(The Philadelphia Flyers open their NHL season Wednesday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Starting today and each day leading up to the game, Staff Writer John Russo will take a look at the Flyers' personnel at each position. Coming tomorrow: the wingers)
The Flyers are deep down the middle heading into the 2013-14 season, boasting three former first-round draft picks.
The Flyers are so deep that they plan to move a pair of last year's centers, Brayden Schenn and Max Talbot, to the wing. This will make room for a new guy and one of their top young players.
Claude Giroux (2012 stats 13, goals, 35 assists): The 25-year-old Giroux, picked with the 22nd overall pick in the 2006 draft, started last season with only seven points (three goals, four assists) in the first 13 games and looked like a young star struggling with the pressure of being the face of the franchise as a new captain.
But in Giroux's last 14 games of the lockout-shortened, 48-game season, he totaled 16 points, (three goals, 13 assists) to pass teammate and right winger Jakub Voracek for the team's scoring title.
Player Needed to Step Up
Sean Couturier (4 goals, 11 assists): Couturier, 20, has been highly valued by the Flyers - and highly coveted by the rest of the NHL - ever since they picked him with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Big things were expected from him in last year's lockout-shortened season, but he played most of the season on the fourth line.
It wasn't until the last 16 games, when he was bumped to the third line, that he began to rise out of his sophomore slump and scored eight of his 15 points.
The New Guy
Vincent Lecavalier (10 goals, 22 assists): Opting to buy out winger Daniel Briere's contract, the Flyers used the freed-up cap space to spend on the 1998 first overall pick of the NHL draft, Lecavalier, whose contract was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lecavalier, 33, had been the captain of the Lightning since 2000 and brings leadership. But he's looking to halt the point skid he has been on since the 2009-2010 season. Lecavalier likely will play on the Flyers' second line this season, where he will skate with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
Staff Writer John Russo