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Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Travis Konecny emerges as a lethal weapon

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No sophomore slump for the 2015 first round pick after finding chemistry on the Flyers’ top line

NHL: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is shaping up to be one of the most productive draft classes in recent memory, rivaling that of the class of ‘03. Names like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Zach Werenski, Miko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal, and Kyle Connor have already made quite the impact at the NHL level, just to name a few. This particular draft drew similar parallels to the 2003 draft not only in its deluge of talent, but in its impact on the Flyers’ franchise. Back in ‘03 the Orange and Black hit on two first round picks in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, both of which would settle in as the core of the franchise for years to come.

The Flyers were once again poised to make two selections in the first round for the first time since the ‘03 draft, putting Ron Hextall in a solid position to begin putting his imprint on the team during his second season as the Flyers’ general manager. Their first selection was at number seven overall, where franchise defenseman Ivan Provorov fell to the Flyers after both the Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils took a reach on two forwards (Dylan Strome and Pavel Zacha, respectively) who flashed a ton of raw talent.

The Flyers’ next pick wouldn’t be until 29th overall, but odd things seem to unfold at the draft each year and 2015 was no exception. The Boston Bruins managed to garner via trade two first round picks (13th and 15th overall), giving the Bs back-to-back-to-back picks in the middle of the first round with their own pick at number 14. Highly touted prospects like Kyle Connor and Mathew Barzal had yet to hear their names called, but the Bruins went completely off the board with two of their picks in Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn. Due to this, as well as even more teams reaching to the stars with more off-the-board picks, one prospect in particular began to fall well past his projected draft position. His name? Travis Konecny.

No. 3: Travis Konecny

Position: RW
Age: 21 (3/11/1997)
Size: 5’10”, 175 (via)
Acquired Via: 2015 NHL Draft — Round 1, Pick 24 (Pick acquired from Toronto in exchange for Picks No. 29 and 58 in 2015 on June 26, 2015; Pick No. 29 acquired from Tampa Bay along with a third-round pick in 2015 and Radko Gudas in exchange for Braydon Coburn on March 2, 2015)
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - 24 G, 23 A in 81 GP
Nationality: Canadian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: 4

Once Konecny began falling down the board, Ron Hextall jumped at the opportunity to move up and select the highly skilled, electric forward. After making a phone call to Lou Lamoriello and the management team of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hextall traded the 29th overall pick in the draft along with the 58th overall pick to the Leafs to jump up and select Konecny with the 24th overall pick. Would Konecny prove to be the top-6 scoring threat he was projected to be?

Following the draft, Konecny was sent back to the OHL for the 2015-16 season where he saw time with both the Ottawa 67s and the Sarnia Sting, putting up 101 points in 60 games, which was quite the improvement over his draft eligible season where he scored 68 points in 60 games. The following year, Konecny showed vast amounts of skill and flash during training camp and pre-season, but more importantly he showed an ability to keep up with the speed of the NHL, which forced the hands of management to keep him with the big club. His first season in the NHL was a bit of a roller coaster, as Konecny saw limits in ice time and was benched for stretches during the season, but still scored at a respectable 1.55 points-per 60 rate. After a 70-game rookie season, hopes were high for Konecny heading into the 2017-18 season, but would he take his next step and solidify himself in the top-six? Let’s take a look at what led to Travis landing at number three in our top-25 under 25.

A rocky road to Christmas Eve’s Eve

Konecny got off to a bit of a slow start. His numbers were down, his scoring rates were suffering, and he just couldn’t seem to find the right chemistry among the different teammates he spent time with in the middle-six of the forward corps. His most common center, Valterri Filppula, was a shell of his former self, which required Konecny to play a more defensive role than he was accustomed to playing.

Despite being a high-skill forward with a tenacious attitude on the ice, Konecny has never been seen as a defensively responsible winger, so it was no surprise that he seemed to be forcing it quite a bit. Both the statistics and the eye test backed this up. Then the unthinkable happened, and head coach Dave Hakstol made a lineup change that altered the course of the Flyers’ season.

December 23, 2017: A day that will live in infamy

Wayne Simmonds was battling through injuries and his 5-on-5 play was severely hampered. Hakstol made the decision to shift Simmonds down in the lineup in order to reduce his even strength time on ice, which gave Konecny the opportunity to jump into the top-six. To give Nolan Patrick some help on the second line, Hakstol also moved Jakub Voracek down a line, opening up the right wing spot on the top line next to Sean Couturier. Konecny slotted in to that spot with Claude Giroux on the left side of Couts and the chemistry was instantaneous.

5v5 Stats

-- GP TOI G A P P1 P/60 P1/60 G/60 Adj CF% GF% ZSR
-- GP TOI G A P P1 P/60 P1/60 G/60 Adj CF% GF% ZSR
10/4/17 - 12/22/17 35 377.88 4 3 7 6 1.11 0.95 0.64 46.04 50.53 57.75
12/23/17 - 4/7/2018 46 652.98 17 15 32 23 2.94 2.11 1.56 50.19 61.52 42.39
Stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey

Once moving to the top line, Konecny emerged as one of the top scoring threats in the league at even strength. From December 23 to the end of the season, TK ranked ninth - among forwards who played 400 minutes or more - in P/60 at 5-on-5 and was seemingly the perfect compliment to the forward pairing of Giroux and Couturier. Relative to just wingers, Konecny ranked fourth! That’s correct, in raw point production per 60 minutes of ice time, the Philadelphia Flyers own Travis Konecny was the fourth most productive winger in the NHL from December 23 to the end of the regular season. Want him to do one better? Glad you asked, because he did! Konecny ranked third, yes third, with a 1.56 G/60. Want to know the two names ahead of him? Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid.

Now, some would argue that the reason his point totals, scoring rates and underlying numbers were boosted was simply because he was playing with Sean Couturier and, to an even greater extent, Claude Giroux. Yes, this certainly impacted Konecny’s numbers and that must be taken into account. However, we constantly hear that it takes a special kind of player to play with the best players in the league, a la Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. Typically, if a player is going to have success playing alongside the elite talent in this league, they must often possess a high level of hockey sense and IQ. The player has to know where to be on the ice, he has to be able to get to that spot on the ice, and he has to know what to do with the puck once it’s on his stick. Here is Konecny’s scouting report from EliteProspects.com written in 2014 by scout Curtis Joe:

A talented scoring forward that can play either as a center or on the wing; plays with the bite and intensity of a guy who is willing to do anything to win a game. Possesses dynamic skating ability that allows him to accelerate rapidly with each step, incredible hockey sense, electrifying puck handling skills, and a lightning release on his shot; when you put this skill set together with hard-nosed determination, pro-activeness in all three zones, and a physical willingness to grind and persevere, you get a game-changer who can be extremely difficult to play against

The emphasis is exactly what makes Konecny such a perfect match for the top line. Claude Giroux is one of the most elite puck handlers in the game and one of his greatest strengths is transitioning up the ice and controlling entries into the offensive zone. Once in the zone, Giroux can move the puck at will. Couturier is a big-bodied center who is very smart and can create space even without the puck, so it opens up passing lanes and areas on the ice for Giroux to exploit. This is where Konecny comes in and why he is so incredibly valuable to this team moving forward in a top line role.

Once there is open space, Konecny can kick on the burners and get to that space. The key here though is that TK has the hockey sense to know where to be and where Giroux wants to attack. He can find the open areas, get to them quickly, and once he has the puck he possesses the puck handling skills to outmaneuver the opposition and get into the best scoring areas. From there he can either release his wicked shot, or dish the puck to a teammate who may be in a more dangerous area. He’s the complete package for the top line as it’s constructed.

I know, I know. We’ve all seen this goal a million times (let’s be honest, it never gets old). One of the more underrated parts of this play though is how Konecny is able to use his skating ability to get back into the zone. Most players would be forced to use more space to get themselves turned around and back into the play, but Konecny manages to do just that in a confined space within a split second.

Here, Konecny is moving at a good speed to get back onside before Provorov enters the zone with the puck. As soon as he’s back onside, TK is able to use his excellent edges to pivot back around and reenter the zone. We then see Travis put to use one of his most valuable assets: the burst. It’s very subtle, but there is a moment (right in front of the Geico sign) where Konecny’s speed seems to jump a few notches out of nowhere in just one stride. He is somehow able to pivot on his edges and immediately accelerate up to speed in the open area of the ice where Provorov can feed him the puck. The rest is history and Konecny scored what is arguably one of the most skilled, dynamic, and prolific goals of this past season.

Setting 2018-19 expectations

This is where things get a bit tricky. We know what we saw out of Konecny last season was not a fluke, but ultimately - as with most issues on this team - his production and effectiveness in the orange and black will come down to his usage and deployment in the lineup set by Dave Hakstol. The skill set that Konecny brings to the NHL translates best as a complimentary player, meaning that the players he is deployed with will likely be the level of production we see out of him. If he plays with third liners, we will see third line production. If he plays on the top line, we will see top line production. At least to this point in his short, two-year NHL career, that is what we’ve seen and can come to expect from TK.

Because this coaching staff is primarily bent towards goal-based results decision making with the lineup, we should assume that Konecny will start the season on the top line flanking Sean Couturier and playing opposite Claude Giroux. If this is the case (it had better be), and we see the same level of production out of TK for an entire 82-game season with those two, the expectations may not have a ceiling.

Extrapolated over a full season, Konecny’s scoring rates from December 23 on would have produced 30 even strength goals and 57 even strength points. Factor in what should be an improved second powerplay unit and we could see a 65+ point season from the 21 year old winger in just his third season. Will those 5-on-5 numbers come back to earth? Sure, that’s possible, but we do have to remember that Konecny just turned 21 and is now entering just his third professional season in the NHL, so the trend should continue to improve and progress in an upward direction.

Travis Konecny made his mark during the 2017-18 regular season and proved to everyone what he is capable of when playing alongside elite talent. He emerged as one of the premier scorers in the league and showed no signs of discomfort doing so. If anything, he looked like he belonged there. The sky is the limit for the tenacious young forward moving into the 2018-19 season and teams had better prepare to defend against such a lethal weapon.

How We Voted For Travis Konecny

Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
2 3 3 4 3 3 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 4 3

How We Voted At No. 3

Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Nolan Patrick Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Carter Hart Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Carter Hart Nolan Patrick Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Travis Konecny Nolan Patrick Travis Konecny

How The Community Voted For Travis Konecny

Ranking # of Votes
Ranking # of Votes
1 17
2 281
3 459
4 168
5 50
6 16
7 7
8 3
9 3
10 2
11 0
12 1
13 1
14 1
15 0
16 0
17 1
18 3
19 1
20 1
21 1
22 0
23 0
24 0
25 0
NR 0

Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25: