The Philadelphia Flyers are already nearing the quarter mark of the season. The Flyers have played 13 of 56 scheduled games thus far, or about 23% of the schedule. There have already been some ups and downs, with a few prominent Flyers forwards getting promoted, demoted, and even healthy scratched.
As we near the quarter mark of the season, let’s take a look at how the Flyers players are performing. I have decided to grade each player individually based on their performance so far compared to what we expect of them. Let’s start with the Flyers forwards grades.
The players are listed alphabetically, and each forward has played in all 13 games unless noted. I have only graded forwards that have played in eight or more games, so Sean Couturier, Morgan Frost, and Samuel Morin receive “incomplete” grades.
Corsi For (CF%) measures how many shot attempts (shots on goal, shots that miss the net, and shots that are blocked) a team takes compared to their opposition. The Flyers have 44 shots attempts for every 56 shot attempts their opponent has.
Expected Goals For (xGF%) is similar to Corsi For but takes into account the quality of the shot attempt. Shot attempts that are closer to the net and in more dangerous areas are worth more.
CF% Rel and xGF% Rel measure how a team performs with the player on the ice vs. the player off the ice. A positive number is, well, positive, while a negative number is negative.
Goals: 1 / Assists: 3 / Points: 4
CF% Rel: 0.39 / xGF% Rel: -5.82
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is one of the more disappointing Flyers forwards so far this season. After a breakout in the second half of last season, Aube-Kubel has either taken a step back or hit a wall this season.
Aube-Kubel has taken more minor penalties (six) in 13 games this season than he did last season (five) in 36 games, while only drawing three penalties (nine drawn last season).
He is most effective along the boards and on the forecheck, and the Flyers haven’t done that effectively this season. If the team is able to get things going at even strength, maybe Aube-Kubel can follow suit; or vice versa. There’s still plenty of time for Aube-Kubel to prove us wrong this season.
Goals: 0 / Assists: 1 / Points: 1
CF% Rel: -0.75 / xGF% Rel: -10.14
Bunnaman is one of the few forwards down there with Aube-Kubel this season. He was only in the lineup due to two injuries, and it started to show in the few games leading up to him being sent to the taxi squad on Saturday.
He was able to control possession around the rate that the Flyers were in general, but the quality of chances went against him. Bunnaman appears to be a fourth-line center and while he filled that role in a pinch, the Flyers have a few better options when they’re fully healthy.
Goals: 6 / Assists: 6 / Points: 12
CF% Rel: +1.93 / xGF% Rel: +5.66
Joel Farabee has been one of the brighter spots for the Flyers this season. He is among the team leaders in xGF% at 49.45%, +5.66 relative to his teammates. He has been able to drive play, create chances, and put the puck in the back of the net.
Farabee has six goals and six assists on the season for an impressive 12 points in 13 games. It’s worth noting that 10 of those points came in three games: four in the season opener, hat trick vs. Islanders, three assists on Sunday. He’s like the student that might miss an assignment or two, but he’ll nail the pop quizzes and exams to bring that grade back up.
At just 20 years old, Farabee is having a strong start to the season. He may end up with a grade in the B range when it’s all said and done, but I had to give him his props for a hot start.
Goals: 1 / Assists: 10 / Points: 11
CF% Rel: +5.5 / xGF% Rel: +9.11
Claude Giroux may be one of the more polarizing grades for the forwards. We’ll hear all day long about how he only has one goal so far, but he’s been the Flyers’ best play driver and has 10 assists on the season.
Giroux is one of three Flyers forwards with an xGF over 50%, which is impressive given this team’s start. He hasn’t been able to take over a game or get that clutch goal just yet, but he’s making his mark and leading the right way.
While Giroux has only found the back of the net once, that should come around as he continues to drive play. With Sean Couturier seemingly healthy again, Giroux will only get better opportunities whether they’re on the same line or different lines. It also won’t hurt if the Flyers’ power play starts to figure it out.
Goals: 6 / Assists: 5 / Points: 11
CF% Rel: +0.52 / xGF% Rel: +7.18
We’re on a roll now with Farabee, Giroux, and Kevin Hayes.
Hayes is driving play and getting results on the scoreboard. He has been able to perform well with different linemates and move up and down the lineup. Hayes is also playing in all situations and continuing to prove he’s worth the big free-agent deal he signed last offseason.
With Couturier injured for most of the start of the season, Hayes stepped into a larger role. He took on some of those top-line center duties, killed more penalties, and jumped up to the top power-play unit. Hayes should only continue to get better with the return of Couturier.
Goals: 5 / Assists: 3 / Points: 8
CF% Rel: +0.31 / xGF% Rel: +0.46
Travis Konecny started out the season really hot but has as many points as healthy scratches in the last two weeks (one assist in seven games, five straight without a point). Konecny caught the brunt of Alain Vigneault sending a message and hasn’t yet been able to respond.
There may be some good signs as Konecny picked up a high-danger chance in each of the past two games, but he needs to get back up to having multiple scoring chances per game like he did in four of the first six games of the season. And if he’s not, he needs to be doing enough away from the puck in his own zone and in transition. He’s been about on par with the rest of the team in terms of driving possession, but he needs to actually drive play if he wants to be one of the best young wingers in the league.
Konecny gets a bump up in grade for his start, but his more recent performance has dropped him to the middle of the pack.
Goals: 4 / Assists: 5 / Points: 9
CF% Rel: -5.41 / xGF% Rel: -4.87
Scott Laughton is lucky that he had his best game of the young season prior to writing this. He was one of the best Flyers forwards in terms of driving play, and on top of that, he recorded his first career hat trick, of course.
Even with that good game, Laughton’s season Corsi For of 40.46% is the lowest among regular forwards and his 41.83 xGF% is among the bottom four as well. Laughton has been thrust into a larger role than expected due to injuries, however, which has hurt his stock. It also doesn’t help that he’s coming off a career year. Laughton may return to form a bit as Couturier returns to shoulder the load.
Goals: 2 / Assists: 2 / Points: 4
CF% Rel: -4.64 / xGF% Rel: -8.81
This is strictly a grade based on Lindblom’s performance as a hockey player.
Lindblom had goals in the first two games of the season and then an assist in the fourth and seventh games of the season. However, he has been kept off of the scoresheet since then.
He hasn’t yet been able to click on a line and his play-driving numbers are down. Perhaps the return of Couturier helps him out, too. Maybe we see the Lindblom – Couturier – Konecny line reunited in an attempt to give the two wingers a boost.
Goals: 2 / Assists: 3 / Points: 5
CF% Rel: -1.01 / xGF% Rel: -1.81
Nolan Patrick is in a similar boat to a few other players. Like Lindblom, he is quite some time removed from his last NHL action. He started out strong with five points in his first seven games but has none since.
Patrick has also been relied upon more and gotten worse matchups due to Couturier’s absence. If the Flyers have their group of forwards healthy, Patrick should be able to shine more in a third-line role. So far, however, he’s about average with the team across the board in terms of driving possession and could use a few more points. You’d like to see a bit more, but there’s still time and this team hasn’t reached its potential yet.
Goals: 2 / Assists: 3 / Points: 5
CF% Rel: 1.09 / xGF% Rel: -3.32
Michael Raffl is a known quantity and has been for several years. He kills penalties and can move up the lineup in a pinch, but is best in a grinder’s role on a checking line. He does the little things right to win battles and drive possession, and can help create some offense as well.
Raffl is playing at about the level that most people expect. He’s a bit past his prime and won’t see extended time in the top six, but instead be an important part of the fourth line.
Goals: 7 / Assists: 11 / Points: 18
CF% Rel: 3.4 / xGF% Rel: 8.76
There is no doubt about who is the best player on the Flyers right now. It’s not Sean Couturier (well, not yet), Claude Giroux, or Jake Voracek: It’s James van Riemsdyk.
After a lackluster playoffs, the van Riemsdyk stock was low. But JVR is soaring here to start the 2021 season.
James van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers in all three major statistical categories and is one of the best play-driving forwards as well. He has been especially noticeable over the past week or two. JVR is on a seven-game point streak with four goals and nine assists for 13 points in that span.
He has not gone more than two games without a point or four games without a goal this season. JVR has been making plays in the defensive zone to spring his linemates and getting in on the forecheck to create pressure.
Goals: 3 / Assists: 9 / Points: 12
CF% Rel: -3.74 / xGF% Rel: -4.37
Last, but not least, is Jake Voracek. Voracek has been one of the better forwards, but he’s also been frustrating. Despite some lapses, he is tied for second on the team with 12 points in 13 games.
Voracek needs to drive play a bit more, and likely will once the lines settle in with the return of Couturier, but he’s finding the scoresheet and that’s what he’s paid to do.
Let’s just take a quick synopsis and wrap this up.
- A: Joel Farabee, James van Riemsdyk
- B: Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Jake Voracek
- C: Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Michael Raffl
- D: Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Connor Bunnaman
There are quite a few Flyers forwards graded at the “C” level, and almost all of them have plenty of room to grow.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick