In a season with a lot of negatives surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers, there are a few bright spots which I think need to be brought to the forefront at a time like this.
The Flyers still being under .500 at this stage in the season is definitely disappointing. Nobody expected them to play this poorly for this long. But there are a number of still-young forwards who have really exceeded expectations, and I think it would do everyone a bit of good to focus on them.
In his first season as captain, Claude Giroux has been, quite frankly, a disappointment. He's shown up a few times in big games, but as a whole has not taken a step forward since last year. Eighteen points in 20 games is just not going to cut it for Giroux.
But four other young forwards have definitely stepped up their games and should give fans hope for the team's future moving into the future.
Wayne Simmonds has been arguably the team's second-best player. He had a tremendous game last week, registering a Gordie Howe hat trick, as his combination of physicality and production has been consistent all season.
Simmonds can skate with anyone, work along the boards, play tough in front of the net and scraps with the opposition all game. He has played in three less games than Giroux and averages roughly six less minutes of ice time per game, yet has seven goals to the captain's six.
Simmonds came to Philadelphia (by the way, Mike Richards has just 11 points this season) last year along with Brayden Schenn, who is really proving his worth in his sophomore campaign.
Schenn has 17 points in 19 games and a plus-minus rating of plus-five. He's also second out of all forwards on the team in hits, behind only Zac Rinaldo. Schenn brings energy every night, and it looks like his development is right on track.
Although he's already 26 years old, Matt Read is in just his second year as an NHL player. After leading rookies in goals scored last season, many thought Read's production would dip, or at least level out, in his sophomore campaign.
But Read has taken the added responsibility and attention in stride, scoring seven goals so far this season. He had great games in big wins over Florida and the Islanders and looks like he'll be a consistent NHL scorer. His rib-cage injury will hurt the Flyers a lot, as he's expected to miss six weeks of action.
Lastly, we come to the Flyers' best player this season: Jake Voracek. The 23-year-old leads the team in both assists and points (22, double the amount of Jeff Carter this season) and is tied for the lead in goals.
Voracek has proven to be valuable in both even-strength and power-play situations, taking advantage of his exceptional skating and puck-handling ability to be a consistent threat when he's on the ice. His potential should make Philadelphia fans very excited.
So even though there's not a lot to cheer about right now, Flyers fans should take some solace in knowing that they have a few of the better young forwards in the league. Hopefully the rest of the team can step up around them and help make a playoff push as the midway point in the season comes up quickly.