The 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers roster will take on somewhat of a new look this year due to the significance of their offseason moves.
They only made a few changes, but all of them carry some real impact and could make things look pretty different in Philadelphia this winter.
Starting at the top, the Flyers boast a plethora of forward talent. They have a few key veterans, but their real strength lies in their wealth of exciting young playmakers.
Vincent Lecavalier replaces Danny Briere in the rotation, becoming a solid second-line center and joining Scott Hartnell as one of the veteran leaders of the forward corps.
Lecavalier and Hartnell will be in charge of an admirable group of 25-and-under forwards led by captain Claude Giroux, who will need to get back to his 2011-12 form after a solid but slightly disappointing 2013 campaign.
His supporting cast is impressive. Brayden Schenn, a former top NHL prospect, is still just 21 years old and could be the Flyers' breakout star of 2013-14. Jakub Voracek was 2013's breakout star, solidifying his status as a first-line winger.
Sean Couturier is somehow entering his third full NHL season at just 20 years of age. The 6'4" two-way center will likely be the team's third-line center while Schenn mans the wing on Lecavalier's line.
But none of those players may be as important to the Flyers' success as Wayne Simmonds. To call Simmonds a "rugged" winger downplays his athleticism and offensive talent.
In the lockout-shortened season, Simmonds gave the Flyers energy every time he stepped on the ice. He scores in bursts, including a stretch of 12 games where he scored eight goals and also had two Gordie Howe hat tricks (goal, assist, fight) in one week.
Although he's technically older than 25, Matt Read is only entering his third year in the league at 27 years old and may be the Flyers' most underrated forward. He led all rookies in goals with 24 in 2011-12 and contributed 11 goals this past year.
Read doesn't get big minutes and hasn't gotten much time with guys like Giroux or Voracek. Although Hartnell has been the first-line forward for years now, I would love to see what Read could do in his place.
Guys like Tye McGinn, Max Talbot, Zac Rinaldo, Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill are all solid bottom-six forwards who should provide some hustle and depth. Rinaldo is one of the best agitators and fighters in the league and was the Flyers' most valuable player at times last season.
Center is undoubtedly the Flyers' best strength. Giroux, Schenn, Couturier, Lecavalier, Hall and Talbot are all very capable centers.
On the right wing, Voracek, Simmonds, Rinaldo and Read make up a formidable group. Hartnell and McGinn are the team's only natural left wingers.
The four right wingers are set in stone, but some questions persist about the left side. Schenn will probably move to the left wing and either Hall or Talbot will either play on the left side, with the other manning the fourth-line center spot. Rosehill and Hall will battle it out for the last starting spot.
Scott Laughton, the Flyers' 2012 first-round selection, has a shot at making the team, although it will really depend on his performance at training camp. He is also a natural center but would likely be moved to the wing if called up.
On defense, the Flyers added veteran Mark Streit to help bolster a somewhat depleted and shallow talent pool. Streit is a skilled offensive defenseman and the former captain of the Islanders, so he brings a lot to the table.
Kimmo Timonen plays a similar style to Streit, giving the Flyers two talented but aging offensive defenseman. Nobody would be surprised if this was Timonen's last year, however, while Streit is locked up for four years.
Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann are a pair of 28-year-old defensemen who are unexciting but bring a steadiness to the blue line.
The most exciting aspect of the Flyers defensive corps is Luke Schenn, who was acquired last summer in a trade for James van Riemsdyk.
Schenn is a hulking 6'2", 229-pound defensive defenseman who does not bring much in the way of playmaking but can hold things down in his own end. He was third in the league in hits in 2013.
At just 23 years old, he still has room to develop and grow his two-way game, and his ability to do so could end up being the Flyers' X-factor defensively.
Andrej Meszaros has been plagued with injuries, but if he gets healthy, then he could be a solid contributor in a contract year.
Erik Gustafsson was brought up for a lot of the 2013 season and showed some flashes of promise. The 24-year-old is a bit of a late bloomer but could provide some offensive ability at the back end of the rotation.
Oliver Lauridsen and Bruno Gervais are nothing more than depth guys who will crack the rotation when a starter goes down.
Finally, we get to the position that has riddled Philadelphia since Ron Hextall: the goaltenders. It has been said more than once over the past 20 years, but this year things could really be looking up between the pipes.
Steve Mason came to Philadelphia before the trade deadline in April. The former Calder Cup winner and Vezina Trophy nominee is looking to resurrect his career after a disappointing three-year stretch in Columbus following his breakout rookie season.
While fans should remain cautiously optimistic about the 25-year-old's potential, we all know that a star goaltender is hiding in there somewhere.
Signs of his talent were on display once he arrived in Philadelphia, posting a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage in the orange and black.
But he will be pushed by free-agent acquisition Ray Emery, who is making his second stint as a Flyer after a career year with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Emery had a 17-1 record with a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage and will likely split time with Mason early on unless one clearly outplays the other in camp.
The Flyers roster is remarkably different than it was just a few years ago, and there have been a few determinative changes over the past few months.
The Flyers are a team with young talent up front, but the rest of their roster has some question marks, particularly on the defensive end. If their role players step up and their stars stay healthy, the Flyers could be a team poised to make some noise in the playoffs.
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