With all the changes that the Flyers have made over the past year, fantasy owners were having trouble getting a read on where all the players fit on the roster. As each game goes by, though, things are becoming clear – both with their current roster, as well as what is coming down the pipeline.
So many players on this roster could have wound up in the top six, don’t kick yourself too hard if you guessed wrong back in September. A team boasting seemingly a dozen second-line players and an equal amount of second or third pairing defensemen is bound to throw a few curveballs. Let’s try and break things down and clear up some of the murky waters:
Elite (highly regarded, will always get the ice time and linemates)
- Mike Richards, quite obviously, falls into this section. If his 42 points in 34 games won’t convince you, then his giant 12-year contract should. He could score on his own net for 10 straight games and he’d still get top ice time. On pace for 101 points, he won’t get there, but will be a perennial 75-85 point player when healthy.
- Daniel Briere’s points have slowed, but he should pass Richards again when Simon Gagne returns. He is a 90- to 100-point player and the first line is his for at least four years.
- Gagne is still regarded as the top sniper on the team. He will always battle his injuries, though, so don’t count on more than 75 points in 70 games from him in a given year.
- Kimmo Timonen leads the team in ice time and his long-term, big money contract ensures he is their No.1 defenseman for years to come. After five straight seasons of producing between 40 and 55 points, he’s smack in the middle of that pace once again. Money in the bank.
- Joffrey Lupul’s horrible season in Edmonton left a lot of doubts he would win a top-six role, but he has and he looks to be a 30-goal scorer. He’ll be a second-line player who makes a habit of notching 35 goals and 70 or 75 points.
- R.J. Umberger looked like the odd man out in this puzzle, but thanks to chemistry with Lupul and Richards, he is right in the mix. He could be a second-line player on many teams, capable of 65 or 70 points. In Philly, he may slip to the third line over the next couple of years as youngsters move up. It will depend on how long his chemistry with Richards will last.
- When Richards signed that big contract, a lot of fantasy junkies felt that it was the beginning of the end for Jeff Carter. However, Carter is still very much in the plans. In just his third year, he is progressing as expected and should break out next season. In four years he will steal Briere’s job as the No.1 center. Meanwhile, starting next year he will share the No. 2 duties with Richards in what will be the best 1-2-3 punch down the middle in hockey.
Support (highly regarded, maybe highly paid, but now role players)
- Scott Upshall will always have second-line ability and have 60- or 65-point upside, but the crowd of players above him in the power play mix will keep him down the depth chart.
- Ditto for Scott Hartnell, regardless of the big contract. He will be the perfect third-line guy: 25 goals, 55 points. Teams would kill for that production on their third line.
- Mike Knuble is a 50-point player who had been thrust into the first line role for the last two seasons. With their added depth now, Knuble is back to a 50-point player.
- Sami Kapanen peaked at 69 points five years ago, but is now on pace for eight this season. He is a highly regarded checking-line player and is no longer a fantasy asset and has not been since that career season.
- Claude Giroux is a prolific scorer in the Quebec League and you will be able to witness his immense talent at the upcoming World Junior Championship. The Flyers are holding a scoring line open for him – he tore it up in training camp and if his birth certificate had a different date on it he would have made the team.
- Steve Downie looks like a solid second or third line player capable of 60 or even 70-point seasons. It’s looking as if he is pushing the ‘agitator’ side of his skill set more than his ‘scoring’ side.
- Braydon Coburn is finally getting a chance to progress in the NHL. I would guess next year he will be a fantasy asset and in five years he will be No. 1 in Philadelphia.
Still Question Marks
- Randy Jones could be a No. 5 defenseman who notches 25 points a season. Or he could be a No. 2 guy with 45-point upside.
- Ryan Potulny has second-line ability, but is a victim of the numbers game. He could be a fantasy bust or he could one day post 65 or more points a season.
(This was originally published by The Hockey News on December 24)