Better With Popcorn

Introducing: Wayne Simmonds

Last offseason the Philadelphia Flyers were trying to move their longest active team member in Simon Gagne. Prior to sending the forward to Tampa Bay, several rumors circulated that the club had interest in dealing for a young winger playing in Los Angeles by the name of Wayne Simmonds.

One year later the Flyers acquired that man.

Simmonds, a 22 year old native of Scarborough, Ontario was drafted with the 61st overall pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Prior to joining the Kings, Simmonds was named to Canada’s 2008 World Junior Championship team. Simmonds has played all three of his professional seasons in the NHL with the Kings and has missed a total of only six games in that span.

Largely described as a grind it out, gritty type of player, Simmonds validates the title with his 125 hits last season. If he were on the Flyers’ roster, Simmonds would have been ranked fifth behind Scott Hartnell, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, and Darrell Powe. He is a right-handed shot who plays the majority of his time on the right wing. In 2010-11, he averaged a little under 13.5 minutes per game, which would place him as a third liner. His minutes are similar to what Andreas Nodl, James van Riemsdyk, and Nikolai Zherdev played for the Flyers.

Simmonds put up 30 points last season, scoring 14 goals and registering 16 assists. Six of Simmonds’ 14 goals were go-ahead goals; three of them brought the Kings within a single goal of their opponent. Of his 16 assists, six of them were primary assists, meaning Simmonds was the last player to touch the puck prior to the goal scorer putting the puck into the net.

After registering 116 penalty minutes in 2009-10, Simmonds brought that number down to 75 in 2010-11. The player was capable of doing this by cutting his minor penalty rate in half from 33 minors in 2009-10 to 15 in 2010-11. Simmonds actually increased his major penalty number from six in 2009 to seven in 2010. Simmonds’ seven major penalties would have ranked him third on the Flyers behind Dan Carcillo and Jody Shelley. This progression clearly shows that Simmonds’ hockey IQ is rising but not at the cost of his physical play. It also shows that he is willing to fight.

The fan base in Los Angeles loved Simmonds. He is described as a blue-collar kind of guy who brings his lunch in a tin pail and works until the job is done, not when the clock hits five. On the surface Simmonds is certainly a player that the majority of the Philadelphia fan base will attach to, similar to the likes of Ian Laperrière, Blair Betts, and Darrell Powe. Unlike those players, Simmonds is not strictly a grinder and seems to have the potential to help on the offensive end of the ice. It certainly isn’t outlandish to envision this 22 year old flourishing on a line with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk and developing into a future 20-goal scorer.

With all the positives of Simmonds’ future, there are some negatives with his present. While Simmonds stands at 6’3”, he is a little undersized weighing only 183 pounds. As a point of reference, Danny Briere weighs 179 pounds. Simmonds struggles when going into the corners because larger forwards are able to push him around. Simmonds will need to put on some weight if he is to develop into the grinder that the Flyers are undoubtedly envisioning him as.

2010-11 was a bit of a down year for Simmonds. After taking a huge step forward in 2009-10, Simmonds took a minor step back in almost all of his statistical categories.

The slight drop-off in the 2010-11 season is nothing too alarming as his numbers were fairly similar to 2009-10. However, it's important to keep in perspective that the young forward still has work to do before fulfilling his full potential. With that being said, he most certainly fits the category of ‘character guy’, a player type that the Flyers are putting heavy emphasis upon. With the wealth of young talent that will be jockeying for a spot on the 2011 Philadelphia Flyers, Wayne Simmonds will have plenty of motivation to reach his full potential.

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