Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

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Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

Note: This is the second installment of a series looking at the Flyers' offense. For Part I, click here.

The Flyers' defense got much of the attention, but the team's offense struggled in 2013, as well. What follows is an examination of the second group of Flyers forwards - and while most took steps back, not all did.

Keep in mind: some players such as Jason Akeson, Ben Holmstrom and Eric Wellwood didn’t play enough games to warrant review.
 
Also, pending free agents like Ruslan Fedotenko, Simon Gagne and Adam Hall were evaluated previously (see story).
 
Matt Read
Age: 26
Games played: 42
Stats: 11 goals, 13 assists
Plus/minus: plus-1
Average ice time: 18:01
Cap hit: $900,000 (last year)
 
Were it not for a rib cage injury that held him back in February, Read might have had better numbers than he did a year ago over a full 82-game slate.
 
He’s another guy that other clubs want to talk about when it comes to trades. Like Couturier, retains that value moving ahead. What hurts him here is UFA status next season when the Flyers have a number of players to re-sign.
 
Zac Rinaldo
Age: 22
Games played: 32
Stats: three goals, two assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 8:22
Cap hit: $750,000 (next two years)
 
For a guy who averages a little over eight minutes a night, Rinaldo packs quite a punch. Consider that he was second on the team in hits with 143 - better than four per game.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette loves the energy Rinaldo brings and the fact he is not afraid to fight. Rinaldo actually took his game to a new level this season in that he learned – quite effectively – how to draw penalties.
 
Coaches say they want to give him work on the penalty kill, but that has yet to happen for two seasons now. Maybe it needs to happen next fall.
 
Jay Rosehill
Age: 27
Games played: 11
Stats: one goal, no assists
Plus/minus: minus-4
Average ice time: 6:47
Cap hit: $675,000 (next two years)
 
No matter how you slice ‘n dice it, the Flyers needed a heavyweight enforcer. They had no healthy enforcer with genuine NHL experience in their system once Tommy Sestito was claimed off waivers by Vancouver.
 
Rosehill is young and gets a chance to grow in the role while also offering some offense, though not a ton. Like many heavies, he’s a pleasant chap off the ice, too.

Brayden Schenn
Age: 21
Games played: 47
Stats: eight goals, 18 assists
Plus/minus: minus-8
Ice time: 15:31
Cap hit: $3.11 million (final year)
 
Schenn took steps backwards in 2013. It remains to be seen whether he can ever really be an effective centerman as opposed to playing on the wing.
 
Though he’s moved throughout the lineup these past two seasons, Wayne Simmonds has been a near constant on his line. Like his brother, Luke, you see a development curve. He needs to improve defensively.
 
When the Flyers traded for his brother, it gave Schenn a certain amount of protection he would not be dealt if other clubs came calling. After this season, however, no forwards other than Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remain untouchable this summer.
         
Wayne Simmonds
Age: 24
Games played: 45
Stats: 15 goals, 17 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 15:38
Cap hit: $3.975 million over the next six years
 
The man with the skinny lamb-chop legs, is a tough hombre in front of the net and might have surpassed his career goal output (28) if this had been a full 82-game season.
 
He’s been linked to Schenn most of his time here with a rotating winger on the other side. He's willing to engage and play through pain. He’s a fun player to watch but needs to cut back on penalty minutes – had 82 this season.
 
Max Talbot
Age: 29
Games played: 35
Stats: five goals, five assists
Plus/minus: plus-2
Average ice time: 15:25
Cap hit: $1.75 million the next three years
 
When he slumped badly at the start – 21 games without a goal – Talbot's crutch was that scoring wasn’t his thing but strong defensive play and penalty killing were. While that may be true, the Flyers expect more and need offense from Talbot next season.
 
Talbot had 19 goals in 2011-12 and should have gotten 9 or 10 this season. He missed the final 13 games with a broken left leg. He needs to think of himself differently: like, remember Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2009 against Detroit?
 
Jakub Voracek
Age: 23
Games played: 48
Stats: 22 goals, 24 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 17:14
Cap hit: $4.25 million next three years
 
Voracek was Jaromir Jagr’s prized student who simply blossomed on a bad team coming out of the lockout. He led the Flyers in goals and was second only to Giroux in shots (129). He won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
 
And there’s the difference: shots. A year ago, all Voracek did was look to pass the puck, constantly passing up scoring opportunities. The coaches drilled into his head that he had to think "shot" before passing, and survey the ice. His chemistry with Claude Giroux is undeniable.
 
The Flyers think they have untapped the potential Voracek had in him. Every indication is that there is more yet to be gained, but not at the expense of defense.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”