With 22 games left in the regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers are flirting with missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and marking the first time since the early-1990s that they would go two straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Right now, the team sits just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals for the last playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division and Washington is three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
There have been bright spots but there also have been major disappointments. The team won just one of their first seven games and went 3-9-0 in the first 12. They have rebounded nicely to a 30-24-6 record at the 60-game mark in the season but imagine how comfortable they would be if they were half-decent in the beginning.
Taking all of that into consideration, there have been some pleasant surprises this season. Here are the top five…
Brayden Schenn has taken some big steps towards becoming the player the Flyers thought they were getting when they traded away captain Mike Richards. Schenn has set career-highs in goals (16), assists (17), points (33), and games (60).
The 22-year-old is slated to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season so this breakout could not have come at a better time.
4. Zac Rinaldo
Zac Rinaldo has been a major surprise for Flyers fans this season. A quick look at his stats might not reveal it as he only has one goal and one assist this season but he has provided so much more. After the Flyers traded penalty-killing machine Max Talbot to Colorado, Rinaldo stepped up on the penalty kill for the Flyers.
Look no further than the Flyers play with Rinaldo in the lineup and their subsequent stumble when he got hurt on January 8th.
He isn't the flashiest player but he has been a solid contributor on the fourth line this year and the minutes he plays on the penalty kill are valuable.
3. Steve Mason
Steve Mason was the guy the Flyers needed to step up if they were going to be contenders this year. So far he has been fantastic going 23-15-5 with a 2.55 GAA and a .916 SV% with three shutouts.
Mason's play kept the Flyers in many games they had no business being in and he stole a few games for them as well. It earned him a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension to be the Flyers goaltender of the future.
His stellar play has been a bit of a surprise but a welcomed sight in South Philadelphia.
2. Michael Raffl
Michael Raffl has been superb in his first season playing North American hockey. The Austrian-native has played everywhere for the Flyers from the top line next to Claude Giroux down to the fourth line as the wing for Adam Hall. He plays even strength and can kill penalties when called upon.
He's been the jack-of-all-trades.
The 25-year-old has seven goals and 11 assists in 47 games this season. Raffl has shown the ability to get to the net and put himself in position to put up points which makes him a very valuable player moving forward.
He's made an impact on the Flyers this year and stepped in when they needed him.
Wayne Simmonds has been one of the Flyers best players this season. He is second on the team in goals (18) trailing Claude Giroux by one goal and he is tied for second in assists, with a career-high 25, trailing only Giroux which puts him alone in second on the team in points (43) behind, you guessed it, Giroux.
The 25-year-old makes his living in the dirty areas in front of the net and in the corners. His presence on the ice and, particularly, on the power play are invaluable.
Simmonds' breakout performance on a roster that features Jakub Voracek, Vinny Lecavalier, Scott Hartnell and Matt Read is impressive.