Flyers

Appreciating the underappreciated Michael Raffl, still here for another Flyers run

Appreciating the underappreciated Michael Raffl, still here for another Flyers run

Scott Laughton was anxious, almost as if he was about to be dealt.

He picked up his phone and called Michael Raffl right around the 3 p.m. cutoff point of the NHL trade deadline. With a new general manager and some roster retooling underway, Raffl seemed like a candidate to be moved as a 30-year-old pending unrestricted free agent on a team not quite there in contending mode.

What did Raffl say on the other end?

"He told me to wait an hour or so," Laughton said Monday night with a smile.

Can't hurt to play it safe.

"It was a weird day," Laughton said of the Feb. 25 deadline, "to think you're going to lose one of your best buddies or your best buddy on the team.

"It's nice to have him here, he does so much on and off the ice and provides so much for us."

Raffl is quietly still here and has been for longer than so many realize.

He played his 400th career game in a Flyers uniform Monday night. Only Claude Giroux (474), Jakub Voracek (467), Wayne Simmonds (457) and Sean Couturier (442) have played more in orange and black since the start of the 2013-14 season.

The Austrian was signed in May 2013 to an entry-level contract at 24 years old.

"I came in here with the attitude, signing a two-way contract, to try and get one game in and be proud of that," Raffl said. "Here I am, 400 games later, it's kind of cool."


(AP Images/USA Today Images)

Over that span, Raffl's plus-27 mark is second on the team to Couturier's plus-70. He has played up and down the lineup, from complementing Giroux and Voracek to scoring 21 goals in his second season to grinding on the fourth unit in limited minutes. 

When the Flyers had the NHL's seventh-best penalty kill in 2013-14, Raffl played a career-high 117:55 minutes shorthanded. He has turned back into a PK piece the past two seasons and is one of the Flyers' smartest puck-possession forwards.

These are the underrated traits that would have made Raffl a valuable trade acquisition for a team eyeing that prototypical role forward to gain a slight but decisive edge. 

However, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher likely saw Raffl's strengths as a valued component to the team's 2018-19 hopes for a playoff berth outweighing the potential return on a trade.

After a two-point effort in Monday's 3-2 win over the Senators, Raffl has recorded nine points and a plus-7 rating in 11:38 ice time per night through the last 15 games. 

Following his 400th game, the Flyers were three points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card position, the closest they've been to a playoff spot since Nov. 20.

"Your whole team can't be comprised of just goal scoring and skill," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. "You have to have different elements on your lines — killing penalties, maybe a good check, a hard forecheck, good defensively, win faceoffs, whatever it might be. And not all of your offensive players are going to have those attributes. 

"So when you look at Laughts and Raf, they play some heavy minutes, they can grind it out in the offensive zone and make it hard for the opposition and change momentum, so the next line that comes out there can have an easier time because the previous line from the opponent couldn't get onto the ice.

"Those guys are invaluable and they are just as important as guys that are putting up the big points."

Raffl never received a trade call back on Feb. 25. Instead, he got one from his friend looking for good news. Raffl was staying put, helping at least one more postseason drive in Philadelphia.

"I love it here, this is my team, this is where I signed, so this is where I want to stay," Raffl said. "I've never asked for a trade in my career and I never got traded. This is my group, this is where I want to be."

It's where he was for his 400th game, a feat that snuck up on everybody — fittingly and appropriately for a player like Michael Raffl.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

One down, a few more to go?

The Flyers on Saturday signed prospect Linus Hogberg to an entry-level contract. The rights to Hogberg would have expired Monday if the Flyers didn't ink the 2016 fifth-round pick.

During 2019-20, Hogberg, a 21-year-old Swedish defenseman, had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through 50 games with the Vaxjo Lakers playing against men in the SHL. The 6-foot-1, 176-pounder is regarded as a strong skater and intelligent passer.

Hogberg will start the 2020-21 season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms are gaining on the blue line with prospects Egor Zamula and Wyatte Wylie turning pro, as well.

(Joe Siville/Philadelphia Flyers)

Lehigh Valley could be gaining more with Wyatt Kalynuk and David Bernhardt, who remain unsigned. Bernhardt, another Swedish defenseman, needs to be signed by Monday or his rights will expire. It's uncertain if the Flyers will ink the 2016 seventh-round pick.

It appears Kalynuk has decided to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin as he plans to turn pro in 2020-21.

Kalynuk is an offensive-minded defenseman who has developed a ton with the Badgers. His rights were set to expire next summer. Now that he is leaving Wisconsin, it would be surprising if he's not signed soon by the Flyers.

"Philly has had lots of people here and been very instrumental in his growth as a player," Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said. "I think when they drafted him, they recognized out of the gate that this guy could be a big part of their organization moving forward. They’ve been hands on, they’ve been here a lot, they’ve done it respectfully in a way that they’ve helped him a ton in preparing to get ready for the next step.”

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

Hockey has been on the mind all week and even the simple discussion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs has excited fans for the return of their favorite sport — even if things are going to look different this time around. 

While the majority of new rules and procedures were laid out Tuesday thanks to commissioner Gary Bettman, there is still a lot of unknown territory. This format has never been done before, but having a plan in place is the first step to turning concepts into something tangible. 

One of the biggest changes won’t be the additional eight teams, the hub city locations or the fact the NHL has the potential to run into the late summer months, but rather the element — or lack thereof — of fan attendance. 

The safety of fans and players is without a doubt the biggest priority and as we adapt to the “new norm” for the foreseeable future, this is just one of the many things that will have to be endured. 

On the surface, it stinks. Surprisingly enough, you’re allowed to feel this way while also being excited for the hopeful return of the league and games. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are some of the most thrilling weeks in all of sports and a large portion of that is due to the atmosphere created by the fans rallying behind their favorite teams.

So without them in attendance, will games lose their authenticity and lower the overall level of interest? 

Absolutely not. 

Fans have been craving the moment they would have live sports to look forward to and even if that means they can’t physically be in the stands, it doesn’t take away the level of devotion they have.

Of course it will be different — there’s no denying that, but someone rightfully needs to be awarded the Stanley Cup for 2019-20. There are a handful of options to help fill the void, such as playing fan reaction videos on the arena vision screens during thrilling moments of a game. Hearing the “crowd” through the screen would certainly add a level of normalcy, though it wouldn’t fully replicate the atmosphere. 

There are new moments that fans could look forward to in regard to this as well — the sights and sounds that are often coated within cheers or boos. A crisp stop on skates, receiving a puck, solid check along the boards, chirps from one team to another and the celebrations following a goal. 

Also, if things are too quiet, there is a chance to get a look into life on the bench with the players. Hearing teammates interact with one another is always enjoyable when they are mic’d up for games, so imagine having that for a full 60 minutes? It’d be new for everyone, but what a fun concept it would be. 

This is a prime opportunity to view things glass half full, rather than finding negative aspects to this plan. There are still many moving parts before playoffs become a reality once again, but if things are truly done in a safe manner — I say make the most of the situation at hand and drop that puck. 

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers