Flyers Season Report Card: Forwards
With the conclusion of another season without playoff hockey, Philadelphia makes the transition to summer early.
Each player will receive a grade on the A+ to F- scale based on production, effectiveness, and overall eye test. This is how each forward performed over the course of the season, weighted based on expectations.
To be fairly graded, players must have played 20 NHL games this year.
Sean Couturier: A
The team winner of the Clarke Trophy, awarded to the Flyers MVP, put up his second straight 76 point season. He set a new career high with 33 goals to lead the team in that category.
As we all know, his offensive production comes with Selke-level defensive help. Couturier’s advanced metrics, facing the league’s best lines, show decreased threat levels to the Flyer goaltenders. He set a new career high in faceoff percentage, winning over 57% of his draws.
Couturier was a threat himself with each shift, and often led the forwards in ice time, averaging 22:07 to lead all Flyer skaters not named Ivan Provorov.
Couturier, coming off a couple of knee injuries (including torn ligaments), wasnt himself to start the year. Had he recorded an assist before the month of November, the 26 year old center would almost certainly be point-per-game or better.
Claude Giroux: A
While it was a step backwards from last year’s 102 point run, the longtime captain still led the team in points (85) and assists (63).
Giroux’s connection with Couturier is a dynamic force, and he’s a huge reason why “Coots” is scoring 30+. Third on the team in ice time (21:27), Giroux plays well in any and all situations.
Entered into a struggling penalty killing unit, Giroux’s presence gave almost immediate rewards. The Flyers stopped leaking goals while shorthanded, and actually had a highly effective kill over the last four months of the season.
It also helps to have the puck, and Giroux gave the Flyers the best opportunity to win face-offs. He finished third in the NHL in face-off percentage (57.9%) to help the Flyers be a top drawing team in the league.
After years of being the driving force of the team, he shows no signs of slowing down yet.
Oskar Lindblom: A-
This isn’t to say he out-performed some of the stars on the team, but what a player Lindblom is turning out to be.
A fifth round pick back in 2014, the Swede scored 17 goals for 33 points in what is officially his rookie season. He ended the season scorching, with a three game goal streak and four in the final five contests.
Lindblom’s ability to play with nearly any forward on the team comes from his intelligence. He’s always where the puck needs to be, he drives to the crease when necessary, and he’s quickly developing the skills to finish his chances.
Around the NHL, Lindblom was a top producer of high-danger chances. He had a huge percentage of his shots come from the low slot, considerably more dangerous than anywhere else.
Fans should expect a 20 goal scorer in Lindblom— but the expansion draft may cause some problems.
Jakub Voracek: B+
As the season aged, fans began to turn on the Czech winger, citing costly turnovers and an unwillingness to adapt his game. There is a bit of truth to that— but you take the good with the bad.
After all was said and done, Voracek finished with 66 points, and was second to Giroux for the Flyer lead in assists (46). The picture of consistency, it’s his third season in a row with exactly 20 goals.
Down 19 points from last year’s total, it wasn’t the offensive output that many expected, especially with scoring around the league going up. Despite this, Voracek had the ability to take over a game when the other forwards could not, notably against Columbus.
In a stretch of six games (Feb 23rd-Mar 15th), Voracek scored four goals and 12 points for his hottest stretch of the year. Most importantly, his tying goal with time expiring in the Stadium Series (a 3 point night) allowed Giroux the chance to win the game.
James van Riemsdyk: B+
He did exactly what Hextall paid him to do: score goals.
Despite missing a chunk of his season to injury early on, JvR came within three goals (27) of having consecutive 30-goal seasons. He actually had a higher shooting percentage this year (16.2%) than he did when he scored 36 with the Maple Leafs last year (14.5%).
One of the hottest scorers in the NHL for the final four months, JvR paced at over 33 goals and 26 assists had he completed a full 82 games. He tied with Couturier for the team lead in powerplay goals (8) and spent the majority of his time in the middle-six group of forwards.
JvR recorded a hat-trick playing his old team on March 15th, though the Flyers would lose that game anyway.
Travis Konecny: B+
Konecny didn’t break 50 points, but he did set a new career high in assists (25) and points (49). The fan-favorite almost quietly finished third on the Flyers in goals, with 24, outscoring Claude Giroux.
Konecny also doubled his career powerplay output, scoring four with the man advantage to give him eight powerplay points this year.
The 22-year-old showed great promise with his speed and willingness to try something new. As a restricted free agent, Konecny is on his way to get paid.
The tenacious winger will continue to grow, both in a hockey sense and in his chirping ability. Eat it up.
Scott Laughton: B-
Laughton is what he is: a grind-it-out, chip in once in a while, bottom-six center.
Even so, he’s done really well in his limited role, with lesser quality teammates than others above him on this list. A player who’s never made more than $1 million in a season, Laughton shattered all of his career highs this year.
His new deal this summer will give him that millionaire’s raise, but it’s deserved. He’ll still be cheap and effective, providing speed and skill in a depth position.
The 20th overall pick in 2012, Laughton has played all but one game in the last two years. Had he not been wildly snakebitten, he could have scored 15 or more.
Instead, he contributed 12 goals and 20 assists.
Nolan Patrick: C+
The Nolan Patrick of last April’s playoff series was who Flyers fans were expecting for a full 82 game stretch this season.
We didn’t get that.
Patrick showed plenty of defensive awareness, and his stickhandling skills stand out. In 72 games, he recorded 31 points to beat his last year’s total of 30.
In fact, this year wasn’t a breakout year, or anything resembling that. His statistics are a near match from last year, with six fewer powerplay points.
Once again, it seemed he “woke up” come the new year. In his defense, so did the rest of his teammates. Patrick had three different 8-game stretches (or longer) where he didn’t have a point.
He went 24 straight games without a goal before getting two in one game against Minnesota.
It’s important to remember that Patrick has two NHL seasons under his belt at 20 years old, and Claude Giroux didn’t make the show until he was 21. There’s plenty of time for growth, but you’d love to see it during Giroux’s elite years.
Michael Raffl: C
Raffl’s season was rewarded with a two year extension on his contract.
The Austrian winger is a good fourth line player to have on your team. He’s had a couple of injuries the past few years, but between this season and last, Raffl averages 20 points.
He struggled to score goals, even in limited ice time, as he had only six in his 67 games. We likely won’t see a repeat of 2014-15, where Raffl scored 21 goals, also in 67 games.
Ryan Hartman: C
Hartman, on arrival, was labeled “the guy we traded Wayne Simmonds for”. That’s a bit of added pressure, and some big shoes to fill in the eyes of the fanbase.
He burst onto the scene by running over a teenager, then failed to do much else in his small sample size here. Overall, not bad.
As an “energy guy”, the Flyers shouldn’t have to rely on him to provide goals. The trade from Nashville didn’t do much to spark him anyway, as he put up points at the exact same rate (0.31 P/G) on both teams.
Just 24 years old and a restricted free agent, it’ll be interesting to see what Chuck Fletcher decides to do with Hartman.
Corban Knight: D+
Knight is probably “just a guy” on this team— though he had a moment here and there.
He did get to hug the captain after setting Giroux up for a one-time goal, which was a nice feed to his credit. Knight’s spot in the lineup is likely going to be overtaken by one of the younger AHL guys.
He’s been a 40 point player in the AHL, getting eight points this year in five games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Phil Varone: D
Varone played nearly 50 games for the Flyers this season after bringing home the AHL’s MVP award in 2018.
Unfortunately, this is a prime example of the skill gap between the two leagues. Varone averaged under eight minutes of ice per game, and scored just three goals on his way to an eight point season.
Phantoms fans would love to have him back on their squad— he racked up 28 points in 22 games before earning a call to the big club. The AHL all-star should help incoming CHL prospects transition to the pro-hockey scene.
The Flyers need to address the hole at the 2nd line center position if they hope to compete next year. Patrick can’t be trusted to produce at a high level yet.