Breakout Season Has Konecny in National Spotlight
Travis Konecny was the last order of business this offseason for the Flyers, the deal that didn’t come together until three days into training camp. It certainly all seemed confusing leading up to that day. Many assumed that Ivan Provorov and not Konecny would put up the bigger battle in negotiations. He signed the night before training camp began.
As the first days of camp wore on, Konecny’s absence was not only noticeable, but it was being brought up by the new head coach. It felt like it was creating tension. Again, that was put to bed once Konecny signed and got right into drills and workouts with the rest of the team.
Konecny had reached 24 goals in each of the last two seasons, so it’s not like the production wasn’t there. But with a team-leading 17 goals and tied for the team lead with 43 points, there has been a passing of the torch. For years, a key member of the core of the team would represent the Flyers at the All-Star Game -- usually Claude Giroux and occasionally Jake Voracek or Wayne Simmonds. At 22, Konecny enters the national spotlight with his first All-Star appearance, perhaps only scratching the surface of his potential.
From the start of the season, Konecny seemed to jump into a new role as one of the team’s leaders. He had two goals and three points in the season opener in Prague. In 11 games in October, he had scored six goals and 13 points. He followed that up with three goals and 13 points in November and in the first three games of December had scored two more goals and had three points for a total of 11 goals and 28 points in 30 games.
Then came the late first-period hit by Mark Borowiecki on Dec. 7 against Ottawa, which knocked Konecny from the game and kept him out of the lineup with a concussion for the three-game road trip that followed. The Flyers, reeling from news that Oskar Lindblom’s season had ended due to a diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma, were suddenly without two of their offensive leaders. The absence was felt during the road trip, where the Flyers lost all three games and were out-scored, 14-5.
It seemed like no surprise that Konecny returned when the team returned to home ice. The Flyers had been missing the energy, the hunger for the puck and the production. Konecny didn’t score a goal for the remainder of the month, but had seven assists in that time, keeping up his near point-per-game pace.
In the month of January, Konecny picked back up the pace he was on in October, scoring six goals in 10 games to increase his total to 17 goals, three more than any other Flyer at this point in the season. With three goals in his last four games, he entered the All-Star break on a run of success. It should come as no surprise that the team also completed a 5-2-0 stretch in their last seven games that included five of the top six teams in the NHL standings.
Konecny has become a catalyst for the team. His energy is often unmatched. When he’s on a hot streak like he has been in the month of January, the puck seems to find him in great scoring areas.
Based on where his season totals sit right now, it doesn’t seem like much of a question that Konecny will eclipse his career marks. His highest totals are 24 goals, set in each of the last two seasons, and 49 points, set last season. He is seven goals and six points shy of matching both. There is a chance he reaches the 30-goal mark this season.
The Flyers have been a balanced team this season, getting scoring from a lot of different sources and on some nights, more than most, relying on strong defensive play to get the desired result, not having to frantically play to outscore teams in high-scoring games. It’s why no player on the team through 50 games has reached even 45 points. That said, Konecny’s approach to the game is starting to be recognized.
Konecny hustles on every play. He’s a constant vocal presence on the ice. He’s quickly turning into a player that fans love to have on their team and that opponents hate to play against.
He’s the definition of a pest on the ice with an All-Star skillset. Now, he gets to be an All-Star for the first time. Chances are it won’t be the last.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.