While Flyers fans have now spent the better part of this decade dreaming up what their team’s blue line may look like come 2020, as the team added five strong defensive prospects between the 2012 and 2015 drafts, it took the franchise under Ron Hextall (and Paul Holmgren before him) a bit longer to really get a similarly strong group of forward prospects in place. A few years later, while the forward corps this team has waiting in the wings may not be quite as intimidating as the one it has on defense, there are plenty of potential future playmakers, snipers, netmouth guys, and grinders that the Flyers will be watching closely over the next couple of years.
Yet with due respect to Oskar Lindblom, who was drafted a year earlier, one could easily point to around 9:45 p.m. ET on the night of the 2015 NHL Draft as the time that the Flyers really got things going in their effort to bring in more quality young forwards. That’s when they traded up five spots to No. 24 and grabbed Travis Konecny, a center/winger from the OHL.
Arguably a lottery-level talent in the deepest draft of this decade (we had Konecny at No. 14 on our community board that year, and we later learned that the Flyers themselves had him at No. 11 on their board), Konecny immediately became the Flyers’ top forward prospect. And after a draft + 1 year that saw him take the kind of step forward that many observers were hoping to see in his draft year, almost the entire fanbase was asking the same question: can he make the Flyers in 2016?
Since you’re here, of course, you already know what happened next: he did. And Konecny’s rookie year had its ups and downs. The question now is this: just how good can the Ontario native be?
No. 5: Travis Konecny
Age: 20 (3/11/1997)
Acquired Via: 2015 NHL Draft -- Round 1, Pick 24 (Pick acquired from Tampa Bay along with a third-round pick in 2015 and Radko Gudas in exchange for Braydon Coburn on March 2, 2015)
2016-17 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - 11 G, 17 A in 70 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2017 25 Under 25: 4
Back in May, Charlie broke down Konecny’s rookie season in depth, talking us through the ebbs and flows that came with his first year in Philadelphia. Rather than spend a ton of time going through what went well and didn’t go well in Konecny’s 2016-17, I’d encourage you to take a minute and read that piece if you haven’t already (or if you have! It’s a good piece!). In the meantime, though, here are the cliffnotes from said article:
- Relative to other 19/20-year-olds a year removed from their draft in recent years, Konecny had a solid rookie season.
- By almost any measure — points, shots, offensive zone contribution — Konecny was one of the best players on the Flyers at 5-on-5. He was, however, pretty poor defensively, and this was the key reason why the Flyers sat him out of a few games last year.
- Up through his injury in early February, Konecny’s performance on the season reflected that of a second-line winger. However, his performance dropped off significantly upon returning from that injury, to the point where he played like a 4th-liner in the season’s final month.
- All in all, Konecny has shown that he’s at least a respectable middle-six forward in today’s NHL. The Flyers’ task from here is turning him into more than that.
Despite the rough finish to his rookie year, Konecny should be pretty comfortably locked into a top-9 spot this coming season. Even with his defensive struggles — ones that the team is aware of and clearly was trying to coach him out of late in the year — the Flyers recognize the offensive talent that they have in the 5’10” winger. His ability to play at either wing is also invaluable.
And the opportunities should be there for Konecny to grow offensively as well. While the obvious caveat should be stated here that rookies sometimes need some time to really get going (just ask Travis Konecny!), the potential additions of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick to the lineup this season should add some more firepower to the team at 5-on-5, which hopefully means more players who can finish off Konecny’s impressive passes in the offensive zone. And with a bit of luck and new talent (again, Patrick comes to mind here), the second power play unit — where Konecny will likely stay, as a left-handed shot seems like the most likely option to fill Brayden Schenn’s vacated position on the top unit — will be a bit better this year as well, which could add a few more points to Konecny’s bottom-line totals.
If Konecny can stay healthy (still a fair concern, as he’s had minor injury problems throughout juniors before missing a month at the NHL level due to them), a slight step forward shouldn’t just be a hope for the Flyers; rather, it should be the expectation. It seems like he learned a lot during his rookie year, and the situation on the ice for the Flyers this year (better forward depth, more talented defensemen) should be one that’s conducive for him to have a strong sophomore season.
But at this point, just how good Konecny may be is anyone’s guess. His play in his own third of the ice remains very much a work in progress, due to a combination of below-average coverage, poor on-puck decisions in the defensive zone, and size disadvantages. The third thing there is probably never going to change, so it may just be up to the Flyers to continue to work with him to develop in his decision-making and defensive zone actions.
Without growing defensively, Konecny’s ceiling is probably that of a sheltered second-line winger — and while that’s not in the slightest a bad player to have around, you get the feeling that many around the team are hoping that he’ll develop into a true “top-6” guy, one who maybe gets second-line minutes but who you could occasionally slot into your top line without blinking.
If that development doesn’t happen, could the Flyers maybe cover Konecny’s shortcomings with some of their other personnel? Many of Konecny’s finest moments last year came alongside Sean Couturier, the most defensively responsible forward (player?) on the Flyers. That could be a duo that the team gives another crack at this year.
Or they could go all the way in the other direction, pair Konecny with one or two other young guys — if you really want to daydream, how does a Konecny - Patrick - Lindblom line sound? — and give them relatively easy minutes and see how things go. I’d think that they’d rather spread some of the youth in the lineup out and give those guys a bit more veteran cover, but it’s an option.
Whatever their plan for him is, Travis Konecny showed the Flyers and the NHL that he’s got a pretty bright future ahead of him this year. It’ll still be on him to work on the parts of his game that need refining, but the upside here is clearly still pretty high. It’s almost easy to lose track of Konecny as the other rookies and young guns filter into the lineup, but with another step forward this year, the guy that started the Flyers’ youth movement up front will once again be one of the most exciting players on the team.
How We Voted For Travis Konecny
How We Voted At No. 5
|Travis Sanheim||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier||Nolan Patrick||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Sanheim||Travis Konecny||Nolan Patrick||Nolan Patrick||Nolan Patrick||Travis Konecny|
How The Community Voted For Travis Konecny
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Previously on Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2017 25 Under 25:
- Honorable Mentions
- No. 25: Mark Friedman
- No. 24: Matthew Strome
- No. T-22: Wade Allison
- No. T-22: Pascal Laberge
- No. 21: Mikhail Vorobyev
- No. 20: Isaac Ratcliffe
- No. 19: Alex Lyon
- No. 18: Mike Vecchione
- No. 17: Taylor Leier
- No. 16: Morgan Frost
- No. 15: Felix Sandstrom
- No. 14: Anthony Stolarz
- No. 13: Robert Hagg
- No. 12: Scott Laughton
- No. 11: German Rubtsov
- No. 10: Carter Hart
- No. 9: Samuel Morin
- No. 8: Philippe Myers
- No. 7: Oskar Lindblom
- No. 6: Travis Sanheim