VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers are entering a critical stretch in their preparation and roster construction for the 2021-22 regular season.
The club has three preseason games in four days, starting with a home matchup Saturday against the Capitals (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
Martin Jones will play the full game in net, while Carter Hart gets the nod Monday when the Flyers host the Bruins (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
Let's get into our latest three observations from camp Friday at Flyers Training Center.
'A true force'
As Travis Konecny and his fiancee Karly geared up for the birth of their son Rhett, the 24-year-old winger geared up for the season by staying in the Philadelphia area. Konecny spent his summer working with Flyers head of strength and conditioning Dan Warnke.
With Flyers Training Center essentially his second home this offseason, the work paid off for Konecny.
"Still a young player but a very important part of our team that came here in incredible shape this year," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday. "He's one of our top two, three conditioned athletes, worked extremely hard, was able to work out because society permitted it. Took full advantage of it and we expect him to be a true force for us this year."
Konecny, the Flyers' energizer bunny, will have to be a big piece if the team wants to experience a big turnaround from the disappointment of last season. After the year finished with no playoff berth, the Flyers noted how some of their younger Canadian players experienced difficulty with offseason training amid the tight COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's a different feeling when you're here opposed to when you're coming in, you're coming a week, two weeks before camp and you're trying to see how everyone else looks," Konecny said Friday. "When I'm here, I kind of felt like I was ready to go. I definitely feel physically good right now."
In 2020-21, Konecny saw his production drop from his 2019-20 All-Star season. He had a bout with the coronavirus and recorded 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) through 50 games.
Seeing Konecny in tiptop shape, Vigneault has the winger on the Flyers' first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. The Flyers are looking for Konecny to be one of their top producers again.
"I don't know who wouldn't want to play with those two guys," Konecny said of Giroux and Couturier. "I just try to do my job out there and contribute and not sit back. Because obviously I know those guys get the job done all the time, so I try to be a part of it instead of just being along for the ride."
As for being a first-time dad?
"It's the best experience," Konecny said. "It changes every day, so it's always fun to go home."
Prior to Thursday night's preseason game, Morgan Frost had played two pro hockey games over the last 560-plus days (excluding the pair of rookie games last month).
In his first exhibition game of the preseason, Frost was essentially the Flyers' top-line center going up against the Bruins' vaunted trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Talk about gettin' back in there.
The 22-year-old center went scoreless with one shot in 15:16 minutes as the Flyers lost, 4-2. He played 5:56 on the power play.
"I thought Morgan, in the rookie games, you noticed him; he was real good," Vigneault said. "[Thursday], we're playing against a pretty strong team, it was his first NHL game in quite a while. I thought 5-on-5 he was all right. You have to be patient and I think he's working extremely hard."
Frost is the clear-cut top candidate to replace Kevin Hayes in the season-opening lineup while the center goes through a six-to-eight week recovery from abdominal surgery. And while scoring isn't everything, the Flyers want to see Frost put up some points. That's his game and Vigneault is putting him in a spot to do so, to create and produce offense. As we noted Thursday night, Frost still has to nail down his victory for the lineup spot.
"He's going to continue, with Kevin being out at this time, to get a look here in these next exhibition games, so we expect to see some progression," Vigneault said. "He was all right [Thursday], but he didn't do anything that stood out. We do see a tremendous amount of potential there and hopefully he can put it together.
"Morgan is considered a skilled offensive player with top-six potential. Unfortunately, he hasn't played a lot of hockey, he missed all of last year. Like I mentioned prior to camp, we don't know right now where these young players are with their progression. They're going to get an opportunity in exhibition to show what they can do and then we're going to make the decision.
"Maybe he is ready to step in right at the beginning, maybe it's not in a major role or maybe it's in the minors; I don't know. These next few days, next few games are going to be important for him and important for quite a few other players also."
Don't miss Desnoyers
The organization is high on 2020 fifth-round pick Elliot Desnoyers and showed it by putting the 19-year-old winger with the big club group Friday.
Desnoyers recovered from a hip procedure this offseason after having a breakout season in the QMJHL. He put up a pair of four-goal outings and scored 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in 37 games for Halifax.
Desnoyers will be back with the Mooseheads this season but could get a preseason game before he heads back to Halifax.
"My staff and the management, all of us in watching this kid practice — another young player coming back from injury that spent all of his summer here — every time he steps on the ice, he gets noticed," Vigneault said. "Extremely hard-worker, very enthusiastic, everything he does, he does hard. So we wanted to put him with all of the veteran players and we'll see here in our discussion with management what happens here moving forward."
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