VOORHEES, N.J. — Before Travis Konecny can realize his full potential on the ice, the 20-year-old Flyers winger must improve his mindset.
Konecny’s first NHL season was nothing to be ashamed of, but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, either. The former first-round draft pick finished among the top-20 rookie forwards with 11 goals (18th), 17 assists (tied for 15th) and 28 points (tied for 15th) in 2016-17.
Yet, when you’re used to scoring and creating offense almost at will, as Konecny became accustomed in the OHL, that level of production can feel like a disappointment.
“I was down on myself a lot last year,” Konecny said Friday. “When you come from junior as a captain, a player who is used to scoring, getting points and playmaker kind of things like that, it’s tough when you come into a humbling league like this.”
Konecny was a point-per-game player from the moment he set foot on an OHL rink. By his third season, he was almost a two-point-per-game player, finishing with 30 goals and 71 assists in 60 games with the Ottawa 57’s and Sarnia Sting.
The NHL simply doesn’t work that way. There were only eight point-per-game players in the entire league last season, and not a single one of them was a rookie.
“It’s so much different," Konecny said, "because every time you get on the ice, you’re thinking you’re going to create something. You’re going to have a good chance.
“When you’re playing these types of games, you just have to wait, and not necessarily sit back, but wait for the other team to make that one mistake that you can capitalize on or be one step ahead of them.”
Needless to say, the jump to the NHL was an eye-opening experience for Konecny.
“I’ve learned it’s not easy to score, it’s not easy to produce and create something every single shift," he said, "so I think I’m going to have more of a positive look on this year.”
Though far from a breakout season, Konecny’s rookie campaign did little to diminish his potential.
Selected 24th overall in the 2015 draft, Konecny remains very much a part of the Flyers’ future. When training camp opened last week, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound wing joined captain Claude Giroux and prospect Oskar Lindblom on Group 1’s top line.
Clearly, the Flyers are hopeful Konecny can continue progress in the year ahead. In order to take the next step, however, he must maintain a high level of confidence throughout the process.
“There are other good players in the league, too,” Konecny said, “so when I get beat, I have to be able to bounce back and realize it’s not always my fault. There are good players, and you’re going to have those mistakes.
“That’s the way I’m going to approach this year. I’ve learned as a pro to just stick in the game more, wait for my opportunities and be positive.”
That begins by setting attainable goals. If Konecny goes into this season with All-Star numbers in mind, he’s probably going to wind up disappointed again.
Konecny seems to have a more reasonable outlook, so far. Last season, he played both left and right wing, bounced between lines and was even a healthy scratch on occasion. This season, he’d like to solidify his role with the club, for starters.
“I'm going to work hard, and when my opportunities present themselves, I have to take advantage,” Konecny said. “There's no excuses this year. I have to bear down a little bit more.
“I think my goal is just wherever I play in the lineup, I want to stick there, and I want to play my position right and try to be more consistent.”
Konecny sounds eager to turn over a new leaf, but then, every player should be excited about the prospect of a new season. Today, he has a clean slate — but how will Konecny react once he’s mired in an inevitable slump as the schedule grinds on?
To his credit, Konecny isn’t taking anything for granted. While his spot on the Flyers' roster is all but assured, he arrived at camp with the mindset that he’s competing for a job.
“I still have to prove myself as a player,” Konecny said. “I’ve only had one year under my belt, and I still have to prove my spot on the team, prove what I can do the coaching staff and my teammates.
“My rope doesn’t get any longer. It’s still a pretty short rope, which is fine because it holds me accountable for each and every play when I step on the ice.”
Of course, the best thing Konecny can do to maintain a positive outlook and feel comfortable in his role with the Flyers is play quality hockey. That’s the funny thing about confidence — it often tends to be in direct proportion with performance.