The NHL offseason is quickly coming to an end. The regular season begins on October 14th when the Flyers face the LA Kings. Coming off a successful season, the Flyers made a few additions to the organization that should help with depth. What the Flyers did over the offseason was set the stage for an organization-wide competition. A competition to determine who makes the Flyers regular roster and possibly which young guys make themselves known as NHL ready players.
As we look to predict the Flyers roster for the upcoming season, we’ll start by guessing at the top 6.
Brayden Schenn – Claude Giroux – Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek
These first two lines are not only critical for the Flyers,but also probably the easiest to predict. A solid top 6 should get the Flyers scoring back on track.
Schenn played 80 games last season, accumulating 59 points, a career high. Since returning from the all-star break, Schenn was playing at an all-star level with his physicality and goal-scoring ability. After receiving a 4 yr/20.5 million dollar contract this offseason, expectations will be high, and coming off a consistent back end of last season, Schenn should be focused and play like a top paid winger. Playing with Giroux and Simmonds is the perfect spot for Schenn to be in. He will get a lot of minutes with core players, as they will help him get the puck to the net and create even more chances for this aggressive winger. He’s been bounced around the lineup a bit, but a steady top 6 spot is his to lose.
Giroux may have been hurt in the regular season along with playoffs, but 67 points in 78 games is not a bad outing, especially since he was most likely playing injured for a good portion of the season. Giroux receives a lot of criticism from the fans, we want him to be a pure goal scorer while also playing hard defensive shifts. He’s got scoring ability, and with players like Dale Weiss and Boyd Gordon added to help take some of the defensive load off of the Captain’s shoulders, we could see his offensive prowess come back. The highlight reel of Claude Giroux is top notch. Giroux brings more to the game than meets the eye to a lot of spectators. Giroux is a great setup man on the power play, solid defensively, and a mastermind in the face-off circle. Expect his even strength numbers to increase as the team becomes even more settled in with Hakstol’s defensive-offensive game plan.
Simmonds was the Flyers leading goal scorer, netting 32 goals in 81 games last season. Simmonds is a Philadelphia favorite. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is a core leader on this team. As arguably one of the best power forwards in the game, this Flyers team looks to The Wayne Train to get into the dirty areas and win puck battles. Not only is he a threat with 5 on 5 play, but he is even more of a threat on the power play. In 238 games as a Flyer, Simmonds has produced 170 points, this is just the last 3 seasons. With a healthier core, along with the consistency of his play, look for another solid 50-60 point season from the Wayne Train.
Raffl is entering his 4th season with the Flyers and has the potential to be a 2nd line power forward Raffl has to use his speed and size effectively in the top 6 before, before being moved around in a new system. Raffl is a bit of a swiss-army knife and would fit almost anywhere in any situation. Playing with a healthier Voracek and Couturier should help him this season, but Raffl must be able to physically get himself to the front of the net. Raffl is a valuable piece to this line 2nd line with his forechecking and defensive ability. While only producing 13 goals last season, Raffl should be able to hit the 35-40 point mark while playing with healthy linemates.
Couturier is coming off one of his best seasons as a Flyer although he was injured and missed most of the second half of the season. In 63 games, Coots was able to net 11 goals while adding 28 assists. This was a season most fans were waiting for, even if they didn’t notice it. We all know Couturier is one of the best young defensive players in the game, but his offense ability has been lacking since joining the Flyers. A lot of fans forget that Coots is only 23 years old. His prime is still ahead of him, and he continues to improve his game each and every season. With a healthy Jake Voracek on his line, expect an offensive breakout this upcoming season. We had glimpses of his ability before he was injured last season, so hopefully he can stay healthy and keep up the consistency. His vision opened up, he was getting pucks to the net and finding the open men in the slot as well. Couturier is a perfect player in this defensive system that Hakstol has implemented, especially if he’s not the only offenseman who can back-check. Expect big things from Couturier this season.
Voracek had a rather disappointing outing last season, though he was able to put up 55 points in 73 games. For a player with a hefty contract such as Voracek’s, it is critical that he has a bounce back season.Only netting 11 goals, he will need to find his scoring touch this upcoming season. Most of the points he had were assists. Voracek has proven to be an excellent set-up man, but he seems to shy away from taking chances himself. Besides Gostisbehere, Voracek is one of our best players when it comes to neutral zone and offensive zone entries, but once he’s in the zone he looked to get a pass across. He is a key component of the forecheck and getting the puck to the net, while also setting up plays from behind the net.
Scoring is highly concentrated to the middle of the ice, and the longer he [Voracek] doesn’t occupy that space, the more difficult it is to produce the offensive results required. Sticking to the outside requires finishing ability or further playmaking ability by teammates, taking scoring potential out of his control and fated in the hands of his teammates. – Gus Katsaros
After averaging close to 2.6 goals per game last season, it is crucial that the Flyers become more consistent with their offensive approach, while still continuing their defensive efforts in Hakstol’s system. The top 6 is compiled of almost every core member on this team, and will be relied on to provide some real offensive threat. With a well-built bottom 6, the top two lines should have some room to get creative and let loose on offense. They’ll be the key to a good start to the season and how close they come to a playoff spot.
Next up: Bottom 6 evaluations…Stay tuned!