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RAFFL FIRST OFFICIAL FLYERS OLYMPIAN

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

VANCOUVER – The Flyers will likely have six players named to their respective countries Olympic teams in the next week or so as the participating nations will begin announcing their final squads.

However, one Flyer didn’t really want to wait to share the news.

Michael Raffl, who has burst onto the scene as a gem of a free agent signing by the team last offseason, was thrilled to share that he has already been told he will be representing Team Austria in the Olympics in six weeks in Sochi, Russia.

“It’s nice,” he said. “The coach (Manny Viveiros) called me last week and told me ‘You’re going to be on the team,’ It’s exciting, It’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Raffl, 25, admitted that he had a pretty good idea that he was going to Russia ever since Austria qualified for the games last February.

“I was already on the National team then,” he said. “Then I played with [New York Islanders forward Thomas] Vanek at World Championships and now there are just three Austrians in the NHL, so, yes, I sort of figured I’d be there. But, still, you never know until you are told, so it was exciting news to me.”

Raffl will be joined by Vanek and Michael Grabner (also the New York Islanders) on the roster.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind seven months for Raffl, who, prior to signing a free agent contract with the Flyers in May, was just a guy tolling in the second-tier Swedish league.

But Flyers European scouts – in particular Ilkka Sinisalo – liked Raffl’s game, and passed the name along to Chief Pro Scout Dave Brown and Director of Scouting Chris Pryor.

They saw Raffl play with the Austrian team at the World Championships and liked what they saw – as this little known guy was holding his own against NHL-caliber competition, albeit on a bigger ice surface.

The Flyers inked him to a two-way deal, but Paul Holmgren was confident in the summer that Raffl could make the team and have an impact.

He needed to be sent down to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL to start the season, but was quickly called up and has been on the roster ever since – despite sitting for seven consecutive games in November as a healthy scratch - and recently graduated to top line left wing duty, where he has compiled a goal and six assists in eight games so far, compiling 11 points overall this season.

And now, the Flyers told him to find a place to live, not just stay at a nearby hotel as he had been, showing that they believe he will be around for awhile.

Raffl will be a restricted free agent next off season, but it’s a good bet the Flyers will try to sign him to a new deal, and likely give him a bump in salary from his current $792,500.

Still, Raffl isn't worried about the future, nor is he getting comfortable despite moving from a hotel into an apartment.

"I still have a two-way contract and can be sent down at any time," he said. "So I have to make sure I keep playing the way I need to play to stay here."

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The other Flyers likely headed to the Olympics are Claude Giroux (Canada – and trust me, he’ll be there regardless of predictions to the contrary), Kimmo Timonen (Finland), Mark Streit (Switzerland), Jake Voracek (Czech Republic) and Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia). Erik Gustafsson was invited to the Team Sweden camp, but is a bit of a long shot. Nick Grossmann will also garner consideration, but is probably on the outside for that Team Sweden roster as well.

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Expect Ray Emery to get the start in Calgary tomorrow with Steve Mason returning to net to kick of the 2014 portion of the schedule against Colorado.

Speaking of Colorado, the Flyers will meet up with former teammate Max Talbot in that game. Since the trade on Halloween, the Flyers have gotten the better of the deal. Steve Downie, acquired for Talbot, has two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 22 games since the trade. As for Talbot, he has three goals and six assists for nine points in 27 games for the Avs.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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