Player Review: Michael Raffl

Hello! This is the first in a series of posts where we evaluate the individual seasons each player on the Flyers had in 2014-2015.

Michael Raffl had a breakout year in his second season in Philadelphia, made all the more impressive by the fact that he was able to more than double his previous goal output while missing 14 games. Raffl’s ability to drive possession was also highlighted and brought to the forefront this year, leaving many fans excited for what he has the potential to do in the upcoming season.

Stats

67 games played, 21 goals, 7 assists, 28 points, 55.2% CF%

Here’s a look at Raffl’s year 1 statistics vs. his year 2 stats:

Statistic Year 1 Year 2
GP 68 67
Goals 9 21
Assists 13 7
Points 21 28
5v5 Gs 9 14
5v5 Pts 21  20
5v5 P/60 1.71 1.42
Shots 101 134
S/G 1.49 2
Sh% 8.90% 15.70%
CF% 52.60% 55.20%

When I ran the numbers, the first thing I noticed was that Raffl’s rookie year was better than I think a lot of people gave him credit for. After all, this year he was pretty universally viewed as one of the Flyers’ top-5 forwards when things were all said and done, but he actually had a really solid year last year and in fact had more 5v5 points and 5v5 points/60 than he did this year despite starting out on the 4th line. That being said, Raffl showed improvement nearly across the board this year. He scored 21 goals this year despite minimal power play time and 14 missed games, and he proved his chops at even strength by leading the team in 5v5 goals and CF%.

Sure, his goal numbers were a little inflated thanks to 4 empty-net goals and a shooting percentage that rose 6.8% from last year’s. But I’d argue that his assist numbers were flukishly low too: his 5v5 assists/60 dropped from 0.97 last year (5th on the team) to 0.43 this year (19th, below the likes of Nick Grossmann, Zac Rinaldo, Nick Schultz, and RJ Umberger) despite only seeing his on-ice shooting% drop from 8.17% to 7.86%. I feel confident in saying he’ll rebound to something much closer to a 1:1 goals:assists ratio next season rather than the 3:1 ratio we saw this year. Even still, his 5v5 numbers are extremely interesting to look at, especially considering that the Flyers were a poor even-strength team this year. Raffl’s ability to score and drive possession at even-strength is something that is a very unique skillset among the current crop of Flyers. And he’s successful with just about everyone he plays with. Take a look at this chart:

Player CF% together Player CF% w/o Raffl CF% w/o
Giroux 56.00% 51.10% 54.30%
Voracek 58.20% 51.50% 52.30%
Streit 56.10% 47.30% 54.80%
Schultz 51.20% 46.40% 57.20%
Del Zotto 56.10% 46.40% 55.10%
Simmonds 55.80% 48.90% 55.20%
Grossmann 51.90% 44.50% 56.40%
Schenn, L. 57.10% 48.40% 54.80%
MacDonald 54.90% 47.50% 55.50%
Coburn 59.40% 48.30% 54.60%

Every single player Raffl played at least 100 minutes with this year was better with Raffl than without him from a possession standpoint, and Raffl was better apart from every single player than they were apart from him. That’s an indicator of Raffl being a possession driver, and a very good one at that.

Expectations

Coming off a promising rookie year, people were cautiously optimistic about Raffl. However, given that he opened the season on the 3rd line with Vinny Lecavalier and RJ Umberger, it’s fair to say the Flyers weren’t expecting a ton from him. Given his 9 goal/21 point season in 68 games as a rookie and his age (25 at the start of the year, older than almost all 2nd year players), I don’t think people expected a ton of development. Sure, his performance might improve with another year of adapting to the North American game, but most people would have been pretty happy with a 15 goal, 30 point season from Raffl this year.

Despite not reaching 30 points this year, I think it’s safe to say Raffl exceeded most people’s expectations. He showed an ability to play (and succeed) with anyone in the lineup, whether it was with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, or one of the brief stretches he had on the 2nd line LW (with Scott Laughton and Simmonds) or 3rd line C (with a hodgepodge of bottom-6 linemates). His scoring touch and finishing ability was a pleasant surprise to a lot of people who saw him struggle with finishing his chances to a certain extent last year. He can kill penalties, he can definitely play at 5v5, and he scored 2 power play goals late in the season in limited minutes after he was finally given a chance on the 2nd PP unit.

What’s He Worth?

Raffl is under contract for the 2015-2016 season at a dirt-cheap $1.1M cap hit, after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Raffl is eligible for an extension come July 1st, but so are Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn. With Voracek a UFA and Couturier and Schenn both RFAs after the season, there’s a chance Raffl’s contract could be lower on the list of priorities for the Flyers and he could get lost in the shuffle a bit. I’d caution strongly against that. Raffl’s ability to move up and down the lineup and produce in all situations is something that can’t be taken lightly or for granted, and is extremely valuable to a team. While his goal numbers are likely going to drop next season as his shooting percentage decreases, his possession stats and ability to elevate his teammates’ performance still gives him a lot of value. And if he spends the whole year with Giroux and Voracek (which would create a formidable top line but leave the Flyers shallow in the rest of the forward lineup), maybe Voracek is right: Raffl could be a 30 goal scorer. I view his situation as similar to Matt Read’s going into the 2013-2014 season, where a late blooming 2-way forward has proven himself to be versatile and useful and is headed into unrestricted free agency after the season. I’d be happy to give Raffl a deal similar to what Read got (4 years, $14.5M) and I’d have no issues giving him 4 years, $16M.

Season Grade:

A-. It would have been nice to see Raffl play a full 82-game season and have more assists, I suppose, but you really can’t be anything but pleased with how he played this year. He’s got a bright future with the Flyers, particularly if he gets to play with Giroux and/or Voracek in extended minutes, and in Raffl the Flyers may have just found a piece of their core forward group going forward in the prime of his career for a bargain price out of Austria. Hey, not everything Paul Holmgren did was bad, right?

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