When the Philadelphia Flyers signed a 25 year old Austrian forward named Michael Raffl this summer there was not a whole lot of media attention. The signings of Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, and Ray Emery took center stage. The Raffl signing, however, has arguably been the Flyers most impactful offseason move. On Tuesday, Michael Raffl’s Austrian Olympic squad was eliminated from competition by the “feel good” team of the tournament, Slovenia. Raffl was one of three NHLers on the Austrian roster (Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner were the other two) and played a very solid tournament. In four games Raffl had a goal and two assists while logging an average of 18:10 minutes per game. Raffl registered seven shots on goal and took two minor penalties. So, the question remains:
Will Michael Raffl’s experience in Sochi be beneficial for the Philadelphia Flyers?
Absolutely. There is no doubt that Raffl had a fantastic tournament. On his very first shift he made an excellent play along the boards to set up a Michael Grabner goal. Against Canada he was one of the few Austrian players who did not look star struck and was able to create a few chances. Here are a couple of reasons that Raffl’s tournament will be helpful throughout the stretch run:
First, Raffl once again displayed his versatility and his ability to adapt. Raffl played center for most of the tournament and was given a two-way role. He was counted on for offense, but also made quite a few solid defensive plays. One of the major differences in this tournament from his NHL career was the expectations that were placed on him. As one of three NHLers on the team, Raffl was expected to be a top forward for the Austrians. He answered the bell. He may not have played four perfect games, but he was involved at both ends of the ice, showed off his great physical edge along the boards, and even chipped in on the score sheet. His ice time was far greater than what it is for the Flyers, and this should only help his conditioning and confidence.
Second, he still gets a break. As a rookie in the NHL, Raffl would inevitably have started to feel fatigue in the later portions of the NHL season. The fact that he got the chance to play in the Olympics is fantastic, but he also gets a built in break from the NHL grind. The Flyers do not play again for over a week. Therefore, Raffl can rest up while staying sharp for the stretch run. In his previous years in the professional Swedish league, Raffl never played more than 59 games. He has already logged 46 games this season and is on pace for 69 games, plus any playoff time. The built in nine day break that this loss gives him should do wonders for the first year forward.
If the Flyers are going to be successful they need their unsung heroes to do their jobs. Raffl is one of those unsung heroes. He’s no Giroux, but what Raffl does on the ice is invaluable. A quintessential role player, Raffl needs to be on top of his game if the Flyers want to be successful in the postseason.