Philadelphia Flyers: 3 Ways Their Rookies Bailed Them out This Season

Joe RussomannoCorrespondent IMay 10, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 3 Ways Their Rookies Bailed Them out This Season

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    The Philadelphia Flyers were a team so riddled with injuries this season that they were forced to dress over a dozen rookies.

    Players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Zac Rinaldo became household names.

    Sean Couturier posted a second best plus-19, second only to Scott Hartnell on the team, and led the rookie corps with 27 points.

    Brayden Schenn was riddled with injuries through the first half of the regular season. However, once he got going in the second half, he ripped off 12 goals and six assists.

    Matt Read was a pleasant undrafted surprise with 24 goals.

    Bourdon and Gustafsson filled in exceptionally well when called upon to fill in for injured veterans. Both were positive in the plus/minus category and dependable when not over-extended.

    Zac Rinaldo made a name for himself in the league when he laid a hit on Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty that left Doughty dazed and confused for a couple weeks.

    Now let's take a look at how these rookies combined to grease the wheels on what looked to be a slow season.

Depth

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    At anytime through the season, the Flyers could go to their rookie well and hope to get help in place of a fallen veteran.

    Sean Couturier earned a place right out of camp on the roster for his two-way style and superb hockey sense.

    Brayden Schenn had a rough go early on, leaving his ability in doubt. However, through the second half, he matured into a legitimate goal-scorer and power-forward.

    Eric Wellwood was another pleasant surprise. In just 24 games Wellwood potted five goals and four assists, finishing with a plus-12.

    Matt Read, although a 25-year-old straight out of college, is still a rookie. He chipped in for a noticeable 24 goals and 23 assists.

    Eric Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon provided much-needed-relief when Captain Chris Pronger was lost for the season.

    If those two rookie blue-liners weren't up to snuff, the season could have been lost—and fast.

Energy

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    Listed at 5'11", Zac Rinaldo played like a giant all season long for the Flyers. Rinaldo was second in hits at 175, second only behind Scott Hartnell (188), who played in 16 more games.

    Rinaldo led the club in penalty minutes also at 232.

    Rookie Tom Sestito also became a regular player before a groin tear that required surgery ended his season. Before that, Sestito participated in seven fights in his 14-game pro debut this year.

    Three of those fights were in a single game against the Flyers hated-rival New York Rangers on February 5th.

    Brayden Schenn was no stranger to the rough stuff, either, posting 136 hits in 54 games, making him eighth on the team. Pretty impressive, considering his injury-shortened season and that he was playing on a club historically known for its physicality.

Hope

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    When Paul Holmgren traded for the rights to Brayden Schenn and the draft pick that became Sean Couturier, he didn't just give up names on the roster, he gave up the face of the franchise.

    Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were to the Philadelphia Flyers what Captain Kirk and Spock were to the Enterprise.

    The trades left the sporting world and fanbase divided. However, the Flyers hit the ground running with a 19- and 20-year-old set of rookies.

    Philly fans saw the enormous potential of these two rising stars.

    Couturier's shutdown performance on world-class-player Evgeni Malkin will be talked about for years to come.

    Schenn's hitting ability and scoring touch will sate the appetite of Flyer fans that miss the swashbuckling of Mike Richards.

    If Captain Chris Pronger can't return and the Flyers can't find a replacement in the offseason, then fans know Eric Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon can fill in while other veterans are elevated.

    The Philadelphia Flyers had their ups and downs through a roller-coaster of a season, but one thing is certain: They have a corps of rookies that are rising stars.