As had been rumored for some time, the Philadelphia Flyers have confirmed today that veteran forward Michael Raffl has been loaned overseas until the start of NHL training camp. However, this loan has some special significance. Raffl, one of the NHL’s few Austrian players, will get the chance to suit up for his hometown team, Villacher SV of the IceHL.
Raffl, 31, just signed a two-year extension with the Philly in March and is awaiting the start of his eight season with the club. In the meantime, the career Flyer is looking for a place to play in preparation for the NHL season, which does not yet have a solidified start date. In terms of convenience and fit, there is no better option than Villacher, as it is located in Raffl’s hometown and is the program that he played all of his developmental hockey with, including parts of six seasons with the top pro team.
The current iteration of Villacher has far more talent on paper than when Raffl last played for the team, but it has not shown on the ice so far this season. Despite having a number of players with North American pro experience, including Kristers Gudlevskis, Jordan Caron, and Scott Kosmachuk, Villacher has just two wins in it’s first 13 games and sits tenth out of eleven teams in the IceHL. Raffl hopes that what amounts to some preseason conditioning can also help to turn the team’s season around and propel them towards a consecutive playoff qualification.