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Meltzer's Player Profiles: Michael Raffl

Now in his seventh season with the Flyers, Michael Raffl has always been the team's Austrian-born equivalent to a Swiss Army knife

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Now in his seventh season with the Flyers, Michael Raffl has always been the team's Austrian-born equivalent to a Swiss Army knife. His ideal role is as a fourth line winger and a regular on the penalty kill, but he has proven useful over the years in a host of different roles. His versatility and combination of two-way positional awareness, fearlessness in shot blocking, and ability to protect the puck with his 200-pound frame and leg drive are his primary assets.

Need a forward who can comfortably play any forward position, including center? Raffl can do it, although left wing is his primary spot.He spent a portion of the first half of the 2019-20 as the team's fourth-line center.

Need a player who is strong on both the forecheck and backcheck to aid with puck possession? Raffl is a career 51.9 percent Corsi player with a superior ratio of credited takeaways to charged giveaways (165/145). despite spending all but one season of his career in a primarily defensive-oriented role at 5-on-5. The one season when he primarily deployed with high-skill linemates -- the 2014-15 season, when Craig Berube played him on left wing with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek -- Raffl responded with 21 goals in 67 games.

In more recent years, Raffl has only seen irregular spot duty within the top six of the lineup. At one point this season, however, Raffl started several games on second line left wing before moving back to the fourth and third lines. He remains a regular penalty killer.

A broken right pinkie finger, suffered on Dec. 3, cost Raffl 10 games. Overall, he has dressed in 58 games this season, chipping in eight goals and 20 points. 

Among teammates, Raffl is one of the best-liked players in the Flyers locker room. He always has something witty to say, and he and longtime linemate Scott Laughton are the resident good-natured needlers in the room. In formal dealing with the media, he is usually matter-of-fact but his wry sense of humor sometimes comes out along with his tendency to cut right to the chase when answering a question. 

Originally signed by the Flyers as undrafted rookie free agent in May 2013, Raffl played in Sweden before coming over to North America. He will turn 32 this December. Currently in the first season of a two-year contract extension signed last March, Raffl can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021.

FIVE KEY FACTS

1) Raffl has averaged 13:10 of ice time per game in his 470-game NHL career. This season, under Alain Vigneault, he has averaged 12:22 of ice time. This includes an average 1:26 per game on the penalty kill; the highest average PK time of his career in the seasons following 2013-14. At the same time, after seeing 61.9 percent defensive zone starts at 5-on-5 last season under Dave Hakstol and Scott Gordon, Vigneault has deployed Raffl 51.1 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts with offensive zone starts. 

2) Despite missing 11 games this season, Raffl is only one blocked shot behind Sean Couturier, who is tied with Scott Laughton for third on the team in that statistical category.

3) In all but two seasons of his NHL career, Raffl has been on the positive side of the ledger in credited takeaways vs. charged giveaways.Oddly enough, the current season is one of the few where he has turned over more pucks (23) than he's stolen from opponents (19). This may have been at least partially product of returning to center for a time earlier this season, as center typically handle the puck a little bit more often. 

4) Historically, a significant portion of Raffl's periodic offensive contributions come in short bursts spaced over several games at time. This season has been typical in that regard. He's had a stretch of five points in six games (Oct. 21 to Nov. 1), a three-game point streak (March 1 to March 5, including two goals), and three points in four games (Feb.13 to Feb. 20).

5) Raffl has been called upon by Vigneault to play 20 or more shifts in a game 23 times this season. His single-game high (26) came in the team's overtime road win against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Jan. 15.

TOP HIGHLIGHTS

Video: VGK@PHI: Raffl pots backhander on the breakaway

1) Oct. 21 vs. VGK (15:38, 3rd period): Raffl recorded a season-high three points (1g, 2a) in the Flyers' 6-2 home rout of the Golden Knights. He punctuated his night with this lovely late-game breakaway tally on the backhand; his first goal since tallying in the opening-night victory in Prague over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Video: PHI@NYR: Raffl backhands Grant's feed home for SHG

2) Mar. 1 @ NYR (17:53, 1st period): This shorthanded goal by Raffl gave Philly a 3-0 lead and silenced the Madison Square Garden crowd in the back end of the Flyers home-and-home sweep of the New York Rangers to end February and begin March on strong notes. Recently acquired teammate Derek Grant led Raff on a 2-on-1 and fed him a tape-to-tape pass. Shifting to his backhand, Raffl beat Henrik Lundqvist to open a commanding lead. The Flyers went on to win, 5-3.

Video: CAR@PHI: Raffl goes top shelf on Nedeljkovic

3) March 5 vs. CAR (9:34, 2nd period): Raffl's most recent goal was this 2-on-1 finish off a feed from Tyler Pitlick in the Flyers' 4-1 home win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The goal, which eventually was credited as the game-winner, gave the team a 2-0 lead at the time. 

THEY SAID IT

"He is a player that contributes to the process. Wherever you put Raff, he works extremely hard. I was told by Lappy [assistant coach Ian Laperriere] his summer that he's a real efficient player and a good player to have on a team because he can play all positions. He tries to play the right way all the time so there's no doubt he's an important asset on our team.:

-- Alain Vigneault, Oct. 21, 2019.

HE SAID IT

"I know how I have to play to be successful. It doesn't matter what line. It's nice to get the trust of the coach and your teammates. At the end of the day, you have to earn it, so that makes it feel even better."

Michael Raffl, Nov. 4, 2019.

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