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.

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

TORONTO — First semester of college can often be a challenge for many students, but for Tanner Laczynski, the experience was a sweet one — literally. 

Part of Laczynski’s course load at Ohio State was “Chocolate Science.” According to the course website, students receive an “introduction to science and business of chocolate. Students develop and market a chocolate product as part of a virtual company. Students taste commercial products.” 

Laczynski, who plans to declare his major in business in his second semester, got a lesson in chocolates from around the world during the course. 

“Chocolate Science wasn't bad,” Laczynski said with a laugh a few weeks ago. “All I did was eat chocolate and write a paper about it. There's lots of different chocolate, and they all taste good.” 

Growing up 43 miles outside of Chicago in Shorewood, Illinois, Laczynski wasn’t a big football fan, saying there wasn’t much to cheer for with respect to the Bears, but since relocating to the Buckeye State, he’s taken up interest in the local team. 

“That's a big part of it,” Laczynski said of attending OSU. “I've been to two games, they haven't been the strongest opponents so kind of blowouts.” 

Laczynski was in the middle of a nap when the Flyers used their sixth-round pick to select him on the second day of the 2016 NHL draft. He was admittedly startled to be woken up by his parents, Ken and Dawn, along with sister Payton and brother Hayden.

“I'd just gotten back home from coaching some kids, it was early in the morning, came back, took a nap and my parents were all excited,” Laczynski said. “I was still tired from my nap, but woke up pretty quick. 

“They just kind of attacked me so I was kind of like, 'What's going on?' at first. That was unbelievable and it's a moment I won't forget."

After a quick phone call from his agent, Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor and John Riley, in charge of player development in Philly, were on the phone to welcome Laczynski to the club. 

This season, the 19-year-old had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games prior to leaving to join Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  

The under-20 tournament is the third time Laczynski has represented the U.S. internationally. He also wore Team USA colors for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the under-19 World Junior A Challenge.

Through the first six games at the world juniors, Laczynski tallied one goal and an assist. He missed the semifinals against Russia because of an illness but was in the lineup as the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout to win gold.

Despite being just three months into his first year at OSU, the Flyers remain in constant communication with their prospect. 

“I talk to John Riley quite a bit, he's always in contact with me sending me game film and sending me clips of NHL highlights and stuff like that,” Laczynski said. “We keep in touch, it's a relationship and it's nice to keep in touch with him.”

During his freshman season, skating has been an area of focus for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward.

“I think my big thing is my first couple steps, just my quickness, stopping, getting back on it. I think that's my biggest thing,” he said. “Once I get that down, I feel like I have the speed, but just build an extra step, just improve on that, I think that'll be a tremendous help to my game.” 

Laczynski, who spent three seasons in the USHL prior to committing to the Buckeyes, said he tries to model his game after one-time Flyer Jaromir Jagr. 

“He's kind of the guy that I watched a lot just because of his puck protection and everything,” Laczynski said. “I try to kind of use my body to protect the puck down low and create some chances in the offensive zone. 

“He's got a really good stick — I try to watch that and have an active stick in the defensive zone and offensive zone, as well.” 

In his conversations with Riley and Pryor, the expectations for Laczynski are clear.

“Their goal for me is just to consistently play nine out of 10 nights instead of that seven out of 10 nights and get my game elevated a little bit more, play more consistently,” Laczynski said.

“I think that's the biggest thing.”

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators over the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators, who won their fourth straight at Scottrade Center for the first time in team history. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton made 18 saves.

Stone's third goal in four games at the 2:35 mark of the third period was the winner. Exactly a minute after Steen tied it, Stone stole Jaden Schwartz's pass to score his 14th goal of the season, giving the Senators a 4-3 lead.

With the win, Ottawa is currently in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, leapfrogging the Flyers, who are idle this week (see full recap).

Stars hold on for 7-6 win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars gave up an early goal for the third straight game. However, this time they quickly bounced back, took two big leads and held on for a win.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves had a goal and two assists each and the Stars got a wild 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Dallas fell behind just 27 seconds in as Derek Stepan scored on the Rangers' first shot. On Monday, the Stars gave up a goal 19 seconds into a 4-1 loss at Buffalo, and Minnesota scored 1:19 into a 5-4 win at Dallas on Saturday night.

In this one, the Stars rallied and led 4-1 and 7-3 before pulling out their third win in nine games (3-5-1) (see full recap).

Dubinsky scores twice as Jackets beat 'Canes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 9 at Detroit, a 17-game stretch during which he had chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The drought ended Tuesday night, maybe helping Columbus end a team-wide lull in the process.

Dubinsky scored in the second and third periods, Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist and the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

The Blue Jackets got their third win in seven games since ending a 16-game winning streak and pulled even with Washington atop the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

"We wanted to reset for sure," Dubinsky said. "We haven't played that well, obviously, in the last six or so games. We wanted to get back to the way we play,” (see full recap).

Matthews caps 3-goal burst, Leafs top Sabres
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin each scored in a nine-minute span in the second period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in 13 games.

Toronto came back after trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes, getting its first victory this season when behind after one period (1-8-1).

It wasn't all rosy for the Leafs, though. Top defenseman Morgan Rielly left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for Toronto, and James van Riemsdyk also scored.

Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and William Carrier each scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson allowed four goals combined on 32 shots (see full recap).