Our 25 Under 25 is nearing its end, and now we get to the real fun part, as we discuss three players who are among the ... five? six? four? most important players on this year’s Flyers team. All of them are 23 or younger. This is fun. We’re all having fun. (Unironically!)
4. Travis Konecny
Primary Team/League: Philadelphia, NHL
2019-20 Stats: 24 G, 37 A in 66 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 4
Drew (ranked him #2): What else is there to say about TK that hasn’t already been said? He’s just been electric and has proven that he can now take over a line, and take over a game by storm. He’s one of a few players on the roster who can change a game with a single shift. That contract is looking real nice now.
Kurt (ranked him #4): I wrote the article for Konecny in this series last summer, when he was fourth in the rankings behind Sanheim and the other two mentioned in this piece. At the time I had him third, behind only Provorov and Hart, but still had the following to say, emphasis added:
But it still feels like there’s more to be found here than we’ve already seen. That’s probably a big part of why our panel had him behind (spoiler alert) Travis Sanheim, a guy who’s also had elite flashes but has shown the ability to be that dude on the ice for extended periods of time, without a ton of help. Can Travis Konecny get to that level? Can he be the guy who’s not just a strong third link on a first line but also, say, the best player on a strong second line? We’re excited to find out whether or not he can.
That ... has happened this year, more or less to a tee. Konecny has been the best player on his line for long stretches this year. He’s still not an ace defender or anything, but (a) when he’s with Couturier it doesn’t matter, (b) he’s been fine enough even when away from the Flyers’ Selke contender, and (c) who gives a shit, have you seen him with the puck on his stick? Konecny has been the most dynamic offensive talent on the team this year, after two years of looking like he could be that guy but not quite doing it yet. He is probably running a bit hot this year — I sadly don’t think he’s gonna shoot 17 percent forever — but he is a top-line winger. Pound-for-pound he has been the most impressive hockey player on this list, and the only reason he’s behind these next two guys is that they’re either doing it at a more important position or are younger. (Which I have no objection with, to be clear.)
Ryan G. (ranked him #4): There aren’t enough good things to say about NHL All-Star Travis Konecny. He has become a bonafide top-line winger for the Flyers that can help carry play. In his first few seasons he had some defensive shortcomings and struggles overall, limiting him to be the second or third guy on a line – that finishing piece with Giroux and Couturier for example. This season, after signing his big contract, he has been able to be the #2 or even #1 guy on his line throughout the season. Whether it was with Couturier or Hayes, Konecny showed that he can carry play with the best of them. He is behind only Couturier (56.25) on the team in Corsi-For percentage with 54.77, and leads the team (seventh in the NHL among players with 850+ TOI) with 1.26 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 play.
TK set a career high in points and assists, and tied his career high in goals through 66 games. Yes, his shooting percentage has shot up a bit as Kurt mentioned, but even if that falls a bit it won’t impact his assist numbers. Rather than being a pure sniper (which he still is), he has shown he can be a pretty good playmaker with great passes to set up goals around the net. He is only #4 on my ranking due to goalie and defenseman being more valuable, and I would have no problem with anyone putting him at the top of the list.
Kelly (ranked him #5): So to clarify, the decision was made that Lindblom was going to be given the first overall spot in this ranking, so really, Travis Konecny landed #4 for me. Which makes sense, since he’s pretty solidly both the best and most important young player on this team behind the two outstanding defensemen and the probable franchise goaltender. He’s good! Plus he’s funny and that makes everyone better.
Kyle (ranked him #4): So it’s safe to say I think a lot of us expected TK to have a breakout season this year, but I’m not sure if any of us expected him to be this good. If the season does get back going and we jump straight into the playoffs, Konecny will have lead the team in points this season. He started strong and has carried that momentum throughout the year. That contract extension he signed last summer is looking more and more like a steal with how he’s performed this season.
Maddie (ranked him #5): I think Kyle said it pretty perfectly, that we were all sort of expecting a breakout season from Konecny this year, but what he delivered just about blew all of our expectations out of the water. He’s been so good, gang. The big question around him has kind of always been whether or not he can serve as a driver on his own line, and he’s been able to do that this season. Getting a more consistent boost in the quality of his linemates has certainly helped, but his individual work has been pretty remarkable. I’ve loved what we’ve seen from him, as his game continues to develop, and I really don’t have any complaints to air.
3. Ivan Provorov
Primary Team/League: Philadelphia, NHL
2019-20 Stats: 13 G, 23 A in 69 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 2
Drew (ranked him #3): Provorov worried me with his 2018-19 season, but in 2019-20, he proved that he isn’t just a legit #1 defenseman, that he’s a good #1 defenseman. I’ve especially been impressed with Provy’s ability to step up and score some big goals.
Kurt (ranked him #3): So. Ivan Provorov is good. Took us a few years to be really sure about it, but Ivan Provorov is good. What do you take from his bounce-back this year? Do you see him as a No. 1 defenseman, a top-pair defenseman, or something less than that? Can you win a Cup with him as your best defenseman? (My answers, for the record: that coaching and supporting casts matter and that progression isn’t always a straight line but talent tends to find its way out in the end; a top-pair defenseman but if he’s this good again next year he’s a No. 1 defenseman without question; and sure, why not?)
Mike (ranked him #3): This one really comes down to whether you find more value in a franchise defenseman or a franchise goalie, because that’s what we’re talking about with Provorov and Hart here. Though Provorov has proved more at the NHL level, Hart has shown that he has given the Flyers’ first homegrown franchise netminder since what like Ron Hextall? Provorov should be commended, though, as his 2019-20 season was going to be his best yet, and proved the Flyers made a wise call to give him that fat extension this Fall.
Ryan G. (ranked him #3): Provorov and Konecny must’ve gotten together before the season and decided that this was the year they were going to go all out. Provorov has bounced back in a huge way as a top-pair defenseman this season. Having a veteran like Matt Niskanen as a competent defensive partner has definitely helped Provorov along the way, but he’s always had this potential.
Provorov had his best season before this in 2017-18, putting up 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points, and he was well on his way to passing those marks with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) through 69 games. He is a top-pair defenseman in this league. Full stop. The 2015 draft is turning out to be a prettay, prettay, prettay good one for the Flyers.
Kelly (ranked him #4): So he’s really #3 for me (I don’t know why I feel the need to clarify this now considering all of my rankings are off by one, but I’m doing it). I am not at all surprised that all of my pals ranked Provy as the second best on this list. After being a bit worried about him after last summer, he shut me right up by coming out this season and proving, beyond any hint of doubt, that he’s a #1 defenseman. He’s going to be eating up minutes for us for a long, long time and will be one of the main reasons this team will go on to win Cups (you heard me). I tried to explain my reasoning for ranking Travis Sanheim ahead of him on this week’s BSH Radio, and with an assist from Bill Matz, I think I did. So listen and subscribe and tell your friends thx.
Kyle (ranked him #2): I just love this dude so much. Last year was obviously a tremendous disappointment but he came out this season and shut down all the question marks. The acquisition of Matt Niskanen has paid tremendous dividends not only in the production Niskanen has brought, but also in what it’s done for Provy. Giving him a veteran who has won a Stanley Cup before playing top minutes has really helped him I think. Not only is he producing more offensively, but his defense is as strong as ever. And this is another guy who looks like he’s on a steal of a contract with how he’s played.
Maddie (ranked him #4): Like a lot of us, I had some small reservations about Provorov heading into this season, and he’s done really well to put all questions of his legitimacy to rest. He’s very good, and we’re very lucky to have him. The role he plays is pretty instrumental to the team’s success, and when he’s on, man, he’s a force to be reckoned with. But, that said, I think, personally, I tend to value a defenseman with greater offensive instincts who can bring a well rounded game at 5-on-5, as well as really flourish on a top power play unit just a tad bit more, which is why I ranked Travis Sanheim ahead of Provorov. But, for what it’s worth, the two are really close, and it was a tough call. But, that said, having two very good defensemen with high upsides, making it hard to decide where to rank each on a list like this? It’s a good problem to have.
2. Carter Hart
Primary Team/League: Philadelphia, NHL
2019-20 Stats: .914 SV%, 2.42 GAA in 43 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 1
Drew (ranked him #4): Again, you can swap Hart with TK, Provorov, or really anybody on this list. Hart’s play, however, is perhaps the most crucial to the Flyers’ success, and my word with some huge plays this year Hart has absolutely proven he is the goalie of the future (not that we didn’t know that already).
Kurt (ranked him #2): So, let’s frame it this way: Carter Hart was the unanimous #1 selection last time we did this. Every single person picked him tops on their ballot. To those of you who kept him at No. 2, how much consideration did you give to dropping him? To those who didn’t, what changed?
I kept him here because, even though I love what Provorov’s done in his bounce-back this year ... Carter Hart hasn’t had a bad year at any level of organized hockey since ... well, his Elite Prospects page goes back to 2011-12, and that year he posted a .887 in 19 games in Bantam AAA. So, since he was 12. 12 years old. That was the last time Carter Hart had a bad year in net. Goalies that you can count on being above-average are so, so, so, so, so rare. And while we don’t know that Carter Hart is going to be above-average forever (odds are that at some point he’ll have a bad year) ... it’s what he’s done, at the position where it’s hardest to be consistently good. Is there anyone else on this list that can say that? Maybe, but it’s close enough that this is Carter’s throne until he falls off of it.
Brad (ranked him #2): “Odds are that at some point he’ll have a bad year” hm, going to have to disagree here Kurt, it’s just not possible for him to do so. But as far as how much I considered dropping Hart down a ranking ... I didn’t. He was the only player (besides Oskar Lindblom) that I one hundred percent knew where he was going to be ranked when we started this exercise. He’s an above average starting goaltender at 21 years old, that’s just massive.
By the numbers, his raw save percentage is solid, and per Evolving-Hockey’s expected goals model his all-situations goals saved above expectation of 7.25 is good for sixth among regulars league-wide. I recognize that I am and will always be quite biased towards Carter, but his numbers, at his age, are ridiculous.
Mike (ranked him #2): Won’t overcomplicate this one much, Carter Hart is the franchise netminder the Flyers have been longing for since the days of Hextall, Pelle Lindbergh, and Bernie Parent. As Brad said, he’s already an above-average NHL goalie and he’s not even 22-years-old yet. If he never improves from what he currently is the Flyers will win a slew of games with him between the pipes, but Hart’s best quality is that he’s never satisfied and will work his butt off to be the best goalie this storied franchise has ever seen.
Ryan G. (ranked him #2): Carter Hart is the savior that the Flyers have been waiting for between the pipes since ... a really long time. There were some worries early in the season when he struggled that he may have a sophomore slump, but he quickly silenced those doubts and has shown he is ready for the NHL level. Sure, he’ll have some tough stretches, but he’ll get through them. More importantly, he’ll also have several very good stretches (as he’s shown last year and this year) with seven- and eight-game winning streaks.
The difference that a goalie like Hart makes is huge. Being able to rely on him to win a game when the team isn’t playing at their best – like in the Flyers’ last win against the Sabres – is huge. Furthermore, it’s those big saves early in scoreless (or close) games that allow the Flyers some more time to find their bearings and get into it. How can you not love Hart.
Kelly (ranked him #2): Oh hey, did you know that really he’s ranked #1 for me? Just wanted to be sure you knew that. Anyway, what is there to say that hasn’t been said? Carter Hart is the single most important member of this team, and the success of the team relies on his success, and so far I think we’ve seen that we can depend on him to backstop this franchise for the foreseeable. He’s #1 on this list until his 25th birthday.
Kyle (ranked him #3): It’s still kinda crazy the Flyers have Carter Hart, right? This franchise? A homegrown franchise goalie who is already posting very good NHL results at age 21? It just feels surreal given what we’ve dealt with in net for ages. While I didn’t rank him ahead of Provorov, it’s totally understandable why basically everyone else did. An elite goaltender can solve a lot of other problems on a hockey team, and it looks like the Flyers finally have one. Ron Hextall deserves a lot of criticism for how he managed this team when he was here, but he drafted Carter Hart, and that in itself deserves a lot of praise.
Maddie (ranked him #2): Carter Hart is very good at he hockey things. He isn’t perfect, but he’s still young, still in his first full NHL season, and he’s getting better. What Hart has been able to do at his age, at this level, on the whole has been pretty remarkable, there’s really no other way to put it. I understand reservations about what his development is going to look like (goalies are voodoo after all) and if he’s going to have a longer stretch of poor play in the future, but what it comes down to for me (and why I ranked him the highest) is because his ceiling is just crazy high, and a franchise goaltender, in my opinion, is the most valuable piece an already well rounded organization can have.
How We Voted: 4 to 2
|4||Ivan Provorov||Travis Konecny||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Ivan Provorov||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Ivan Provorov||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny|
|3||Travis Konecny||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov||Travis Konecny||Travis Sanheim||Ivan Provorov||Carter Hart||Travis Sanheim||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov|
|2||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Travis Konecny||Ivan Provorov||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Ivan Provorov||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Carter Hart||Carter Hart|