TAMPA – Since the Flyers signed Michael Raffl to a free agent contract back in May, I’ve been touting him on this blog as a legit prospect who would not only make the team out of camp but have an impact on the season.
Technically, he didn’t make the team out of camp, missing the first five games while in the AHL, nor has he had a real impact yet.
So if you say today that I was wrong, then I must say that I am guilty as charged.
If you are willing to give it more time to see if, in fact, Raffl can still have a decent impact on the team this season, then I will say the verdict is still out on my assessment of him – and it should be.
Because I still believe, he will make a name for himself this season with the Flyers.
Everyone I talk to likes his game. There are some people who think that he could play regularly as a top six forward and be productive.
He is versatile. He has played on all four lines for the Flyers in his 11 games so far. He has just one assist, but has played well enough that many people around the organization feel that it’s a matter of time before he starts producing.
He even took regular shifts yesterday in practice on the power play working in the high slot area.
I talked privately with Flyers Craig Berube about him, and I think it’s safe to say, he likes Raffl.
Raffl came out of the lineup because of illness. It was bad timing for the young forward as it coincided with the Flyers getting on a bit of a run, and Berube said when things are going well, he won’t touch the lineup, so Raffl had to sit and be patient.
However, even though he’s used Raffl on the fourth line before, and could well do it again, Berube believes Raffl is better suited for a top nine forward slot because he is good in the offensive end of the ice.
“He’s a smart offensive player,” Berube told me. “He knows how to score. He’s got a nice shot. He hasn’t figured out how to score at this level yet, but he’s close. He will. He just needs another opportunity.”
And that opportunity will come tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Raffl will replace the injured Matt Read, who didn't practice Monday nor skated at the morning skate today.
Read is dealing with a lower-body injury. According to General Manager Paul Holmgren, Read is day-to-day.
“[Raffl's] the type of player who can move up and down the lineup,” Berube said. “He played with [Claude] Giroux for a while and looked good there and Giroux liked playing with him. He’s been on the checking line, on the fourth line… Whatever line he’s on he’s helped out the line.
“He’s been very good. He’s a positive kid and a happy kid who works hard and loves being around the team. We really like him and we’re going to get him in there. Everybody wants to play and contribute but sometimes you have to be patient.”
The Flyers did consider sending him down to the Phantoms for some game action, but felt that he was still benefitting plenty from practicing regularly with the team.
“He’s our only extra forward and we need an extra forward up here,” Berube said. “I think he’s still developing even though he’s not playing. He’s doing a lot of good stuff in practice. He’s getting used to the pace – even if it’s just practice. Right now I don’t see [him having been out of the lineup] being a problem.”
It wouldn't surprise me if Raffl is back in the lineup to stay. I just get that sense from a lot of decision-makers in the organization.
If not, I'll take my sentence, your honor.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers