campaign. For reference, that is the same age as Cam Atkinson — age has not been kind to him in his 2023-24 campaign.

However, Konecny has 24 points in 24 games in the second half of the season and is on track to lead the Flyers in points for the fourth time in his last five seasons. With risk comes a major reward.

When choosing between Konecny and Tippett, the two-year age difference might not seem too significant, but Atkinson was a solid second-line player at 32. At the same time, he arguably hasn’t been NHL material this season. That’s the harsh reality of age. Tippett’s youth could work in his favor, but Konecny’s stardom could work in his. Only time will tell.

The Flyers have many good players, so an all-out search to blow up the top six probably won’t be necessary. While the Orange and Black are likely missing a couple of huge pieces, the overall outlook is optimistic. The path toward being a contender is within reach—it will take boldness to make that happen.

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