Wayne Simmonds has not gotten nearly the attention he deserves since arriving in Philadelphia two summers ago, but his ceiling as a winger could end up determining a lot for the Flyers' future.
Simmonds has a reputation as being a gritty power forward, but he brings a lot more than that to the table.
He can play in all situations, and has the skill and speed to fill in on the top line but also the tenacity and defensive capability to drop back into a checking-line role.
This season he should find himself firmly planted on the team's second line alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn.
He has not gotten a consistent chance to play with two guys as talented as Lecavalier and Schenn, and his upside really increases because of that.
In 2011-12, he scored 28 goals while averaging just under 16 minutes of ice time per game, which is pretty remarkable efficiency considering he played limited power play minutes as well.
I expect a bump in playing time both in even-strength and power play time this year for Simmonds, as he has become a core member of their young forward group.
Simmonds should really benefit a lot from playing with Lecavalier, who is a powerful puck-controlling force up the middle.
Simmonds is at his best when he can chase the puck and win battles along the boards or in the corners, and having Lecavalier around will take some of the puck-control burden off of his stick.
There is also something to be said for experience, and Simmonds has clearly grown a lot as a player and leader on this Flyers club after being somewhat marginalized to a checking role in his first few years in Los Angeles.
But he is entering the prime of his career at 25 years old, and we should only expect his all-around game to improve.
Lecavalier shoots the puck a lot, with over 200 shots on goal every season from 2002-03 until the 2011-12 season in which he took 182 (in just 64 games).
Lecavalier's presence and style of play should really help out Simmonds and get him more chances and opportunities around the net.
Schenn is the final piece to the puzzle in figuring out Simmonds' ceiling. The two have played together a decent amount over the past two seasons, and especially got a lot of shifts in 2013.
They both bring a relentless energy that makes them extremely difficult to play against. Not only will they forecheck hard and create turnovers, but they will make things happen with the puck once they get it.
This goal against the Penguins is a perfect example of their effectiveness. They forecheck hard, work on the boards to control the puck, and then Simmonds takes a nice pass and has a nifty finish for a goal.
I think these types of goals will be especially common from Simmonds and the Flyers' second line in 2013-14.
Simmonds brings so much to the table; he can fight, block shots, forecheck, work on the boards, and score around the net.
The more chances he gets, the more productive he will be, and I feel like he should get the most chances so far in his career in 2013-14.
While my "bold prediction" that Simmonds could score 40 goals is extremely bold, I stand by it as his ceiling for this season.
The likelihood of him achieving that ceiling? Not all that high at all, and I would say the low 30s would be a more reasonable prediction.
But a ceiling is just that; it's a highest, best-case scenario, and I say that 40 goals is Simmonds'.
If he can even approach that this upcoming year, it will be a major boost for Philadelphia.