Predicting the Flyers Lineup: The Top Six

 

Photo by Heather Barry

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. 

1st Line:

Brayden Schenn

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. 

Claude Giroux

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. 

Wayne Simmonds

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. 

2nd Line:

Michael Raffl 

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. 

Sean Couturier 

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. 

Jakob Voracek

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

Conclusion

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!

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7 thoughts on “Predicting the Flyers Lineup: The Top Six

  1. My biggest worry about putting Schenn and Simmer on the top line with G is that it saddles G with two (if you look at career stats) sub-par possession and zone entry players. Simmonds has never been great at zone entries–and although he’s improved, he should never be on the ice late protecting a lead (see his icing about Columbus last year as Exhibit A)–and until his second-half tear last season, Schenn has generally been a negative Corsi player and one who is about average at zone entries. I just worry that G will have to spend too much time/effort preventing scoring chances and lugging the puck across to get to the high danger areas.

    Possible solution to this potential issue? Just flip Raffl and Schenn. This gives G someone to help with puck possession, retrieval, and defensive responsibility, and it gives Coots, whose least impressive attribute is his speed (which is average, so this isn’t a knock), a faster winger. Also, Schenn has clicked with Coots in the past. Flipping Voracek and Simmer could also be a viable solution, but, as much as I don’t like Jake in our own end, I like his puck-carrying ability to aid a still-developing Coots.

    Of course, I hope these lines are perfect and this is much ado about nothing. Just fun to think about during this long summer.

    Bottom six hope:
    Laughton-Cousins-Weise/Read
    PEB-Gordon-Read/Weise

    Prediction: Laughton and Read split time as the 13th forward because Haks loves the VV/PEB tandem on the PK. Which I understand, but Laughton and Read bring more to the team than VV, even if Read is at a much higher cap hit.

  2. I think the point of additions like Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon was to make sure that Giroux wouldn’t have to worry as much about being on the defense. He’ll get more offensive zone starts against weaker competition so that he won’t have to worry about preventing scoring chances as much as offensive pressure.
    Also, a big part of Hakstol’s system is a mobile defense that can assist with pushing the puck through the neutral zone so having players Like Schenn not be AMAZING at zone entries might not be so much of an issue. If you read the article we linked to you’ll see it says that Simmonds is good at chipping the puck in and then winning battles in the corner, so he’s good at gaining possession in the O-zone.
    You do have a point, though, putting Raffl on the top line MAY provide a more mobile line and Raffl has shown an ability to play on that line in the past so, who knows?

    People do seem to agree that Couturier has the best shot at reaching his potential with a fast winger who stick handles well. Adding Schenn would just be adding a finishing touch to the line which would be dangerous.

    I’m hoping anyone from Lehigh Valley beats out CVV for one of those bottom 6 spots.

    And why does no one think Jordan Weal will ever make an NHL lineup?!

  3. Pingback: Predicting the Flyers Lineup: The Bottom Six |

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  6. My bad on the late response. You make some really good points regarding the top line, especially (1) the importance of mobile, “puck-moving” (an overused but accurate term) defensemen to Hakstol’s system and the fact that we should have some before long and (2) the fact that G will taking more offensive zone draws and therefore, theoretically, zone entry won’t be as important.

    Thanks for articulating/adding to my point about playing Schenn with Couts. I like that move for two reasons that I may not have explained well enough above: the chemistry they showed in limited time together and the fact that Schenn is a more gifted finisher than Raffl, the point being that G’s such a good passer that he should be able to prop Raffl’s numbers up while Schenn can prop Couts’ confidence (not that he really needs that).

    As for Weal, I agree and lament the lack of opportunity he’s been given. he seems like a perfectly acceptable third line pivot if Cousins gets hurt or flames out, or–even better–would be great on the fourth line to give it an offensive boost (much like dropping Read or Laughton down would). It’s not that I don’t want to see Weal; it’s just that given his (lack of) usage I don’t think we will, especially now with all the bottom six players we have under contract.

    I mean, I personally don’t know where I’d fit him, assuming Cousins and Gordon/PEB center the third and fourth lines, respectively, with the other of Gordon/PEB playing wing on the fourth. Weise is guaranteed RW3. So then you have Laughton (who I want given an extended look at LW3), Read (overpaid but still a useful possession driver/PK man), VV (pass), Weal, and Lyubimov (who should be better than VV and seems likely to be 13th forward… I hope) vying for two wing positions.

    A good problem to have, and a fun mental puzzle to pass the summer-time blues.

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