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2018-19 Player Review: Michael Raffl

He’s definitely on the Flyers.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Through his first six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers we know what to expect out of Michael Raffl. He’s not going to produce many points or create many awe-inspiring offensive plays, but he’s an adequate bottom-six forward that can drive play and jump up to provide a fine third wheel for a top-six line. For the 2018-19 campaign, however, Raffl not only failed to produce offensively but he also had terrible play-driving numbers. Fortunately for the undrafted winger there’s no reason he can’t bounce back in 2019-20 now that it’s expected he’ll be facing lesser competition and actually have time to formulate some chemistry with his linemates.

After failing to score in the first 21 games in 2017-18, Raffl decided to go the first 20 games without finding the back of the net this past season until he beat Henrik Lundqvist at Madison Square Garden on December 23rd for his sixth point of the year. He’d also score in Philly’s next game four days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning to mark the lone time he’d score in back-to-back games for the 2018-19 campaign. Unfortunately for the Austrian forward, an 11-game goal drought followed that particular overtime loss to the Lightning and he also finished the season on a 12-game goal drought. Despite the fact he only had 18 points, Raffl managed to provide three multi-point games this past season (all two-point games) as he accrued two helpers in the infamous “we’re allowed to eat shitty food again” win over the Buffalo Sabres on December 8th and provided a goal and an assist in wins over the Anaheim Ducks on February 9th and the Ottawa Senators on March 11th.


Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
67 6 12 18 32 65 9.2

Via Corsica

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA Corsi Relative Score-Adjusted Expected Goals For % SA Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA Corsi Relative Score-Adjusted Expected Goals For % SA Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
45.35 -2.09 45.73 -1.69 46.63 99.94

Via Corsica

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
1.34 0.8 9.79 0.51

Via Corsica

Obviously, the appeal of Raffl’s game isn’t based around his point production. It’s the fact that you can plop him anywhere in the lineup and he usually drives play really well. He does have a 21-goal season to his name, but the reason a decent amount of fans like Raffl is the fact he has seemingly played well with whoever has been thrown on his line. This season that wasn’t the case. Through his first five seasons in the league, Raffl had always posted a Corsi-For percentage that was over 50 (52.57 or better in his first four seasons) and a positive relative Corsi-For player (3.21 or better in his first four seasons), but this year he was on the wrong side of both desirable thresholds with a 45.88 CF percentage and a -2.51 relative CF percentage. On top of that he had both a negative WAR and GAR per 60 ratings for the second time in his career, according to Evolving Hockey’s model.

To make matters worse Raffl drew eight penalties but took 15 in all situations this past season for a -7 penalty differential, the worst differential of his career and only the second time he’s been a negative in this stat (he was -2 in 2014-15, but he also scored 21 goals that season). This isn’t the most important statistic and isn’t always used to illustrate how well a player’s season has gone, but for a player that doesn’t light up the score sheet and is having an uncharacteristically poor puck possession season perhaps putting the proven failure of Philly’s penalty kill out there nearly twice as much as you put the team on the man advantage isn’t the best look.

Usually Raffl’s penalty differential is better. Usually his underlying numbers are a lot better. Raffl’s past season, like many other things related to the team, wasn’t the best. His dip in play is likely nothing more than a one-year blip and maybe a quieter season for the team off the ice results in an improvement in his play on the ice.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?
Nope. Raffl will never have another 20-goal season or have a season where he provides a ton of points, so the lack of point production this year isn’t what made it a down year. It’s the fact he didn’t help the Orange and Black push play down the ice like he has every season until this one.

What do we expect from this player next season?
Even though this review has been almost entirely negative, the expectation is Raffl returns to his old form for 2019-20. The Flyers fourth line shouldn’t rotate nearly as many players as it did this past season meaning (hopefully) Raffl actually has some time to form chemistry with Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick. Laughton and Raffl had some pretty ugly play-driving numbers together this season, but they never really had a regular third linemate and spent some time serving as the team’s third line. Perhaps a drop in 5-on-5 minutes and being used as a fourth liner will allow Raffl to return to the bottom-six possession monster we’ve seen in the past while still chipping in ten goals and 25 points.

What would we like to see this player improve on?
Discipline. This was only the second time in Raffl’s career where he took more penalties than he drew, but the disparity was rather large this season. Being a role player that does a lot of positive things outside of point production means Raffl needs to make sure he isn’t tipping the special teams’ advantage away from Philly. If he straightens that out (which he should) and ends up where he usually does in terms of underlying metrics, he should return to the player he was before this season.