TORONTO - The Flyers fabulous freshman have proven their worth all season long.
They were at it again Thursday night as Philadelphia's rookies combined for four goals and a pair of assists in a 7-1 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brayden Schenn scored the first two goals of the game, while Matt Read and Eric Wellwood each had one, running the total number of goals by Flyers rookies up to 59 — best in the NHL.
"If you look at the rookies we have on the roster, they're all very highly touted," said Danny Briere, who had four assists on the night. "You know that it's going to come at some point. You have guys like Brayden Schenn and what he's done in junior and at the world junior championships. Sean Couturier was a very high draft pick. Matt Read was highly touted, and everybody wanted him last summer.
"There's a lot of guys we were expecting good things from. It's a surprise, but it's not at the same time. You know those guys have a lot of talent and sometimes it's going to go their way."
Last season, Philadelphia didn't get a single goal from a rookie and only three saw any ice time. In 2011-12, the Flyers have iced 12 rookies during the season. Read leads the way with 23 goals, then Couturier with 12, followed by Schenn with 11.
"I don't remember having so many rookies on the team," Briere said. "And now, not even just rookies taking spots — they're playing key roles on the team. It's fun to see them contributing.
"Nobody expected this, but it's a very nice surprise. They keep getting better, so all the credit goes to them."
When Philly traded centres Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the off-season that opened up spots on the depth chart, especially down the middle. Couturier and Schenn have filled those spots behind Claude Giroux and Briere. And along with 25-year-old undrafted rookie Read, they've impressed head coach Peter Laviolette both on offence and defence.
"We've had Couturier's line out against the other team's top line for about eight or nine games now," Laviolette said. "They've been terrific for us. Matt Read jumped in and had a big night.
"Schenn comes in and scores some big goals."
Flyers rookies have accounted for 24 per cent of the team's goals this season.
"Our young guys have played great for us all year," said 23-year-old Wayne Simmonds, who had a pair of goals and an assist on the night. "We have unbelievable rookies and some of them lead the team in minutes some nights. They've been really impressive so far."