When you’re a 19-year old, junior-eligible prospect with aspirations of suiting up in the NHL this season, you’ll do anything to earn a spot on the final roster.
So being told to switch from one wing to the other was an easy one to accept for Travis Konecny, who said he played left wing “a little bit” before in juniors but nothing too permanent. Since development camp, Konecny has been telling reporters it doesn’t matter what side he plays on.
To him, “it’s not a big change.”
“As far as I'm concerned,” started Konecny following Saturday’s morning skate, “it's just the other side of the ice.”
That’s fair (and completely straight-forward) but it’s not that simple, right?
“There's an adjustment,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, “but good players make those adjustments.”
What exactly are those adjustments? Let HockeyGiant.com explain playing on the “off-wing,” which is what Konecny will be doing as he’s a right-handed shot playing on the left.
“When you're playing the off wing it enables you to enter the offensive zone with your stick to the middle of the ice which gives you a better angle when you take shots on goal. Also, when you're carrying the puck along the boards and a defender is trying to force you to the outside, you're able to drop your bottom hand to ward off the defender while you control your stick with your top hand and drive to the net.”
The most notable change is learning how to receive passes on the backhand, something Konecny was able to do on Saturday night against the Boston Bruins in preseason action.
“I'm sure I've found myself on the other side of the ice when I was playing right wing before, so I'm not too worried about it,” Konecny added.
The London, Ont. native added that he feels he sees the ice better coming in from his new side, which is a similar sentiment echoed by Brayden Schenn back in the 2014-15 season when the left-handed shot moved to the right wing.
In his first in-game action on the off-wing for the Flyers, the blue-chip forward put one puck on net with one shot going wide and the other being blocked. From the eye ball test, Konecny looked just as he said was after one day of practice: “comfortable.”
He especially looked in sync on the series that netted him a primary assist. He swooped in from the side to flash in front of the net, leaving the puck out front where Brayden Schenn put it past Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban.
His speed also drew a penalty when Michael Del Zotto lofted a pass to the other end that saw him dance around a defender on the left side before cutting in with a burst and being tackled to the ice.
His vision, too, resulted in a few crafty passes, including a half-spin feed towards the front of the net.
In other words, he didn’t look fazed.
That’s really not surprising, though, Konecny – along with Ivan Provorov – have been turning heads all camp
“They along with a lot of others in that room have pushed the envelope and are doing their job and making decisions difficult,” Hakstol said.
Now comes the hard part?
Does Konecny make the team as a left winger now? What would the lineup look like if he makes that move and sticks with it?
The top six would consist of two lines centered by Claude Giroux and Couturier with Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek working the right wings and Brayden Schenn and Konecny manning the left side.
As a result, Michael Raffl would slide into the bottom six where two lines would see Nick Cousins and presumably, Boyd Gordon, as the pivots. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Roman Lyubimov seem destined to round out the fourth line, leaving Raffl as a third-line winger with Dale Weise on the opposite side.
That keeps Matt Read and Scott Laughton off of the projected starting lineup.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go until anything needs to be finalized. Hakstol has been preaching this mindset, as well as the evaluation process being an “over time” situation and not an in the moment decision. And the whole patience-with-prospects angle has been well-documented in regards to general manager Ron Hextall’s philosophy.
Yet, even if that’s the case, Konecny has shown progression every day in camp, going from “average” play in the first game according to Hextall, to lighting up the box score with two points in his second contest and stringing together an impressive performance while switching positions in his third game.
And remember when Hakstol said “good players make those adjustments?”
Well – it may just be one game and a few practices – but Konecny hasn’t appeared to lost a step in making the switch.
Take what you will from that.