Who will net the most goals to win the Flyers scoring race in 2018-19?
After an up-and-down season which saw the Flyers exit after one round of the playoffs, expectations have risen going into 2018-19. With the addition of James van Riemsdyk, the top-six is full of talented players. One thing that will be in question this season: who will win the Flyers scoring race?
Leading by example
In the 2017-18 season, Flyers captain Claude Giroux put the team on his back. Towards the end of the season, the Ontario-native exploded for eight goals in just the last five regular-season games. This was exactly what the Flyers needed, giving them the chance at a playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Giroux led the Flyers in goals for the first time in his career. He also led the team in assists with 68, and total points with 102. Moving the face-off master to the left wing was somewhat controversial at the beginning of the season, however, clearly, he feels comfortable there.
10 NHL seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. 200 NHL goals. Congrats, Claude Giroux! pic.twitter.com/1cckfcv6Z5
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) February 18, 2018
The expectations for the Flyers captain will remain high this coming season. Center Sean Couturier is coming off of a major breakout season, and winger Travis Konecny is expected to be a staple on Giroux’s opposite wing. The chemistry these three players had last year was impressive.
Look to see more of that starting in October, and all three players to continue contributing heavily to the scoresheet. Giroux may not surpass the 100-point mark again, but expect him to be close. I don’t see him significantly slowing down anytime soon.
The train won’t stop here
Approaching a contract year, another Flyers scoring race candidate is Wayne Simmonds. This past season, Simmonds was slowed down by a long list of injuries. But that didn’t stop him from putting up decent numbers with 24 goals and 46 points.
Prior to last season, the 6’2″ winger led the Flyers in goals in each of the previous four seasons. Even with a down year in 2017-18, he holds the team-best goal average over the course of the last three seasons at 29 goals per season.
One thing that people may think could hold the winger back is his position in the line-up. With the acquisition of van Riemsdyk, it is almost guaranteed that Simmonds will end up on the third line, opposite Oskar Lindblom. This line could still be dangerous though, with either Mikhail Vorobyev or Jordan Weal likely between them.
A major leader on the team, Simmonds’ future with the Flyers remains unknown. The rumors have been swirling and he has reportedly been in contract talks with the franchise. Whether or not he gets dealt at the trade deadline, expect to see Simmonds bury the puck in the net early and often, especially if he remains on the first power play.
Simmonds makes it two goals in just 40 seconds!
That’s his 13th of the season. pic.twitter.com/bCwrtytNR3
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 5, 2018
Will Simmonds remain in Orange and Black?
It is unknown whether it will be Vorobyev, Weal, or dark-horse candidate Scott Laughton in between the wings. Fans will get a better idea of that after training camp while these guys compete for the spot. Regardless, expect to see Simmonds in front of the net, ready to bury any puck that comes near the crease.
If he remains healthy all season (and stays in orange and black), expect him to score between 25-30 goals. This could vary greatly, however, depending on the play of both Lindblom and whoever centers that line.
Familiar face coming home
Over the offseason, GM Ron Hextall went to the market and picked up a former-Flyer in van Riemsdyk. He is coming back to Philadelphia stronger, faster, and with a better shot than when he left. He could absolutely be a candidate to lead the Flyers scoring race this season.
In his last five seasons with the Maple Leafs, the lefty averaged 27.2 goals/season and that’s including one year that he missed half of the season due to injury. Last season, he led the team in goals with 36, besting Auston Matthews. In 2014-15, he also led the Leafs in goals at 27, two more than Phil Kessel.
Playing on the left side of a quickly-developing Nolan Patrick, as well as expert playmaker Jakub Voracek, the former Maple Leaf will have no shortage of opportunities. Like Simmonds, van Riemsdyk is a master in the crease. He uses his size to out-muscle defenseman and gets the puck into the net.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 19, 2017
Flyers fans also expect to see van Riemsdyk on the power play, which will give him plenty of opportunities to score. A big winger with a lethal shot, I would expect him to stay in the 35-40 goal range for the season, possibly more. Don’t be surprised to see JVR in the top-10 goal scorers of the league in 2018-19.
Sophomore slump need not apply
Outside of the usual suspects, there could be a few surprises. The young talent that the Flyers have acquired in recent years is developing at an impressive rate. One player that could have a break-out year is Patrick.
The right-handed center started the season off slowly, still learning the speed of the NHL. He spent most of the off-season last year in rehab for previous injuries, and it showed. But once 2018 started, Patrick found his groove.
Pretty passing all around from the Flyers on this Nolan Patrick beauty ?. pic.twitter.com/Ot1BWjoiuk
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 1, 2018
Starting in January, the Manitoba-native gained a strong chemistry with Voracek. In the final 44 games of the season, Patrick acquired 11 goals and 12 assists, good for .52 points/game in 2018. His role on the power-play increased, which landed him five goals on the man advantage.
The Flyers 2017 number two overall pick has incredible vision on the ice. Without looking, he seems to know where his teammates are, both in the zone and on the break-out. If he keeps trending up at the rate he has been, it’s not out of the question to see him reach the 25-goal mark.
New first-line staple
Another player who could potentially lead the Flyers scoring race is fan-favorite Konecny. He more than doubled his goal production in his sophomore year, from 11 his rookie season to 24 last year. Consistently being on a line with Giroux and Couturier can only help his case.
When Konecny is on his game, he can be very scary for opposing players. He has soft hands, a killer shot, and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice.
Travis Konecny with an absolute DISGUSTING goal ?? pic.twitter.com/pYAk4AwJZP
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) April 1, 2018
Listed at only 5’10”, the former first-round pick has been working hard to bulk up this offseason. Continuing to get first-line minutes, it’s not out of the question to think that Konecny will surpass the 30-goal mark this season.
Who will take the crown?
With the amount of scoring power the Flyers have going into this season, its difficult to predict who will win the Flyers scoring race. Can Giroux continue his dominance on the left wing, or will a healthy Simmonds take back the throne? Can van Riemsdyk form chemistry with new linemates quickly enough start scoring early?
I believe it is not a stretch to think Giroux will stay on course, and record 33-37 goals again. Simmonds, if healthy and on the team, all season, will go back to his normal self but see a small drop-off in goal production this season. This will be due to playing with a new center, and linemate Lindblom still developing. Look for Simmonds to net 26-28 goals.
However, I believe van Riemsdyk will lead the Flyers scoring race this coming season. He will be mostly facing opposing teams’ second defensive pairing, and getting formidable time on the power play. With both Patrick and Voracek’s pass-first mentalities, look for van Riemsdyk to surpass the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career, and clinch the Flyers scoring race.
Top Flyers goal-scoring predictions:
van Riemsdyk – 40
Giroux – 34
Couturier – 30
Konecny – 29
Simmonds – 26
Patrick – 22
Voracek – 20
For more information, visit @PSN_Philly
All statistics from nhl.com
Featured image credit @CanesUberFan via Flickr
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