Every year at the end of each season, the Flyers announce a list of awards to recognize individual accomplishments and honors. It's the Flyers version of the NHL awards in the sense that they hand out most valuable player, best defenseman and most improved - to name a few.
With the 2015-16 campaign just a few short months away, let's have some fun and project a list of winners for the Flyers 49th season in the National Hockey League.
Barry Ashbee Trophy - Outstanding Defenseman
The Flyers defense is currently in a state of flux. Veterans such as Mark Streit (2014-15 winner), Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz will be locks based on their play this past season. Newcomers Yevgeni Medvedev and Radko Gudas will occupy two more spots. That potentially leaves Andrew MacDonald and Luke Schenn to battle for the final spot in the top-six. With a slew of talented prospects such as 2015 first round pick Ivan Provorov and 2014 top pick Travis Sanheim knocking on the door, general manager Ron Hextall would love to move a contract or two as he sets the vision of his blue line for the foreseeable future.
Of all the defenders listed above, Streit and Del Zotto would appear to be the cream of this year's crop. Streit is coming off of a solid 2014-15 season in which he was third on the team in scoring with 52 points in 81 games and was a staple on the team's top power play unit in which he was the only featured defenseman. Del Zotto was another pleasant surprise having recorded 10 goals and 32 points in just 64 games. In town on a one-year deal after the loss of Kimmo Timonen, Del Zotto was looking to redeem his career after defensive zone struggles in New York and Nashville. Although he was somewhat of a frequent flyer in then-coach Craig Berube's doghouse, Del Zotto provided the Flyers a stable option on the blueline and found a knack for hitting the back of the net when it mattered most. Take for example, this top-shelf beauty against Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals.
After inking a two-year contract extension, Del Zotto is poised to play a greater role under first-year coach Dave Hakstol and will likely see extensive time on both the power play and penalty kill units.
Projected 2015-16 winner: Michael Del Zotto
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy - Most Improved Player
After a disappointing season in which the club missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, it stands to reason that improvement will be a key goal moving forward, both as a team and individually. Last year's winner, Chris VandeVelde, was one of the hardest workers on the ice and earned his playing time (and the coach's eye) by his determination and will to succeed and improve. This year's club boasts numerous players capable of making the same strides, from the top of the lineup all the way to the bottom. Players like Michael Raffl, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Ryan White will all likely have the opportunity to contribute and play meaningful minutes. So to, will R.J. Umberger.
The 33-year-old Umberger had a completely underwhelming season after returning to the Flyers in exchange for fan-favorite forward Scott Hartnell. His 15 points and 67 games played were both career lows and he admitted shame in his production, despite being injured for most of the season. In March, Umberger told the media:
"The biggest thing that bothers me is that I let Hextall down. He believed in me in bringing me and I haven’t been the player for him he needs"
A number change - he's going back to No. 20 - and hopefully injury-free season should help improve Umberger's outlook and get him to the level he was accustomed of playing at, which is about 15-20 goals and 40-45 points. If he can get back to that type of production in 2015-16, the Flyers will be in good shape.
Projected 2015-16 winner: R.J. Umberger
Bobby Clarke Trophy - Most Valuable Player
With the exception of Wayne Simmonds, who is likely on the outside looking in, this should be a two horse race between 2014-15 winner Jake Voracek and captain Claude Giroux. Giroux, who scored 73 points last season is one of the league's best players. In the last three seasons, he is third in the entire NHL with 207 points scored, trailing only Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Averaging over 20 minutes per game, Giroux is the steady hand that leads the club both on and off the ice. With a new system in place, he could best his 2011-12 career high of 93 points. All that considered, I don't think he walks away with the Bobby Clarke Trophy.
Voracek is a rising superstar who has yet to reach his ceiling. The 7th overall pick in 2007 had himself a career year in which he led the Flyers in scoring with 81 points, 59 of which were helpers. After agreeing on an eight-year extension to the tune of $66 million, the Czech native knows that he has to continue to produce if he wants to live up to expectations and bring a Stanley Cup back to the City of Brotherly Love. If he plays to his increasing potential, there is a good possibility Voracek can approach, and possibly eclipse, the 100-point barrier.
Projected 2015-16 winner: Jake Voracek
Only time will tell if these projections hold true. If they do, the Flyers will most likely be playing meaningful games next spring.
Zach Hopkins is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @healedbyhockey.