The Flyers are sitting pretty in second place for their division, with an 8-3-2 record and some stellar play from their forwards has played a huge role in establishing early success.
The team has had its ups and downs but the forwards have stayed consistent enough to help them secure that second-place spot. Now, this doesn’t mean that the Flyers forwards don’t have a lot to work on, because they surely do. But while we’re still waiting on their return to the ice, let’s dive into some individual gradings for each player.
(The following pairings are based off their most recent game against the Capitals).
Flyers first Forward grouping: JVR, Laughton, Farabee
It seems only fair to give this stellar line their own little blurb after the work they’ve put in. It was like the stars had aligned a couple of games ago when Alain Vigneault put together a pairing that saw Scott Laughton centering James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee. This line is as smooth as butter and led the team to victory in the Flyers’ last game against Washington.
During that emphatic win, Laughton notched his first career hat trick, van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist, and Farabee had three helpers. In just four games they have accumulated some great numbers together: nine goals, nineteen points, and a plus-17 rating.
James van Riemsdyk
Grade: A+ (+++)
Where do we begin with JVR? He has been a solid and consistent forward so far this season who came in hot and hasn’t cooled off since. He just continues to show up and outdo himself, leading the offense in the process.
Van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers in points and is now one of the top scorers in the entire NHL. It’s not difficult to argue that JVR has been Philadelphia’s best all-around forward through their 13 games this season.
The former first-round pick just seems to be doing everything right and that goes beyond the scoresheet. He is capitalizing and taking control of every chance he gets.
I am happy to see that he was able to get back to his best after last season, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon as he continues his revenge tour.
Laughton is a bit of a mixed bag here. Many thought he should have been the healthy scratch instead of Konecny, but he has since then centered the Flyers’ best line by far. He even registered his first career hat trick in the Flyers game against Washington.
Despite that, Laughton is getting absolutely crushed territorially by five-on-five metrics. While he can play both center and wing, making him a valuable piece, I think there is a lot that the coaches are overlooking. He has definitely made a lot of mistakes on the offensive side, which as a top-line forward, should not be happening. Laughton needs to step up his game if he wants to keep up with the consistency his line has set.
Last but certainly not least for line one, Farabee. He has 12 points in 13 games and came off his third three-plus point night of the season. Oh, and did I mention he hasn’t even turned 21 yet?
In three of the 13 games so far this season, Farabee’s scoring helped make or break the game. Farabee is off to a great start and I truly BEElieve we will see a lot more from him (sorry, I had too). If he keeps it up, I could easily see him becoming a core piece moving forward.
Second Forward Pairing:
Oh captain, my captain. Has that been done before? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway. Looking at the numbers, he’s scoring at a point-per-game pace, and his five-on-five metrics are stunning.
Numbers aside, Giroux has had some rough games and defensive shifts, although, who hasn’t this season? However, he only has one goal on his radar, and all of his individual shot- and chance-creation stats are way down. Giroux is good, there’s no doubting that, but the captain seems to be relying a lot on other players to bring the heat.
With an overtime game-winner under his belt this season, along with 10 points in 10 games, the numbers may look good for Hayes but others would say differently.
The coaching staff has been unimpressed with Hayes’ defensive work and Vigneault called him out as being one of the players who hasn’t been playing the right way. Ouch.
It seems like he also was a potential scratch possibility if Konecny wasn’t chosen. Here’s to hoping that eventually the coaches and his stats will be on the same page sometime this season.
It’s obvious to see that Konecny’s two-way game needed some serious work in the early games. Despite all of his points (eight in nine games), he is getting taken over by shot and chance differentials, making it easy for the coaching staff to see the issues.
Vigneault scratched Tavis Konecny on January 30th because he was unhappy with his defensive play. Konecny was an All-star not too long ago and led the Flyers in goals and points over 66 games last season. In his last seven games this season, Konecny has no goals, one assist, and a combined four shots.
It is easy to see why the coaching staff has been so frustrated with him, as we know he has the potential, but it seems like Konecny has been working hard towards making those same strides again this season after being scratched. For what it’s worth, I believe in you TK.
Third Forward grouping:
Having missed a full year, it is no surprise that Lindblom seems a little rusty and isn’t yet back to his firing on all cylinders. Some of his old strengths have yet to re-emerge, but as with any good thing, that takes time. On the board with two goals and two assists, I have no doubt that he is on his way to finding his footing again.
Also off to a bit of a slow start is Patrick, who is also coming from a hefty amount of time off the ice, 21 months. However, Patrick seems to be making some serious strides this season with two goals and three assists. He has definitely shown some great plays here and there and looks like he is on track for success.
Voracek definitely has some cleaning up to do in terms of his game. Along with a couple of other forwards, forechecking seems to be a bi problem, along with puck management.
This is another case for the Flyers where the points seem to be there but the playing isn’t matching up as well as it should. There is no doubt that Voracek is a force to be reckoned with and has offensive skills that have made him one of the core players in the team, but as I said, some cleaning up is in order.
Fourth Forward grouping:
There really isn’t too much to say about Raffl for the moment as far as headlines go. He stays pretty in-line with what we expect from him on a game-to-game basis.
His line had its moment in the sun on the January 28th game against the devils where they dominated in the third period, but things have been quiet for him since.
The reigning Selke winner is back and boy does it feel good. Couturier had missed the last 10 games after suffering a rib injury during the Flyers’ second game this season. Without wasting any time on his return, early on in the third period he scored the game-winning goal. This was along with an empty-net goal and an assist.
It’s not a coincidence that some of the Flyers’ more noticeable issues, like their five-on-fives, penalty killing, and an inability to capitalize on leads — are all Couturier specialties. Having him back is definitely going to improve their odds of making a deep playoff run.
Couturier’s return could provide that much-needed stability to the units. Welcome back, Coots. We’ve missed you.
While he leads the team with minor penalties, I think it reflects the toughness he brings to the team. NAK is someone you can always count on to bring that needed heat, and from what we have seen during the first Flyers fight of the season, he is always ready to throw hands.
He gets the B- grade only because we’ve seen what he can do last season, and hasn’t really brought that this season.
He is yet to find the back of the net, and his scoring chances aren’t anywhere near what they were in the past. While it might just be that he hasn’t found his footing yet this season, I’m sure hoping that he makes a turnaround and really starts playing like the fiery bottom-six winger we all know he is.
Bunnaman got his season debut early on due to some defensive injuries in the lineup. Like I mentioned earlier, the Raffl, NAK, Bunny line has really started to shape into something. The groups’ heavy forechecking was a big reason they were able to play the Islanders at even strength. While he hasn’t produced much for the offensive side, except one assist, he’s definitely someone you are going to want to keep an eye on.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre