Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny ‘made this team on merit,’ says Ron Hextall

Ron Hextall said if they weren’t ready, they wouldn’t be here

VOORHEES – Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny had a talk on Sunday night with their general manager.

It’s something they experienced last year when both players were sent back to their junior clubs. This time, though, it just felt different. Turns out, it was much, much different.

That conversation wasn’t about what Ron Hextall’s expectations are for them in the juniors, like it was last season when Hextall says he told Provorov to go out back to Brandon and “be the best junior defenseman” — a challenge he accomplished. No, this was to tell the two 19-year players that they had made the team.

“Those kids made this team on their own,” Hextall said. “They’re not on the team because anyone felt like politically or anything else. They made this team on merit and our plan is to keep them the whole year.”

That last part was the gist of the conversation last night: this isn’t a tentative situation.

“They’re here, they made our team, this isn’t a tryout,” Hextall said. “I don’t believe in that. If I felt either player wasn’t ready to be here the whole year, they wouldn’t be here right now.

“I don’t think about things like that and I don’t think it’s fair for a young player. Our whole thing was… are they ready to be here the whole year? We think they are. Now could it change, I guess, but right now the thought process is they’re here the whole year.”

Konecny didn’t make this roster because of Brayden Schenn’s suspension nor did Provorov earn a spot because of the rash of injuries along the blue line.

It was as simple as Hextall had always said: outplay the competition.

The two kids did just that.

In fact, they didn’t just outperform their peers, they elevated the play of those around them.

Take Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier, for example. Those two players were, arguably, the most dominant players throughout the exhibition season, particularly the final two games… the same time they saw Konecny join their second line.

Likewise, Mark Streit started to regain his old form. Perhaps it was a result of the World Cup, but some of it had to do with playing with Provorov.

“There’s a certain enthusiasm and energy that they bring,” Hextall said. “I think when you become an older player and watch younger players see how excited they are to play in new rinks, to play every night and to play in the NHL, it’s really refreshing. It kind of takes you back to realizing how fortunate you are to be playing in the NHL.”

Before the official announcement was made by Hextall, Voracek had told reporters that Konecny acts as a “machine” on the ice whereas Provorov has this rare ability to “set his own pace.”

The two youngsters can now carry that level of play into their first ever regular season in the NHL.