At this time last year there was a 24 year old Austrain forward named Michael Raffl making a name for himself in the World Championships. He was pursued by multiple NHL teams, including the Nashville Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers. He eventually signed a one year, two way contract with the Flyers for $792,500.
Raffl began the season with the Adirondack Phantoms, but was called up early on in the season when both Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell had to miss time due to injuries. He never went back, playing in 68 regular season games, recording nine goals, 13 assists, and 22 points. He played on every line and spent time on the ice with virtually every player on the roster.
So what does the future hold for Michael Raffl?
Well first of all, more money. Raffl signed a two year contract extension worth $2.2 million ($1.1M AAV). He will be around for the next couple of years and, as we will get into for the rest of the article, his cap hit should be a steal.
The future should also hold a solidified top nine role for the 6’0″, 195lbs winger. Although his numbers were not incredible, there were numerous factors contributing to his pedestrian offensive statistics. He will never be a 50 goal scorer or a point per game talent, but what Raffl brings to the game is very valuable.
First, let’s look at his possession stats. Here is a chart with Raffls numbers, courtesy of ExtraSkater.com:
13-14 reg season
Corsi For %
Corsi For %
13-14 reg season
Corsi Relative %
Corsi Relative %
What this chart tells us is that Raffl drives play up the ice. The Flyers had more shot attempts than their opponents while Raffl was on the ice both during the regular season and playoffs.
However, it is always important to dive into the context of possession stats. Did Raffl have favorable line combinations? Did he often start his shifts in the offensive zone?
Next, let’s look at Raffl’s usage stats. Raffl’s top linemates throughout the regular season were Claude Giroux (34% of shifts), Jakub Voracek (26.7%), and Sean Couturier (26.4%). During the regular season he started 33% of his shifts in the offensive zone, 41.4% in the neutral zone, and 25.6% in the defensive zone. On the surface, it looks like Raffl had very favorable linemates and zone starts.
Of course, when we dig a little deeper, things look a bit tougher for Raffl. Although he spent the more time with Claude Giroux than with anyone else, he only spent about a one third of his shifts with the superstar. The rest of the Flyers forwards had at least one other player with whom they played with for at least 50% of their shifts.
To put this in context, Matt Read spent 83.5% of his regular season shifts with Sean Couturier. So 34% of his shifts with Giroux really is not a whole lot. What this tells us is that Raffl was shuttled around the lineup more than anyone else on the team.
It should be mentioned that Raffl had favorable zone starts this season. He was in the top five among Flyers forwards. However, he plays a smart game and as he gets more and more adjusted, he can be trusted with more defensive zone starts. It should also be noted that his zone starts in the playoffs were incredibly unfavorable (17.6% OZone, 42.6% NZone, 39.7% DZone).
Finally, let’s analyze how Raffl plays. Despite his realtively skinny frame, Raffl is not afraid of contact along the boards. He showed surprising skill throughout the season and even had a few flashes of offensive prowess. Raffl plays well on both sides of the puck and does not have an abundance of giveaways. On the season, Raffl was credited with 21 giveaways and 25 takeaways.
He has all the makings of becoming Matt Read lite. Basically, he is very similar to Read, but he lacks Reads offensive instincts. That said, I do believe there is potential for Raffl to raise his all-around game.
Michael Raffl is ready for a top nine, dare I say top six, role. If given consistent linemates and decent zone starts Raffl has shown that he can make things happen. Yes, he only recorded one assist during seven playoff games, but he was stuck on the fourth line and had terrible zone starts for much of the series.
Every line Raffl was on this season came out on the plus side of the scoring chance battle and at only $1.1 million a year, Raffl is a cap friendly jack of all trades. Ultimately, is he is used correctly he can be a very solid player in this league.