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Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: Depth Wingers

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The Flyers’ depth forwards have been a source of frequent scrutiny this season. Let’s talk about them a bit more.

Kate Frese / SBNation

After we looked this morning at the Flyers’ three most prominent wingers and how they’ve fared in the first half of the season, our mid-term series review carries on this afternoon as we take a look at the team’s three wingers that are playing “middle-6” minutes.

(Stats below are from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, corsica.hockey, and hockeyviz.com. Any statistics regarding ranks relative to the NHL are through Sunday’s games.)


Travis Konecny

Overall Numbers: 5 G, 10 A in 42 GP; 13:21 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 48.0% Corsi-For, 49.5% Expected Goals For, 1.52 Points per 60

In short: Konecny’s looked like pretty much the same player he was in his rookie season, for better and worse.

How so? Here’s how:

Travis Konecny Year-Over-Year Comparison

Season Goals per game Assists per game 5-on-5 P/60 5-on-5 P1/60 CF % CF % Rel xGF % xGF % Rel Individual xG/60
Season Goals per game Assists per game 5-on-5 P/60 5-on-5 P1/60 CF % CF % Rel xGF % xGF % Rel Individual xG/60
2016-17 0.16 0.24 1.55 1.06 50.4% -0.6% 47.8% -1.6% 0.64
2017-18 0.12 0.24 1.52 1.02 48.0% -2.0% 49.5% -2.5% 0.68

And on top of that, what we can all kind of tell is true beyond the numbers is that Konecny is still the same tantalizing talent that he’s been since the Flyers drafted him. You can see him, running wild in the offensive zone, creating chances for himself and others that just don’t seem to find their way to the net often enough. His speed and playmaking are things that this Flyers lineup simply needs, and those are on display often enough that it’s nearly impossible to really be out on him as a key contributor to this team long-term.

The optimist would say that just because Konecny’s statistical profile has remained flat between his rookie and sophomore seasons doesn’t mean that he’s destined to top out as something like the guy that he is now. Someone with his talent is just too hard to envision as a middle-6 winger who occasionally flashes as more than that.

The pessimist, though, may point out that Konecny’s put on a display of maddening inconsistency that is just reflective of the kind of player that he is. There were at least rumblings earlier in the season that Konecny, amidst a cold streak, should be sent to the AHL to get himself back in order a bit. Is a player like that one that can be relied on? Particularly one who’s still a clear negative player defensively and hasn’t yet shown that he’s good enough to score his way out of that negative? Few would deny that Konecny has the potential, but we really need to see it on display soon.

Yeah, but: Konecny’s had a very rough go of things in terms of linemates. His four most common linemates this year are Valtteri Filppula (yikes), Dale Weise (oooooooooof), Couturier (he’s good!), and Patrick (struggling). And in his time with Couturier and Giroux since the Christmas break, he’s looked excellent, scoring five points in those six games and looking dangerous throughout. Give him some time and he’ll get there.

Still, though ... Konecny’s play lately with Giroux and Couturier is no-doubt encouraging — it’s probably the best he’s looked on a regular basis since early in his rookie year, when he was putting up numbers alongside Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.

But again, the name of the game for Konecny is consistency. That might be a little unfair, because pretty much all scorers are inconsistent to some extent. But for someone who hasn’t really come around defensively and doesn’t drive play, it’s crucial that Konecny produces points on a regular basis if he’s going to be a net-positive player. The flashes are there and on display fairly often. It isn’t hard to see him really Getting There before too long. But Konecny posting five points in the last six games is noteworthy because he’d posted just one in his previous 12. Stretches like that can’t happen on a regular basis if he’s going to become the guy that the Flyers traded up for three years ago.

Grade: C+. You can still clearly see the potential in Konecny, who few would argue is one of the most dynamic offensive players on the team. We’ve seen him look quite good alongside Giroux and Couturier in the past couple of weeks, and the fact that the points have been there during that time helps fuel optimism about him that fans may have. Still, we’re waiting on that real “aha!” moment with Konecny, the one where we stop thinking that he might reach his potential and start knowing that he has. He’s certainly one to watch as the season goes on.

Poll

How would you grade Travis Konecny’s play in the first half of the 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    A
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    A-
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    B+
    (35 votes)
  • 15%
    B
    (145 votes)
  • 29%
    B-
    (274 votes)
  • 19%
    C+
    (180 votes)
  • 19%
    C
    (185 votes)
  • 6%
    C-
    (65 votes)
  • 2%
    D+
    (19 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
933 votes total Vote Now

Michael Raffl

Overall Numbers: 7 G, 6 A in 42 GP; 13:08 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 50.8% Corsi-For, 52.7% Expected Goals For, 1.22 Points per 60

In short: Following a frustrating early start, Raffl has pretty much been the player we’ve come to expect him to be.

How so? After missing the last month and a half of last season due to an injury, Raffl looked great all throughout training camp, and right from the get-go this season was a key part of a fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier that was getting some recognition as one of the NHL’s best fourth lines. His intelligence on the ice complemented the speed of the two youngsters, and together they were a swarming force that managed to stifle most of their opponents offensively.

Yet there was something missing: a point. It took Raffl up until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to finally put a goal or assist next to his name on the season, 21 games into his 2017-18 campaign. It was tough to see Raffl repeatedly fail to get rewarded for his good efforts with that fourth line, but things have gone well for him since then; beginning with that game on November 22, he’s tallied 13 points in his last 21 games, largely alongside Jakub Voracek and Valtteri Filppula. And his possession and expected-goal numbers, like they usually are, have been positive for the season. It took him a little bit of time to get going, but the Raffl that we’ve seen this season on average — taking both the cold streak and the hot streak into account — is pretty well in line with the one we’ve seen in years past.

Yeah, but: What can we expect from him going forward? His play-driving numbers have been somewhat in the red recently, which is eye-raising for a guy like Raffl that regularly posts strong figures there. And though he was obviously unsustainably cold early in the year, is he playing a bit over his head now? Would he maybe be best served on that fourth line?

Still, though ... Like we discussed earlier today with Voracek, I think Raffl’s recent slump in play-driving is mostly a product of playing alongside Valtteri Filppula in nearly every game since Thanksgiving. I’m not terribly concerned there.

But the question of what to expect from him, and what the Flyers should do with him, is a good one. Given the wingers on the team now, it’d pretty hard to argue he’s not one of the best six available, and on aggregate this season he’s probably been somewhere between the third- and fifth-most productive wingers on the team, depending on how you feel about what Konecny and arguably even Wayne Simmonds have done this season.

Should he still be playing alongside Voracek on the second line? I’m not sure. I’ve always thought of Raffl as a really good third-liner on a good team, but he’s worked well with Jakub in past seasons with other centers. Could he fare well as the third wheel on the Giroux/Couturier bulldozer line? I’m sure he could, but that may not be the best usage of that spot in the lineup or of his talents.

The one guy I’d be intrigued to see Raffl with that he hasn’t really played with at all yet is Nolan Patrick. Like Filppula, Patrick has had some trouble really hanging with the NHL game for big chunks of this season. But unlike Filppula, who seems to have slowed down as the season’s gone on, Patrick seems to be adjusting to NHL speed more and more with each passing week. He may just need someone like Raffl to help him get the puck to the right places and play responsible defensive hockey. Patrick’s done well lately with Simmonds and Jordan Weal, but if that ever falls apart and the line blender comes back out, I’d like to see Hakstol put these two together.

Grade: B-. I wanted to go higher here, given that Raffl’s underlying play remains above-average and that the scoring has been there to back it up since Thanksgiving. But it’s tough to fully overlook the whole “didn’t tally a single point in his first 21 games” thing, so Raffl gets a grade that I roughly consider to be average. Still, the arrow’s pointing up here (despite some minor warning signs), and it wouldn’t be surprising if we look back at the end of the year and say that Raffl’s deserving of a better grade than this.

Poll

How would you grade Michael Raffl’s play in the first half of the 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    A
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    A-
    (8 votes)
  • 7%
    B+
    (58 votes)
  • 30%
    B
    (243 votes)
  • 20%
    B-
    (166 votes)
  • 18%
    C+
    (149 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (111 votes)
  • 3%
    C-
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    D+
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (6 votes)
808 votes total Vote Now

Jordan Weal

Overall Numbers: 5 G, 7 A in 36 GP; 13:01 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 48.3% Corsi-For, 48.7% Expected Goals For, 1.37 Points per 60

In short: Weal has been a fine third-liner who’s flashed some promise but has on the whole maybe not quite lived up to expectations.

How so? After getting everyone’s attention in the final two months of last season’s Flyers campaign, Weal was brought back this past summer on a two-year deal paying $1.75 million per season. The contract was essentially the kind of money you’d give to an average third-liner, which made sense for a guy who had only had very limited NHL exposure up to that point. Still, with the way Weal performed in his stint last season (namely, 2.29 points per 60 minutes and a 7.07% Corsi rate relative to his teammates), there was reasons for optimism that he’d outperform that contract and potentially give the Flyers a steal for the next two seasons.

Halfway through his first full NHL season, Weal has been ... a third-liner. He’s scored like one, he’s driven play and defended like one (which is to say, slightly negative relative to the team and to break-even), and he’s looked like one, which is to say that you can occasionally see bursts of the dynamic, creative player we saw last season, but for the most part you just kind of see ... a guy. Sometimes he’s played up in the lineup, while other times he’s been on the fourth line or even occasionally in the press box. You could do worse, but you could do better.

He’s disappeared for multiple-game stretches a few times — he didn’t register a single point during the 10-game losing streak in November, and he went nearly three weeks in December without one either. Like with Konecny, for what Weal is right now, he has to be scoring more than he currently is to make a true impact.

Yeah, but: He’s doing better now, right? Expecting him to perform at the levels he was at last year was never realistic, but the Weal that’s shown up since the Christmas break (points in three of his last four) is at least closer to the one that we were hoping and thinking we’d see.

Still, though ... It’s possible. The current setup that features Weal and Wayne Simmonds centered by Nolan Patrick has been given some run at points earlier in the season, but it’s looked good lately. Despite his size, Weal’s a guy who’s at his best when he goes to the net, and we saw that in last Saturday’s win over St. Louis (though, it was Voracek who set him up for that goal, not Patrick or Simmonds). It’s up to him to show that this is the start of him re-discovering his form from last year, given that he’s had strong spurts at earlier parts of the season that were then followed up by weeks-long dry spells.

Grade: C. Weal’s played like a third-liner. Should we have expected more from him? I’m not sure. The guy who’s proven that he can dominate the AHL has proven in the past that he can be an impact guy in the NHL, but this year suggest that he isn’t quite one just yet. Hopefully that changes in the second half.

Poll

How would you grade Jordan Weal’s play in the first half of the 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    A
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    A-
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    B+
    (22 votes)
  • 5%
    B
    (40 votes)
  • 10%
    B-
    (82 votes)
  • 17%
    C+
    (134 votes)
  • 33%
    C
    (263 votes)
  • 19%
    C-
    (153 votes)
  • 5%
    D+
    (42 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (21 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (7 votes)
779 votes total Vote Now

Previously in Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: