2013 Flyers Preview: Wingers
Back when Flyers centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt to Los Angeles, it was to clear an overabundance at the center position to bring in true, talented wingers.
Those trades hauled in two very important wingers in Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, setting the stage towards finding legitimate, true wingers.
While there may not be a significant amount of transition from last year to this year in terms of wingers, losing veteran returners Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble to free agency opened two spots for the Flyers' youth to earn.
Many of the incumbent wingers will be wearing orange and black for the next several seasons.
Top-flight center Claude Giroux meshed well with Voracek, a former first round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Voracek, acquired in the Carter swap, provided 46 points in 48 games, which could have easily translated to a career-high in points. His previous career-high, 50, came in 81 games in 2009-10.
If his numbers from Lev Praha of the KHL is added to his season total, Voracek scored 29 goals and 37 assists for 66 points in 72 games.
Voracek uses his wide frame and fine skating ability exceptionally well to barrel in against defenders. He will easily post 30 goals and 40 assists to be a productive part of the top line, especially if his career-high 17.1% shooting percentage holds.
The Czech winger also scored eight power play goals, so he will figure in to special teams as well.
Veteran Scott Hartnell will likely flank Giroux and Voracek on the other side.
He provides grit, toughness, and a willingness to fight for his teammates. Hartnell may as well be the streakiest winger in Flyers history.
The 31-year-old experienced a down year last season by only scoring 11 points in 32 games. A broken ankle will certainly cause issues, and since being cleared, he hopes to return to scoring 20 to 30 goals while getting #downanddirty and performing the famous #hartnelldown.
Boasting a similar skill set to Hartnell, Simmonds will fit perfectly on the second line.
Simmonds has proven to be an even mix of grit, hard work and talent. He will work in the corners, take a beating at the front of the net, and make goaltenders pay from in close. He is a true grinder on this team.
Simmonds may also be streaky, but scoring close to 30 goals a season is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. He posted 28 goals in 2011-12, and 15 more tallies in 45 games last season, projecting to about 25-27 goals in a full season.
Barring injury, the 25-year-old Simmonds should be able to crack the 30 goal plateau this season.
Matt Read just signed a four-year extension on September 20, totaling $14.5 million. Read's lightning-quick skating and finely tuned hockey IQ allows him to play in all situations.
General manager Paul Holmgren struck gold with the 27-year-old college free agent from Bemidji State. This will be the last season that Read is paid $900,000 before his cap hit significantly increases next season.
Since Read can play in all situations, it is very possible that he will see time on every single line this season. Many beat writers placed him on the third line to start the year, but no 20 goal scorer should be withheld from prime playing time for a whole season, especially one so valuable.
Zac Rinaldo should make the team as the Flyers' new-NHL style superpest.
While small, Rinaldo plays with a feisty edge. This man knows how to hit, and he isn't afraid to hit anything that moves at any given time.
Pest-type players need to be reeled in from time to time, but Rinaldo showed promise in that sense last season. He regularly drew penalties and frustrated the opposition on a nightly basis without hurting his team (looking at you, Dan Carcillo...remember the nine minute power play?).
He should be good for a few goals, but mostly the penalty minutes and intangibles.
Tough guy Jay Rosehill will likely see marginal action this season as a Flyer. Rosehill came to Philadelphia after shipping Harry Zolnierczyk to Anaheim.
With only 6 NHL points, he will be the Flyers' tough guy, likely replacing the hole left behind by Jody Shelley. Tough, gritty, and unafraid to drop 'em, he will rack up the penalty minutes in no time flat.
Austrian Michael Raffl is battling for a spot on the Flyers. Out of nowhere, the Flyers signed the 24-year old to a one-year entry level contract.
Raffl previously played for EC VSV of the Austrian Hockey League, scoring 132 points in 229 games. He also played for Leksands IF of Sweden's second tier hockey league, scoring 69 points in 88 games.
In a CSN Philly story by Tim Panaccio, scout Dave Brown described Raffl's game as having "some bite" to it. That bite includes a physical and competitive edge as a third line winger.
Formerly of the Edmonton Oilers organization, Chris VandeVelde has entered the conversation as a potential NHL-ready player. VandeVelde saw marginal time at the NHL level, scoring just three points in 28 games. Most of his career has been spent with the Oklahoma City Barons (AHL).
He will be pitted against Raffl for a spot on the third line this season. If he does not make the team, he will likely be an NHL-ready call up.
It is very possible that natural centers Brayden Schenn, Max Talbot and Adam Hall could see time on the wings. Their previews can be found here. (Schenn will likely be the second line left winger as most writers have predicted already.)
Philadelphia's top two lines will arguably be among the best in the league.
The unproven third line will be what to look out for. Will it be solely used as a shutdown line centered by Sean Couturier? Or will that line provide any offense at all?
It all hinges on the unknowns of seeing centers on the wing, or if Raffl can cut it at the NHL level.