Ranking the 5 Most Important Players on the Philadelphia Flyers Roster
Every player on an NHL roster is important. And yet, the fact remains some are just truthfully more important than others.
The stark reality is that certain players are just inherently more valuable than others.
The same is true with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn are all solid contributors, but they aren't the key difference-makers to Philadelphia's overall success.
The Flyers do have those kinds of players though. Here's a look at the five most important players currently on Philadelphia's roster.
5. Brayden Schenn
If the Flyers are to take their next step as a team offensively, it will be because Brayden Schenn takes his next step as an individual offensively.
The 23-year-old set career highs last season in goals (20), assists (21) and points (41) but has yet to burst onto the NHL scene the way many thought he would when the Los Angeles Kings claimed him with the fifth overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
That kind of production could be right around the corner though.
The three-year veteran just enjoyed his first full 82-game campaign last season after 54 outings during the 2011-12 campaign and just 47 tilts during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. In short, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native doesn't yet have a ton of NHL mileage.
What's more, with Scott Hartnell now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Schenn's offensive role should enhance in the coming year and could even include time on the Flyers' top line alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
Through his first three years with the Orange and Black, Schenn hadn't been among the team's most important players but after signing a two-year, $5 million extension this offseason, he will be moving forward.
4. Andrew MacDonald
The Flyers have a host of promising defensive prospects in their pipeline, including Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim. But none of them are ready to carry the load for the orange and black yet.
Until then, that task falls to Andrew MacDonald.
Acquired at the trade deadline last season and promptly inked to a six-year, $30 million extension just six weeks later, MacDonald was already projected as one of the key cogs on Philadelphia's back end for the upcoming season. But that role has been significantly enhanced with the news that stalwart Flyers' blueliner Kimmo Timonen could be lost for the season to blood clots in his right leg and both lungs.
The 6'1", 196-pound defenseman paced all NHL blueliners in blocked shots last season (242), and no player has blocked more shots over the last three years than the 550 denials registered by MacDonald.
But the 27-year-old defender will need to elevate his game to an even higher level if both MacDonald and the Flyers are to be successful in the coming year.
The Judique, Nova Scotia, native will be called upon to play in all situations and will be tasked with the role of both a shutdown defenseman as well as an offensive catalyst. MacDonald hasn't finished a season with a plus rating since 2011 and will be looked upon to contribute more than the four goals and 28 points he produced over 82 games a season ago.
3. Jake Voracek
Jake Voracek is the second-most critical offensive weapon on the Flyers roster.
A dynamic 6'2", 205-pound winger, Voracek finished second among all Philadelphia skaters in total scoring in each of the last two seasons and has finished in the top five in each of his three campaigns with the Orange and Black.
Since joining the Flyers, Voracek has amassed 63 goals, 94 assists and 157 points in just 208 total games. During that time, the now-25-year-old forward finished in Philadelphia's top three in goals twice, including a team-high 22 conversions during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
What's more, Voracek has been a special teams dynamo with the Flyers having recorded 16 man-advantage markers and 51 total power-play points over three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love.
The former seventh-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Voracek is a powerful skater with a quick release to his shot and incredible offensive instincts. He's adept at both creating offensive opportunities for his teammates as well as finishing those created for him and his chemistry with captain Claude Giroux has blossomed into one of the most dangerous tandems in the NHL today.
2. Steve Mason
A serious case could have been made for Steve Mason as Philadelphia's team MVP last season.
The 26-year-old netminder matched a career high with 33 wins to go along with a stingy 2.50 goals-against average (GAA) and sparkling .917 save percentage. Mason managed four shutouts during the regular year and then turned in a herculean effort during the postseason where he went 2-2 in five appearances while posting a ridiculous 1.97 GAA coupled with a jaw-dropping .939 save percentage.
But even more valuable than those impressive statistics was the fact the Oakville, Ontario, native brought a stability to the Flyers goal crease that Philadelphia and its fans haven't enjoyed in years.
Last season , the former Calder Trophy winner gave the Orange and Black a chance to win virtually every night.
Mason produced 23 outings with 30 or more saves a year ago and notched a save percentage of .900 or better in 64 percent of his appearances. He allowed two goals against or fewer in 33 of 61 games last season and only surrendered four or more goals against in back-to-back starts three times all year.
For the first time in quite a while, the Flyers feel they have a franchise netminder in Mason, which only enhances his importance to the club this year and beyond.
1. Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux is, without question, the single most important player on the Philadelphia Flyers.
The team's captain and offensive leader, there's a reason Philly locked up the blossoming superstar with an eight-year, $66.2 million extension last summer.
At just 26 years old, the Hearst, Ontario, native has already recorded 119 goals, 258 assists and 377 points in his first 415 NHL outings. He's tallied double-digit goals in each of the last five seasons and has paced all Philadelphia skaters in scoring in each of the last four campaigns.
A two-time All-Star, Giroux has finished in the top three among all NHLers in total scoring in two of the last three seasons and was nominated as a Hart Trophy finalist for league MVP this past year following an 86-point campaign.
But it's not just his stellar offensive production that makes Giroux so important to the Flyers.
He is a leader in every sense of the word. He's a responsible two-way center who possesses incredible hockey sense and can play in all situations. What's more, Giroux doesn't shy away from the physical aspect of the game and is often found throwing a big hit or even dropping the gloves to help energize his team.
He is one of the few truly complete players in the NHL, and the Flyers and their fans are awfully lucky to have him.