Fast start means gold-star grades for improving Flyers

James van Riemsdyk

In these different times, report cards might not be what they once were but when it comes to the Flyers, we’re old-fashioned.

The first quarter of their season (14 games in the abbreviated 56-game campaign) ended with Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, so it’s time to hand out our grades for the Flyers’ play to date.

PLAYERS

>**A+** — James van Riemsdyk: Off to the fastest start of his career, leading the team in scoring. His deflection goals around the net are nothing short of uncanny.

>**A** — Ivan Provorov: Never misses a game and plays nearly half of all the ones he does compete in. On current career path, will someday rank with Flyers defense legends Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins.

>**A** — Scott Laughton: Always a solid defensive player, recent hat trick and clutch goals show he’s a two-way threat.

>**A** — Joel Farabee: Heads into Sunday’s game tied with JVR for team lead in goals with seven. He can play any line and has built a trust with coaching staff.

>**A** — Philippe Myers: Picking up where he left off last year when he led the team in plus-minus (plus-17). Owns a great shot, needs to use it more.

>**A-** — Brian Elliott: It’s not just what the goalie brings on the ice (3-1-0, 2.19 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) but what he brings off it as excellent mentor for Carter Hart.

>**B+** — Kevin Hayes: Has played invaluable role keeping the team “loose’’ (laughter) during the pandemic. On the ice, he might take a chance or two but those often pay off.

>**B+** — Carter Hart: While there have been ups and downs, he appears to be trending in right direction. Save percentage hovering around .900 and should be 10 to 15 points higher.

>**B+** — Travis Sanheim: Like they say, you can’t coach skating speed and skill. Has shown he can play with a variety of partners and improving on when to join the rush.

>**B** — Claude Giroux: Only one goal through first 13 games a bit disappointing but continues to play well at both ends of rink. The 56.2 faceoff percentage among league leaders.

>**B** — Travis Konecny: Started off fast with that hat trick in second game but has cooled since and was benched for a game. As long as he’s dependable defensively, he’s not a liability.

>**B** — Michael Raffl: High hockey IQ. Tireless on penalty kill. He understands how an effective forecheck can have great impact on a game.

>**B** — Robert Hagg: Continues to be a leader in blocked shots and hits. Never complains about being a platoon player.

>**B-** — Jake Voracek: He’s always effective on the power play but should have more than three goals. Fiery leader who can fit in on any top line.

>**C+** — Nolan Patrick: Considering he missed an entire season, he’s performed very well. Just staying healthy will be first priority; the rest should follow.

>**C+** — Oskar Lindblom: Pretty much the same as Patrick. Overcoming Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, is quite remarkable. He’s still working his way back to top level of fitness, strength, etc.

>**C+** — Connor Bunnaman: Versatile, plays with a physical edge and well-liked by teammates and coaches.

>**C** — Justin Braun: Steady as they come. With Matt Niskanen retired, he’s a valuable mentor to a young defense corps.

>**C+** — Shayne Gostisbehere: Coming off knee surgeries and a COVID-19 battle, “Ghost’’ is starting to show his old form. The trade rumors persist.

>**C+ — Nicolas Aube-Kubel: Probably would do more damage if he skated on a top line but his rugged style gives the Flyers a physical presence.

>**C** — Erik Gustafsson: The former free-agent defenseman still getting accustomed to Flyers’ system. Has shown he can be an effective power-play point man.

>**INCOMPLETE:** Sean Couturier, Samuel Morin, David Kase, Maksim Sushko, Andy Andreoff, Morgan Frost, Mark Friedman.

COACH

**A-** — Alain Vigneault: Coming off a Jack Adams finalist season, Vigneault is more familiar with his personnel this time around. Terrific motivator, pushes all the right buttons. Not shy about making players accountable.

GENERAL MANAGER

**A-** — Chuck Fletcher: Just about the only criticism fans have about Fletcher’s off-season effort was decision not to go after a veteran, proven scorer. Otherwise, this team has the potential to be a serious contender. Farm system in top shape, the future looks pretty bright.

About Wayne Fish 1449 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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