NHL

Fantasy Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

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Scott Cullen
9/17/2013 1:46:42 PM
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A team with loads of forward depth, the Philadelphia Flyers have fantasy options ranging from proven veterans to rising stars and if you are in a league that rewards penalty minutes, they have some of those too.

Top Picks: Over the last three seasons, C Claude Giroux has put up 216 points, the fourth-best total in the league. Even with an offseason finger injury, Giroux is a good bet to be among the top scorers in the league, making him a No. 1 centre option for fantasy owners.

RW Jakub Voracek had a breakout season in 2013, scoring 46 points in 48 games, and while he's not likely to score on 17.1% of his shots like he did last season, paired with Giroux on the Flyers' top line, Voracek is going to have significant value, enough to fit as a No. 2 fantasy right winger.

Offering similar value, though he doesn't score as much, Wayne Simmonds adds a physical dimension, with hits and penalty minutes supporting his increased scoring numbers over the last couple seasons in Philadelphia.

Value Plays: There hasn't been any great decline in production for C Vincent Lecavalier, who has scored between 0.77 and 0.87 points per game in each of the last five seasons, but injuries have started to have an effect on how often he plays, as he's missed 44 games over the past three seasons. Still, he's going to have solid linemates as the Flyers' second-line centre and has value as a No. 3 fantasy pivot, even with injury expectations.

Prior to last season, LW Scott Hartnell was a bit of a fantasy darling, particularly for leagues that count penalty minutes, as he has scored 20 or more goals six times and recorded 100 or more penalty minutes eight times in his career. The normally durable winger had injuries and finished with just 12 points in 32 games, but that brings his value back to a more reasonable level.

Though RW Matt Read doesn't necessarily have the highest upside, he does have 71 points in 121 games over the last two seasons and he plays 18 minutes a game for the Flyers. His versatility allows him to move from line to line, but if Read is going to have sustainable value, he'll need to secure a regular spot in the top six.

Brought in to upgrade the Flyers' puck-moving skills on the blueline, D Mark Streit has been a productive point producer, but he comes with some concerns, notably that he's minus-41 in the last two seasons and is going to turn 36 midway through this season, so it's likely that his performance is due to decline.

Streit's arrival takes some pressure off Kimmo Timonen, a 38-year-old who has been durable, consistent and productive throughout his career. Both Streit and Timonen can provide value if they are selected as No. 3 fantasy defencemen.

Sleepers/Breakthrough: Part of the challenge facing C Sean Couturier is that he's such a good defensive player that he doesn't necessarily get the linemates or opportunity take advantage of his offensive skills, but the Flyers are deep enough that Couturier, as the third-line centre, could be quite productive. He didn't score much last season, with a low 5.3% shooting percentage, but he's a 20-year-old who has 192 points in 126 games in last two junior seasons and tallied 28 points in 31 AHL games last year.

LW Brayden Schenn has been coming along slowly since he was the fifth overall pick in 2009, but scored a career-high 26 points (in 47 games) last season and figures to get a shot on Lecavalier's left wing to open the season, a decent spot for 22-year-old Schenn to build his offensive numbers.

Brayden's brother, D Luke Schenn, hasn't scored more than 22 points in a season, yet has value in leagues that count hits and blocked shots because he has 881 and 501, respectively in the last four seasons.

The goaltending situation basically leaves the Flyers with two sleepers. Ray Emery should have the edge, but he's played more than 40 games only once in his entire career. Steve Mason, on the other hand, has played plenty but, among the 26 goaltenders to play at least 200 games since 2008-2009, Mason's .905 save percentage is the worst.

Rookies: The Flyers don't have a lineup with great openings for rookies, but C Scott Laughton started last year with Philadelphia for five games before returning to the Ontario Hockey League, where he had 56 points in 49 games for Oshawa. He's a gritty, physical player, but not likely to have fantasy relevance.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Simmonds Timonen and Giroux (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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