2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Part 2 of the forwards

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Part 2 of the forwards

We conclude our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with the second part of evaluating the forwards. You can find Part 1 here, as well the goaltending here and defensemen here.

Matt Read
Age: Turns 31 on June 14
Stats: 63 GP; 10G, 9A, 19 Pts.; plus-3; 13:46
Cap hit: $3.625 million

No Flyers forward has been more disappointing than Read during his six seasons here. Signed out of college, he scored 24 goals and had 47 points his first season and hasn't come close to matching those numbers again. Read broke his right forearm late in the season and missed the final five games. He missed 11 games earlier in the season with an oblique injury. He has averaged fewer than 10 goals over the past three seasons, which doesn't cut it with his salary. Will undoubtedly be exposed in the expansion draft.

Brayden Schenn
Age: Turns 26 on Aug. 22
Stats: 79 GP; 25G, 30A, 55 Pts.; minus-13; 17:48
Cap hit: $5.125 million

Often criticized for not fitting in or not delivering enough offensively, Schenn has demonstrated continued improvement every season as a Flyer. He was four points under last season's point total, yet among all forwards except Wayne Simmonds, he was the closest Flyer to having a season as good or better than his previous season. Tied for the NHL lead in power-play goals (17). Has a long way to go at 5-on-5 in terms of goal production. After years of being tried at various positions under three head coaches, it appears the organization has finally settled on Schenn as a winger, not center. And like so many others on this team, coach Dave Hakstol used him all over the lineup. If GM Ron Hextall decides to break up his core this summer, Schenn offers the most possibilities for a trade given his offensive output at a young age.

Wayne Simmonds
Age: Turns 29 on Aug. 26
Stats: 82 GP; 31G, 23A, 54 Pts.; minus-18; 18:58
Cap hit: $3.975 million

Led the Flyers in goal scoring for the fourth consecutive season and was right behind Schenn in power-play goals with 16. Simmonds was unquestionably the club's MVP this season and many feel he should be wearing the "C," because he's often the guy on the ice intervening with the officials. He offers the most bang for your buck on the Flyers. By his own admission, Simmonds is the "bad" cop to Claude Giroux's "good" cop. He plays a hard, power forward game despite his skinny legs. If he were an NBA player, he'd be a shooting guard. Simmonds wears his heart on his jersey and sometimes avoided the media this season after games because he was fearful of saying something he would later regret. Every Flyers club has had at least one player who defines orange and black and Simmonds is this team's rep. Was very effective on Valtteri Filppula's line with Jordan Weal this season. Like Giroux, however, Simmonds can't afford to be a minus player next season.

Chris VandeVelde
Age: Turned 30 on March 15
Stats: 81 GP; 6G, 9A, 15 Pts.; minus-5; 11:33
Cap hit: UFA who earned $712,500

For whatever reason, VandeVelde was totally immune from being benched by Hakstol this past season while others suffered at the drop of a puck. It wasn't until the very last game that Hakstol sat him. The fact is, VandeVelde tended toward disappearing in many games this season and his overall effectiveness with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the penalty kill was muted because he simply didn't generate shorthanded chances like he had done in the past. Although he tied his career high with the Flyers in terms of points, it's unlikely the club re-signs him. The Flyers have too many grinders and need scoring at this point with others waiting in line. 

Jakub Voracek
Age: Turns 28 on Aug. 15
Stats: 82 GP; 20G, 41A, 61 Pts.; minus-24; 19:05 
Cap hit: $8.25 million

The only number fans are going to remember from Voracek's lost season is "minus-24." That was worst on the Flyers. Since signing that gargantuan, eight-year, $66 million contract in 2015, the Czech winger has had two poor seasons in succession. Everyone -- himself included -- assumed a bounce-back year this past season, and while Voracek had 20 goals and more points -- five more than 2015-16 -- he remained well short of what he should have provided for his salary. This truly was a season in which the Flyers' big guns -- Simmonds and Schenn being the exceptions -- came up fairly lame. Even more distressing, however, was Voracek's being bounced off the second power-play unit, and not finding a set line. Truth is, his best production came with Michael Raffl and Giroux -- 24 points. He had six goals playing right wing on Giroux's line and six playing there on Sean Couturier's line. Hakstol needs to find Voracek a permanent line.

Jordan Weal
Age: Turned 25 on April 15
Stats: 23 GP; 8G, 4A, 12 Pts.; plus-4; 14:18 
Cap hit: UFA who earned $650,000

Weal was more or less a "throw-in" as part of the Luke Schenn-Vinny Lecavalier deal with L.A. in January 2016. He got his chance this season when Travis Konecny suffered his knee and ankle injury in February against St. Louis. The Flyers discovered that Weal can play. And play above his size, with grit and skill, and an attitude that resembles a pit bull gnarling on a puck. Weal could get a contract close to or right at $2 million from someone this summer if he elects free agency. Hextall says he wants to re-sign Weal but isn't sure when. Weal can't be exposed because he's a free agent. Yet under the expansion draft rules, Vegas will have a 48-hour window prior to the expansion draft to sign free agents. Weal would be a perfect player for Vegas GM George McPhee to sign and grow with an expansion club. If Hextall signs him before that window opens, he will have to protect Weal on June 21. If he waits, he is potentially competing with a lot of clubs. Filppula's line with him and Simmonds was very good in the second half. Hextall has no choice but to re-sign this kid. The Flyers are already lacking in the skill/creativeness department and Weal provides both. 

Dale Weise
Age: Turns 29 on Aug. 5
Stats: 64 GP; 8G, 7A, 15 Pts.; plus-1; 12:52 
Cap hit: $2.35 million

Essentially, Weise was signed last summer to replace Ryan White. Things began poorly for him -- a three-game suspension and no goals through the club's first 20 games. His game never picked up until late in the second half when Hextall admitted he was disappointed in the production he had gotten from him. That's when Weise came alive -- after sitting six straight games -- with some excellent play on Couturier's line with Schenn. Weise scored six goals with four assists (10 points) over his final 14 games. He was vocal and noticeably moody much of the second half because of his benchings (twice for multiple games) and lack of production. It didn't seem to have an impact in the room. The Flyers need more from him next season. Will be exposed in the expansion draft.

As Flyers' season ends, questions remain on Jordan Weal, Anthony Stolarz's future

As Flyers' season ends, questions remain on Jordan Weal, Anthony Stolarz's future

BOX SCORE

The look toward next season for the Flyers officially began Sunday night following their 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Among those who played in the season finale who will remain high on the radar are goalie Anthony Stolarz and winger Jordan Weal.

Weal is intriguing because he's unsigned for next season and general manager Ron Hextall hasn't indicated whether he will re-up Weal before the expansion draft.

An unknown commodity when he arrived in Philadelphia as part of the Vinny Lecavalier trade over a year ago, Weal now appears fully vested in the Flyers.

Weal never played left wing before and yet he seemed to fit like a glove on Valtteri Filppula's line with Wayne Simmonds.

He picked up one final assist Sunday and finished the season with eight goals and 12 points in 23 games.

"A lot of hockey is the belief you can play at certain levels," Weal said. "I think having some success up here in the last part of the season really gave me that belief I can play here and have an impact and help the team win hockey games.

"I feel like I'm part of the team, for sure. When you get in, it's a great group of guys. For myself, I can take positives out of it."

Weal is a snail-darter-kind-of-player barely standing 5-foot-9 and said he wants to remain a Flyer (see 10 observations).

"I'd love to stay here," Weal said. "This is an organization that gave me a chance to show my stuff. When I came up this year, I was in a position to have success and I'm very thankful and would like to stay here. When you get the players I was able to play with, it's a treat out there."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol threw his support behind Weal.

"He's been a good player for us and it's been a fairly small sample size," Hakstol said. "Training camp probably didn't go as scripted as he would have liked. At the end of camp, we went down to Lehigh Valley and there was no real bump for him."

Weal went down to the minors, proved himself as an AHLer -- again -- and then returned as an NHL player.

"He did a good job for us," Hakstol said. "He was a good player for us playing in a position he hasn't spent a lot of time at -- most of the time playing left wing. I thought Jordan acquitted himself very well and at a tough time of the year."

Stolarz may or may not be the Flyers' long-time goalie. He may or may not even be the backup next season. He sometimes appears a bit awkward in the net and seven games isn't a lot to go on, but there is no rational reason for the Flyers not to give him a long look in training camp.

In retrospect, those 19 games he sat here while Michal Neuvirth was injured could have been better used playing him more than the two starts he actually had, both of which he won. Stolarz went into the season finale with a 1.93 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

What did he learn?

"It's a lot faster than the American League," Stolarz said. "It's a lot of fun being here and I've just gotta keep working hard, working on my game and take everything that I've seen on video and just bring it back to Allentown."

There is one thing Stolarz will bring into training camp next fall that he didn't necessarily have last fall.

"Definitely confidence," Stolarz said. "Obviously coming up here and being able to play at this level and kind of show I can hold my own, kind of makes me want to go out there and just work that much harder and continue to work on my game and just continue working hard so I can try to earn a spot here next year."

There's a decent line of prospects waiting for the crease that includes Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. Can Stolarz rise to the Flyers' next No. 1?

"In a few, down the road, I think," Stolarz said. "Of course I need to get some experience. It's not going to just be given to me, so I have to continue to work hard and work on aspects of my game.

"It's obviously a lot different than the American League. I just have to continue to work on little things. Things happen quicker and guys are smarter, so I just have to try to keep up with that."

He didn't earn Hakstol's full trust during Neuvirth's absence, as the Flyers rode Steve Mason night after night.

"There were a couple times where he showed good presence," Hakstol said. "I go back to the game in San Jose coming in after one [in relief] there and he did an excellent job. So I think that showed a little bit about where he was in terms of his mental process.

"He was ready to go, he was confident that night. He went in and he did a good job and his team played hard in front of  him, and I think we've seen a continuation of that every time he's been in that regardless of the situation, whether it was in relief or tonight like he did in a start."

That said, Hakstol wasn't ready to commit on Stolarz. Put it this way, Weal has more of a foothold on a roster spot, whereas Stolarz is going to have to turn his limited experience from this season into a platform to elevate himself above others in training camp.

When asked if he were ready for full-time duty in the NHL, Hakstol gave pause.

"I think it's a small sample size," Hakstol said of Stolarz. "I've seen enough of him to think that he's really making nice progress. In terms of answering your question, I think that's one that needs to be answered over time."

For both of these guys -- and a few others -- it starts in five months.

Ivan the Great
In his final game this season, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov logged 25:11. Nineteen times this season he was over 24 minutes.

Provorov's season average of 21:58 set a new ice time record for a Flyers rookie regardless of position.

He also became the first Flyers' rookie to appear in all 82 games during a season longer than 80 games. Four other players achieved that during the 80-game schedules of yesteryear: Mel Bridgman (1975-76), Behn Wilson (1978-79), Brian Propp (1979-80), and Jeff Chychrun (1988-89). Chris Therien appeared in all 48 games during the shortened 1994-95 season.
 
In addition to Provorov, Jake Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare each appeared in all 82 games this season. Chris VandeVelde missed his first game of the season as a healthy scratch Sunday.

Instant Replay: Rangers 4, Flyers 3

Instant Replay: Rangers 4, Flyers 3

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- It's over.
 
The Flyers were officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday night at Madison Square Garden at the hands of a hated Metropolitan Division rival -- the Rangers.

The 4-3 loss snapped the Flyers' four-game win streak, and coupled with Boston's win earlier Sunday that moved the Bruins to 92 points, Ottawa (91 points) moved into the final wild card. With the loss to the Rangers, it's now mathematically impossible for the Flyers to tie the Senators with three games remaining.

The Flyers didn't go quietly, scoring two goals in the final 2:06 to erase a 4-1 deficit with extra attackers.
 
The Rangers had lost eight consecutive games on home ice.

Anthony Stolarz, who was previously unbeaten, was in goal on back-to-back nights for the Flyers against Henrik Lundqvist.
 
The Rangers erased an early 1-0 second-period deficit with two goals in a little over three minutes against a Flyers squad that seemed gassed.
 
Notable goals
A terrific pass from Mats Zuccarello to break Brendan Smith free up the ice on Stolarz, as Smith went forehand to backhand and up and under the crossbar for a 2-1 Rangers lead in the second period.
 
Goalie report
Stolarz was sharp early in the game off some jumpy pucks and shots generated off Flyers' turnovers. He collapsed under the weight of defensive turnovers in front of him in the third period. He allowed four goals on 24 shots.
 
Power play
Can't figure out how "Mr. Power-Play Goal" Brayden Schenn drilled the crossbar sitting just outside the paint in the first period. That's a goal for everybody.

The Flyers were 0 for 3 on the man advantage.
 
Penalty kill
A very aggressive job by Flyers the at the start. Andrew MacDonald's turnover on the Rangers' second chance led directly to a goal by Mika Zibanejad, making it a 1-1 game. The Rangers were 1 for 4 on the power play.
 
Scratches
Forwards Matt Read (broken right arm), Roman Lyubimov (healthy), Michael Raffl (left knee), Mike Vecchione (healthy) and Nick Cousins (concussion); defenseman Radko Gudas (concussion); goalie Michal Neuvirth (sinus infection/chest cold).
 
Up next
The Flyers are off on Monday and will meet the Devils on Tuesday in New Jersey.