(Photo credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)
Most Flyers fans see the elite talent of Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux and recognize the shutdown ability of Sean Couturier and powerplay acument of Wayne Simmonds. However, the unsung hero of the Flyers forward group might be Michael Raffl.
Via Own the Puck
Raffl’s an undrafted free agent who has top line impacts on puck possession and scores goals at a top line rate. While his assist rate is solidly middle six, Raffl’s goal scoring and puck possession game have done small wonders for the team.
Via Behind the Net
Raffl faces the third highest Quality of Competition among the Flyers forwards behind Sean Couturier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, he also has the second highest Corsi Relative to Quality of Competition he faces, meaning he faces tough opponents and wins the puck battles to maintain possession.
Between his goal scoring rate, and possession ability, Raffl easily deserves a spot in the top six. In fact, Raffl’s ability is probably a good portion of why Sean Couturier’s scoring rates jumped when the Raffl-Couturier-Schenn line was formed. Of course, Raffl and Matt Read also have the ability to cover Brayden Schenn’s defensive lapses all while generating offense as well.
Because of Raffl’s versatility, he can be plugged into just about any game situation and thrive. The only place where Raffl seems out of place is on the powerplay.
This is now the quandary the Flyers face, Raffl is 27 years old. He’s not likely to improve over his current game, but he’s a very talented and versatile player and therefore can be part of the solution going forward. However, obviously a 5-8 year deal would be a huge risk.
The Flyers goal should be to either sign Raffl to a 3-4 year extension for 3.75M per year which would pay him basically the same as Matt Read, adjusting for Salary Cap inflation since Read got his new deal. If Raffl can’t be reached to a deal or if the Flyers fall out of contention between the All-Star Break and trade deadline, he’d likely fetch a pretty penny at the deadline for a team looking to add a two way scorer.