FLYERS WIN RAFFL, ALSO ADD LAMARCHE
The Flyers began their offseason roster modifications by signing a pair of undrafted free agents to entry-level contracts, one of which could land on the NHL roster.
They inked Austrian left wing Michael Raffl and Canadian defenseman Maxim Lamarche to three-year deals.
Raffl, 24, was sought after by several teams, but ultimately it came down to the Flyers and the Nashville Predators.
The Flyers won out, signing Raffl after seeing him play for Austria in the World Championships. He had a standout game against Russia, a team loaded with NHL-caliber talent, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
“Both (Director of Player Personnel) Dave Brown and myself as well as (European Scout) Ilkka (Sinisalo) saw him at the World Championships and he’s a good player,” said Director of Hockey Operations Chris Pryor. “You noticed him over there. He’s got skill. He thinks the game. He’s a versatile guy and can do a lot of different things.”
The Flyers staff were so impressed with his game that they feel like he could break camp with the big club in the Fall assuming he assimilates well to the North American game.
“He’s a good player, who we think can be NHL ready,” Pryor said. “There’s going to be a learning curve, but he’s got enough in his game to be able to make that adjustment rather quickly.”
The Flyers hope Raffl can have a similar impact as Damien Brunner did for the Detroit Red Wings.
Brunner, 27, was a first-year NHL player after playing for a decade in Switzerland. In his first season, Brunner finished with 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 44 games.
Raffl was playing for Leskands IF in Leskand, Sweden, which has been a member of the HockeyAllsvenskan, the country’s second-highest professional league.
He led his team with 24 goals and 46 points this past season as the team won the regular season title and as a result earned a promotion to the Swedish Elite League for next season.
There’s no doubt Raffl is a bit of a late bloomer, but he caught the attention of NHL scouts this season in Sweden and capped it with a fine world championship tournament.
“I don’t think there’s a timeline for guys to develop,” Pryor said. “Some guys take longer. We probably had the same questions about Matt Read prior to his first season. It just took him a little longer. A good player is a good player, if he happens to develop later, so be it. At the end of the day, Raffl’s a young guy who we can add to our other young guys on the roster and improve our team.
Raffl’s teammate last season included former Flyer Mattias Timander and Nashville Predators prospect Filip Forsberg, the 11th overall selection by Washington in last year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Raffl, 6-0, 192, has played seven full seasons in Austria and Sweden, appearing in a total of 312 games. He has 101 goals and 100 assists for 201 career points, along with 305 PIM and a plus-63 rating.
Meanwhile, Lamarche, 20, comes to the Flyers organization from Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"I am very proud to be with the Flyers," Lamarche said. "I'm very excited and eager to start a new camp with them."
Lamarche, 6-3, 218, was a teammate of recently signed forward Petr Straka with the Drakkar and stood out to Flyers scouts Simon Nolet and Todd Hearty who scout the QMJHL.
“Simon and Todd followed him over the years,” Pryor said. “We kind of liked him a little bit last year and then more this year. You just never know. He gave himself a chance because of his work ethic and he’s getting progressively better.”
He recorded nine goals and 34 assists for 43 points in 55 games during the 2012-13 regular season, while posting a plus-31 rating.
"I am pretty much an all-around defenseman," Lamarche said. "I am reliable defensively and offensively I can join the rush and produce. I get shots on goal. I can fight too and I block shots. I can pretty much do everything."
He helped the Drakkar to a berth in the QMJHL finals, where they lost to eventual Memorial Cup champion Halifax.
“Maxim’s resume is that of another guy who went undrafted but was a big part of his junior team for three solid years. He continually got better every year. He’s a big, thick kid who is strong and is a good competitor.
“Guys with those qualities give themselves a chance in pro hockey because of their maximum effort and their work ethic.”
It’s a good bet that Lamarche will be added to an ever-growing stable of young defensemen in the system and will likely start the season next year with the Adirondack Phantoms in the AHL.
Lamarche said he had no idea the Flyers were interested in him, but now he's ready to take the next step into a career in professional hockey - even if it's for a team he used to dislike as a kid.
"I didn't know they were interested," he said. "I was surprised and I am really happy now. I was a Canadiens fan growing up and we didn't like the Flyers, but that will be easy to forget now. I am a Flyer."
During four seasons in the QMJHL with Victoriaville and Baie-Comeau, Lamarche recorded 23 goals and 90 assists for 113 points in 252 games, along with 269 PIM.
I went 3-1 in round 2 (big improvement) to get to 7-5 this season.
Without getting into great detail, here are my Conference Finals predictions:
1. Pittsburgh vs. 4. Boston - This is the one team the Penguins DID NOT want to face. Boston is a matchup nightmare for the Penguins. Flyers fans will be happy with this result. Bruins in six.
1. Chicago vs. 5. Los Angeles - I think the Kings have the recipe for success against good offensive teams. My one worry is if they can score enough (at all?) to win four times. I think they can, but it will be a struggle. Kings in seven.
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