Flyers putting their faith in young forwards

Posted: October 05, 2011

About four months have passed since the early-summer afternoon that sent shock waves through an entire franchise and its fans.

Now, after dealing away the cornerstones of the franchise, the Flyers look to two of their youngest players in hope of long-term stability.

Claude Giroux, 23, and linemate James van Riemsdyk, 22, hold the keys to the team's offense after the departures of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Last season, the two combined for 46 goals in the regular season before van Riemsdyk ripped off seven more in the playoffs.

Can these young forwards improve on last season's breakout success and establish themselves as one of the league's top tandems?

"I'm not one to make predictions, but I'm excited about how well we did last year," said van Riemsdyk. "Obviously, now we're going to be relied upon even more than we were last year. So it's going to be up to us to raise our game to that next level."

Van Riemsdyk was the Flyers' first-round choice in 2007 and received a six-year extension in August. Giroux was tabbed in the first round a year earlier and received a contract extension in November.

The two have been linemates for the majority of the last two seasons, with Giroux playing center and van Riemsdyk on the left wing.

This season, it's expected that the two young players will be joined by veteran right winger Jaromir Jagr, who was acquired in July via free agency.

Giroux said it's "pretty fun" to play with van Riemsdyk. In their time together, Giroux and van Riemsdyk have formed a strong bond that Giroux said translates to chemistry on the ice.

"Anytime when you play for a guy that you care for, you want to play hard for him," Giroux said. "That's one thing that brings us together and on the same page."

Van Riemsdyk described his job on the team over the last two seasons as a "secondary role." He wasn't getting as much ice time as he would have liked, but he said he understood and knew he had to "pay my dues and earn your way up to that [top] spot."

With the team's summer face-lift, both Giroux and van Riemsdyk said they expected to see a lot of new responsibilities and ice time. And so will some of their teammates.

More than half the forwards on the roster are 25 or younger, including 18-year-old rookie Sean Couturier.

"It's going to be a different look. It's going to be a different Flyers team," Giroux said. "We're going to have a good attitude and be a team that works hard every game, and that's important."

As Richards and Carter were traded away, the team brought in young forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. The fifth overall pick in the 2009 entry draft, Schenn saw limited action during his time in Los Angeles. He will start the season with the AHL Phantoms. The 23-year-old Simmonds averaged 15 goals over the last two seasons.

"I think there are a lot more younger guys in the league now then before the lockout," said van Riemsdyk.

"It's exciting to get that opportunity to be one of those go-to guys on the team at such a young age, and now it's time to take that opportunity and run with it."


Contact staff writer Matt Breen at mbreen@phillynews.com or @matt_breen on Twitter.

 

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