October is fast-approaching, which not only means another NHL season is around the corner, but also that fantasy hockey is almost upon us.
Claude Giroux. Jakub Voracek. Wayne Simmonds. Steve Mason. Mark Streit. The Flyers were fantasy gold in 2014-15, as Voracek finished fourth in the NHL scoring race, Giroux dominated the man advantage, Streit was a point-producing machine on the back-end, Simmonds couldn’t stop scoring and Mason was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
While the Flyers didn’t make the playoffs in 2014-15, they finished with the third best power-play percentage (23.4%) in the NHL, making for some popular fantasy picks.
Broken down into five different sections, here is my full 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers fantasy hockey outlook.
The Big Guns:
Claude Giroux, C — Giroux was an elite offensive force once again in 2014-15, racking up 25 goals and 73 points in 81 games. The dazzling playmaker dominated on the power play, leading the NHL with a whopping 37 power-play points and setting a career high with 14 power-play goals. The 27-year-old has fantastic vision and is one of the best puck distributors in the league. While his numbers have fallen slightly since his 93-point season in 2011-12, the top-line center is a fearless playmaker who has formed a perfect 1-2 punch with rising superstar Jakub Voracek – who finished tied for fourth in the NHL scoring race last season. Giroux racked up over half of his points in 204-15 with the man advantage, lining up on a star-studded first unit that also includes Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit. Having scored at least 25 goals in each of his last four full seasons and quarterbacking one of the deadliest power plays in the game, there is no reason Giroux can’t climb back up to the 80-point mark in 2015-16. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, no player in the NHL has recorded as many points as Giroux has (300). The superstar center is a reliable and consistent source of point production and will be a top fantasy player once again in 2015-16.
Projection: 26 G, 54 A, 80 points
Jakub Voracek, RW — After breaking out for 62 points in 2013-14, Voracek exploded in 2014-15, finishing fourth in the NHL scoring race with a whopping 81 points. The 25-year-old was a consistent fantasy force, notching 59 assists, 11 power-play goals and 78 PIM – all career highs. The top-line winger showcased terrific chemistry with linemate Claude Giroux and utilized his 6’2”, 214 lbs frame to shield the puck and become a dominant physical threat. While it’s hard to see him improving on the 81 points he managed last year, his role on the Flyers’ lethal first power-play unit and his strong puck-moving skills makes only a slight decline seem likely. Voracek fired 221 shots on goal last season and is skating alongside one of the best playmakers in the world, so it’s very possible he improves on the 22 goals he managed in 2014-15.
Projection: 24 G, 46 A, 70 Points
Wayne Simmonds, RW — Simmonds was a fantasy monster once again in 2014-15, scoring 28 goals, including 14 power-play tallies – third-most in the NHL. While his PIM total dipped down to 66, Simmonds netted six game-winning goals and was much more disciplined in his first season as an assistant captain. The feisty power forward is a monster with the man advantage and a big reason why the Flyers have one of the best power plays in the league. The 26-year-old has scored at least 28 goals in each of his last three full seasons and should land around that mark in 2015-16. While he might line up alongside newcomer Sam Gagner, Sean Couturier, Matt Read or Brayden Schenn this year, Simmonds will still be most valuable on the power play, where he parks in front of the net on a deadly unit featuring superstars Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Simmonds might not have the pure skill to rack up whopping point totals, but his relentless worth ethic and energy makes him a lethal goal-scorer and an all-around fantasy gem.
Projection: 27 G, 24 A, 51 Points
Mark Streit, D — He may be 37-years-old, but after posting 52 points in 2014-15, Streit is showing no signs of slowing down. The Swiss defenseman finished ninth among NHL blueliners in scoring last season and played a critical role on one of the best power plays in the NHL. The puck-moving defenseman has reached 40 points in each of his last six full seasons and still has a cannon for a shot. While the Flyers have numerous promising defensive prospects such as Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Sanheim in the system, Streit likely still has a year or two left of being the Flyers’ top offensive defenseman and power-play point man. While Streit, who scored nine goals in 2014-15, will continue to log heavy minutes on the back-end, it’s hard to see him improving on the 52 points he managed last year, especially given the stage he is at in his career.
Projection: 9 G, 39 A, 48 Points
Steve Mason, G — Despite missing time due to injury, Mason still had a fantastic 2014-15 season, posting an 18-18-11 record to go with a .928 save percentage – third-best in the NHL. The 27-year-old has been a consistent and reliable netminder since arriving in Philadelphia and has finally given the Flyers some stability in the crease. While the team signed Michael Neuvirth during the offseason, Mason will likely play 60-65 games in 2015-16 as long as he can remain healthy. The former Blue Jacket pitched three shutouts last year and gave up more than four goals only twice in 51 outings. The Flyers haven’t improved much, so don’t expect a huge increase in wins for Mason, but the former Calder winner should maintain a solid save percentage and give Philadelphia a good chance at victory every game. The Flyers finally found their starting goaltender in Mason and there is no reason he can’t play at an elite level once again in 2015-16.
Projection: 31 Wins, .919 Save Percentage, 2.60 GAA
On the Rise:
Sean Couturier, C — Fresh off signing a six-year contract extension in the 2015 offseason, Couturier is heading into a critical 2015-16 season. The 22-year-old put up 15 goals and 37 points in 82 games in 2014-15, finishing third on the Flyers with 31 even-strength points and ending the regular season on a six-game point streak. While he‘s yet to surpass the 15-goal, 40-point mark, the Flyers see him as their number two center and it’s possible he reaches that next level in 2015-16. While he’s been used in a third-line role in Philadelphia, it’s expected that this season he will transition into the second-line center role. The former 96-point-getter in the QMJHL is a solid shutdown forward who plays a key role on the penalty kill and second power-play unit. The youngster remains more valuable to the Flyers than to fantasy owners, but after back-to-back campaigns just shy of the 40-point mark, this could be the year he builds off the confidence the team has placed in him and becomes a more lethal offensive threat. The addition of the crafty Sam Gagner will give a big boost to the Flyers’ second power-play unit, so it’s likely Couturier puts up some decent numbers with the man advantage after scoring just one power-play goal in his first 287 career NHL games.
Projection: 18 G, 29 A, 47 Points
Brayden Schenn, LW — Schenn notched a career-high 47 points in his fourth full NHL season, establishing himself as a key threat on the Flyers first power-play unit. The 23-year-old matched a career-best with six game-winning goals and fell just one helper short of the 30-assist mark. Skating with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds with the man advantage, Schenn racked up an impressive seven power-play tallies. While he went through some goal-scoring slumps, the former King consistently appeared on the scoresheet and finished the year strong with four goals and seven points in his last six games. He’ll likely line up alongside Simmonds in 2015-16, where he will once again have a chance to climb out of mediocrity and reach that next level. If he remains on the top power-play unit, finds some more consistency and can build off his strong finish to last year, the former 99-point getter in the WHL has the talent to finally surpass the 20-goal and 50-point mark.
Projection: 21 G, 27 A, 48 Points
Michael Del Zotto, D — After producing just 16 points split between the Rangers and Predators in 2014-15, Del Zotto came to Philadelphia in need of a fresh start. The 25-year-old was a fantasy stud in his first season with the Flyers, recording 10 goals (four game-winners), 32 points and 119 shots on goal in 64 games. While Mark Streit mans the point on the top power-play unit, Del Zotto is the quarterback of the second unit, racking up eight points with the man advantage in 2014-15. The former Ranger was a solid two-way blueliner for the Flyers last year – never afraid to join and the rush and crease offensive opportunities. Del Zotto averaged 21:55 of ice time in his first year with Philadelphia and will continue to be relied on heavily this upcoming season. The Flyers may have some promising defensive prospects in their system, but they are still a few years away from being NHL-ready, so expect Del Zotto to once again be a key offensive contributor from the back-end in 2015-16. Del Zotto hit the 35-point mark in each of his first two full NHL seasons in New York, so there is no reason the offensively talented blueliner can’t reach that barrier in full 82-game season in Philly behind a lethal forward group.
Projection: 9 G, 30 A, 39 Points
Sam Gagner, C — Traded to the Flyers from the Coyotes in late-June in exchange for the contract of Chris Pronger and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, Gagner is getting a fresh start with an offensively talented hockey team. While the 26-year-old has been a part of the Oilers, Lightning and Coyotes over the past two years, he’s a gifted playmaker who has managed 336 points in 562 career NHL games. Coming off a 15-goal, 41-point season with Arizona in 2014-15, Gagner, who has scored six power-play goals in four of his last seven NHL seasons, will give a big boost to the Flyers second man advantage unit. It’s unclear where he will play at even strength, but Gagner possesses tremendous offensive instincts that should land him in the 40-point range. The former 18-goal-scorer was in need of a fresh start and will get the perfect opportunity to prove any doubters wrong in Philadelphia.
Projection: 16 G, 29 A, 45 Points
Michael Raffl, LW — Despite missing 15 games due to injury, Raffl still had a very successful 2014-15 season, finishing fourth on the Flyers with 21 goals. The 26-year-old slotted in perfectly on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, leading all Flyers’ forwards with a plus-6 rating. While he averaged not even 30 seconds of power-play time last year, Raffl still managed to score twice with the man advantage and made the most of his 14:12 total average ice time. Although he put up just 28 points, Raffl is proving he is a solid goal-scorer who knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. If he can stick on the top line and find a spot on the Flyers’ second power-play unit, there is no reason the Austrian can’t hit the 20-goal mark once again in 2015-16.
Projection: 23 G, 17 A, 40 Points
Michael Neuvirth, G — Signed to a two-year contract by the Flyers in the 2015 offseason, Neuvirth now becomes the new backup for starting goaltender Steve Mason. While Neuvirth posted a lackluster 7-20-4 record split between the Sabres and Islanders in 2014-15, the 27-year-old still recorded a solid .914 save percentage. With Mason hoping to play around 60-65 games in 2015-16, it’s likely you’ll see Neuvirth play 20-30 games in his first season with Philadelphia. The former Capital has managed just seven shutouts in 168 career NHL starts, but he’s sporting a .912 career save percentage and can provide reliability and stability in a backup role. Neuvirth makes for a good spot start on an offensively talented Flyers team and could be an under the radar pickup if Mason goes down with an injury.
Projection: 17 Wins, .911 Save Percentage, 2.84 GAA
Andrew MacDonald, D — MacDonald struggled to produce offense in 2014-15, managing just two goals and 12 points in 58 games. After recording 24 points in his final 63 games with the Islanders in 2013-14, MacDonald has notched just 14 points in 77 games since arriving in Philadelphia. While the offense has disappeared, MacDonald remains somewhat valuable in very deep leagues due to his blocked shot and PIM totals (86 and 41 in 2014-15 respectively). He averages around 20:00 of ice time, but with offensive defenseman Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto, in addition to rising defensive prospects in the system, don’t expect MacDonald to see much power-play time. The 28-year-old blueliner should improve on his totals from last season, but don’t expect a huge leap, as he’s relied on defensively more than anything in Philadelphia.
Projection: 4 G, 18 A, 22 Points
R.J. Umberger, RW — Umberger struggled in his first season with Philadelphia, scoring just nine goals and 15 points in 67 games. The 33-year-old, who was once a lock for 40-50 points, struggled to fit into the Flyers system and ended up producing the lowest point total of his 10-season NHL career. The veteran finished tied for last on the team with a minus-9 rating and matched a career low with just two power-play goals. With a new coach in Dave Haxstol, Umberger has a chance to put last year behind him and start fresh. The former 25-goal-scorer will likely slot in on the third line, but don’t expect for him to see too much time with the man advantage. With the offseason acquisition of the crafty Sam Gagner –Umberger could be in for a minor bounce-back campaign with the former Oiler as his potential linemate.
Projection: 15 G, 20 A, 35 Points
Matt Read, RW — Read had a season to forget in 2014-15, scoring just eight goals in 80 games – the lowest goal total of his four-season NHL career. The sharp-shooter is usually a lock for 20 goals, but he struggled with consistency issues and lack of power-play time last year. While the 29-year-old still reached 30 points, he appeared unmotivated at times and went through several lengthy slumps. Read is too good not to rebound, though, so expect him to climb back up to that 20-goal mark in 2015-16. His power-play time went down to 1:37 in 2014-15 after it was at 2:28 in his first full NHL season, but with the acquisition of the crafty Sam Gagner, Read could find himself finding twine more often on the Flyers’ likely new and improved second man advantage unit.
Projection: 19 G, 20 A, 39 Points
Vincent Lecavalier, C — A new coach in Dave Haxstol is just what Lecavalier needs after he struggled in 2014-15 under coach Craig Berube. The 35-year-old center managed just eight goals and 20 points in 57 games – the lowest point total of his 16-season NHL career. The former 50-goal-scorer potted 20 goals in his first season with the Flyers, but struggled to produce last season in just 12:38 of average ice time. While he’s no longer the player he once was, Lecavalier still has enough in the tank to be an impactful fantasy player. The veteran has produced 931 points in 1,163 career NHL games and should rebound in 2015-16. Lecavalier is a force with the man advantage, having scored eight power-play tallies in his first year in Philadelphia, so if he gets locked into a role on the second man advantage unit with newcomer Sam Gagner and point man Michael Del Zotto, Lecavalier could rack up some decent numbers. He may be aging, but Lecavalier still has the skill and talent to produce and create offense. If he can get decent minutes, Lecavalier could be a late-round fantasy steal in some deep leagues.
Projection: 18 G, 21 A, 39 Points