Following a four-game regular season series with their turnpike rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers may have learned a few things from the New Jersey Devils.
Or at least they should have.
The Devils, without much to play for these days, have put on a steady showcase of their young talent and the Flyers got a good look at it during a four game stretch in which the Devils took seven out of a possible eight points off of the free-falling Flyers.
It’s one thing to be concerned that the Flyers were able to salvage only one win in four games, with it coming in miraculous comeback fashion. It’s another to see the Devils’ young players outscore the Flyers’ prospects by a significant margin.
To be fair, the Devils are almost completely composed of players in their 20s as the youngest team in the league, especially when defenseman P.K. Subban is not in the lineup. But there is no denying the talented youth that is finding its way during a few painful seasons in North Jersey.
The Devils have been patient with their high draft picks, allowing first-overall selections Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes to find their way despite not immediately living up to expectations. Their 2015 sixth-overall pick Pavel Zacha is finally enjoying his best season with 31 points in 45 games. Labeled a bust after he was taken one spot before Ivan Provorov, Zacha has become a reliable player after given the time to grow.
It doesn’t end there. New Jersey’s 2018 first-round pick defenseman Ty Smith is only 21, but has already become a steady force on the Devils’ blue line.
Then you can look at Yegor Sharangovich, Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood who were all taken by the Devils in the fourth round or later. All three are 25 or younger and have combined for 81 points this season, more than doubling the output of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (34 points combined).
And there’s more on the way. Last year, the Devils took three players in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft before the Flyers selected Tyson Foerster at No. 23.
In the four recent games against the Devils, New Jersey received 17 goals from players 25 or younger. The Flyers had four (one each from Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and Philippe Myers).
Even more frustrating for fans, the Flyers have granted only a handful of games to prospects when the playoffs are mathematically out of reach. Isn’t it time we get a look at 2016 second-rounder Pascal Laberge or 2017 second-rounder Isaac Ratcliffe? How about 24-year-old free agent pickup Linus Sandin or even goaltender Felix Sandstrom?
The Flyers have just three players in their lineup who are 23 or younger and have played more than half of the team’s games this season (Farabee, Patrick and Carter Hart). The Devils have nine, and Jesper Boqvist is awfully close to being the 10th. Hischier would have been a shoo-in for 11 if he didn’t miss significant time with injury.
The Flyers seem to want to keep pushing the same core of veterans out on the ice in the late stages of this lost season, hoping that they’ll magically find their mojo. To their credit, some vets have performed well, but it’s time to give the kids a look.
Just look at what the Devils are doing. Because you’ll be looking up at them in the standings really soon. ••