VOORHEES -- For Flyers top prospects Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny, it's a mantra they've heard for years -- too small, not strong enough. If day one of development camp is any indication, both players have made weight training a major focus of their offseason plans.
During media availability, Sanheim revealed that he's finally broken the 200-pound mark for the first time at a Flyers camp, while Konecny has reached a new high of 183 pounds as well. As both have hopes of earning their way into the NHL this September at training camp, putting on more weight was clearly the first step in making their case to general manager Ron Hextall that they might be NHL-ready.
"All these kids have to get bigger, but unfortunately you can’t just snap your fingers and put on fifteen pounds," Hextall said. "If you do that, it’s not the right weight. You’ve got to gain weight, gain strength, but also continue to keep your flexibility, your mobility, your agility, your speed. So it’s a process."
Sanheim weighed in at 181 during the 2014 NHL Combine, but most likely played at closer to the 170 range during his draft year. Hextall specifically praised the substantial leap today.
"I want to say [Sanheim] was 172 or something when we drafted him, and he’s gained upwards of 25-plus pounds. He was also an immature body, which is part of what we liked about him, that there was a lot of upside, but it’s taken a good two years."
When asked about his training regiment, the 6'3'' Sanheim echoed his GM in the importance of putting on "the right weight," and noted the positive impact that workouts have had on his game.
"I’ve been trying to put the work in – eating right, trying to do everything that I can to help me get stronger and bigger. I think I’ve still got some work to do but I’ve definitely come a long way.
"For me, it’s putting on the right weight. Right now, I’m trying to work out and train hard and put on some strength, so that the weight I’m putting on is muscle, so I'm able to control guys one-on-one and play my one-on-ones strong. As a defenseman, you have to be able to box guys out and play your guys hard in the corners."
Travis Konecny, on the other hand, has a smaller natural frame (5'10''), so a big jump in weight is not the expectation. Still, he's packed on eight extra pounds since the 2015 Draft (175 pounds to 183) and looks noticeably stronger.
"Konecny is a little bit different," Hextall noted. "Little bit more mature body, but Travis has done a good job. He works hard, he’s trained the right way and he’s made progress."
The 19-year old forward explained that his increase in strength hasn't done much to change his preferred on-ice style, but more makes executing that style even easier.
"Personally, I could play at 160. I’m just feisty, I wouldn’t let down so I guess 183 gives me a little more of an advantage to make the jump, but I’m not really concerned about any of the size stuff."
For Hextall, a prospect having an NHL-ready frame doesn't guarantee an NHL-ready skillset, but the lack of the former can be a disqualifier. He noted that some players may seem ready at camp from a raw talent standpoint, but still could be sent down because they simply don't measure up physically, using Shayne Gostisbehere in 2014 as an example.
"It’s the whole picture. Where a kid was, where he is, physically if we're concerned about him getting hurt. Sometimes, quite frankly, people just need time.
"Like Ghost two years ago – came straight from Union and was okay [in camp] but not ready for that level, we'd expose him to injury. He ended up going up [to Lehigh Valley] and got hurt anyway, but sometime with guys, you want to ease their way in a little bit more, because you don’t want to expose them to injuries or the rigors of an 82-game schedule against men at a high, high level."
By bulking up this summer, Sanheim and Konecny clearly want to remove "lack of size and strength" as a potential justification for why they don't make the big club this year. But Hextall expects to continue to see physical development from his prospects for years to come, using Sanheim as an example.
"[Sanheim's] not done. It’s gonna take probably four years where you see Travis’ strength and upside that he has. It’ll take four years before he’s as strong as he’s gonna be, or he gets to a point where he has his maximum strength. These guys are young kids."
They may be young kids, but players like Sanheim and Konecny definitely have their eyes and their workout schedules set on entering their adult careers sooner rather than later.