At this time last year, Nick Seeler was playing under 14 and a half minutes per game and the Flyers were on a 10-game losing streak.
The team was destined to be selling at the trade deadline. By mid-February, Seeler's name was growing in popularity.
The Flyers held on to him and they've been rewarded for it. Seeler has emerged as a top-four defenseman with a team that won five straight for the first time since 2019-20 and is 6-2-0 in its last eight games.
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"He fits how we want to play, he’s aggressive, he’ll stick up for his teammates if he thinks he needs to," head coach John Tortorella said last Tuesday. "He’s that guy that you don’t have to say too much to him. How he plays is an example for everybody. As long as he plays within himself, as long as he doesn’t try to do too much — and I think he has really found a good groove right now the past couple of weeks at just keeping it simple and going about it."
Seeler, a tough-as-nails, work-for-everything defenseman, has been as effective as anyone in the Flyers' eight-game stretch. The 30-year-old has four assists, 30 blocked shots and a plus-5 rating in 19:08 minutes per game. His 30 blocked shots are the most in the NHL since Nov. 10.
"Seels is that guy, I don’t know how he does it, but like, he’s got no fear when he’s playing," Travis Konecny said Monday. "Big blocks big time of the game, makes big plays, offensively, too, he has been contributing. He’s just a guy that you want on your team. When the team may be down, he’s always there to spark the guys with a big block or a big play."
Team success is always important, but it's especially important this season when it comes to Seeler's future in Philadelphia. He's on an expiring contract with a cap hit of just $775,000. Contending clubs covet team-first, cost-effective players like Seeler.
The Flyers stated in the offseason that they're rebuilding. But they've gone 11-9-1 a quarter through the season and hold a playoff spot after Thanksgiving. It's still very early and the Flyers shouldn't lose sight of making future-centric moves. However, the more competitive the Flyers are by the March 8 trade deadline, the tougher the decisions might be for management. Particularly with a player like Seeler, who is beloved by his teammates.
"Team success is good for everybody, you can feel it in the locker room," Seeler said last Tuesday. "It doesn’t matter what year it is, you always want to be successful as a team and win games. This is definitely exciting and hopefully we keep it going."
Forming the Flyers' second defensive pair, Seeler and Sean Walker are playing some of the best hockey in their NHL careers. Seeler had played 13:24 minutes per game at the NHL level coming into the 2023-24 campaign. He's up to 16:57 this season and owns a plus-10 rating. Walker, a 29-year-old also in the final year of his deal, has earned a power play role and is on pace for career highs.
"I love the minutes that me and Walks are getting out there," Seeler said. "I think we feed off each other really well. I feel comfortable with him. The more minutes, I feel you can get into the game a little bit more, you feel the flow of it. There’s more opportunity, which is great."
"I respect Torts a lot, I love the way he approaches our group and what he brings to this locker room. I just think guys want to play for him. It’s a type of game play that suits mine. I think there’s a mutual respect there. I love being a part of this group and Torts along with it."
The Flyers have seen it.
"Just the passion he brings each and every day," Owen Tippett said Monday. "He works hard every day, he wants to get better. He’ll do anything for whoever he’s on the ice with and the guys on the bench. Blocks multiple shots a game, fights, hits — it’s just the kind of guy he is. He has been a big part for us.
"When a guy does that, it builds trust."