Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom helping Alain Vigneault make his own 'list' with Flyers

Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom helping Alain Vigneault make his own 'list' with Flyers

Travis Konecny is 22 years old and playing a career-high 17:14 minutes per game during his fourth NHL season. He leads the Flyers in scoring with 15 points through 14 games on a team not lacking established players.

Oskar Lindblom is 23 years old and playing three more minutes per game than he did last season, his first full year in the NHL. He is second on the Flyers in scoring with 12 points and tied with Konecny for the team lead in goals at seven.

The two developments are the Flyers’ biggest positives to the start of 2019-20, a season with heightened expectations because of last season’s costly failures. The two developments also don’t jive with a narrative from head coach Alain Vigneault’s final days in New York, where, at times, his ability to coach younger players was maligned and his willingness to play them was doubted.

So far, the play of Konecny and Lindblom has laughed at the notion. Both players have blossomed in Vigneault’s system and appear poised for breakout seasons. The Flyers haven’t shown any reluctance to playing rookies, suiting up seven and even placing four in the lineup at once. Joel Farabee, a 19-year-old prospect, is playing on the team’s top line and first-unit power play just eight games into his NHL career.

The Flyers are 7-5-2 with 16 points, matching their highest total through the first 14 games of a season since 2014-15. Vigneault has said he’s a firm believer in “talent has no age” and you’d be hard-pressed to claim he hasn’t backed up his words during the early stages of his first season as Flyers head coach.

Following practice Wednesday, Vigneault was asked about the Flyers’ youth taking immediate strides under his watch contradicting the can’t-coach-kids perception.

At some point, someone is going to give me a list of all those young players that I’ve screwed up — I’m not saying I’m perfect — but that have left my coaching and gone to somewhere else and become these incredible players. In [Vancouver], there were three players that [people] were on me constantly — none of them really turned out to be these amazing players.

In New York, I would really like to have that list. I know I’m not perfect and I never pretended to be, but I don’t know a lot of players that left our coaching, my coaching, and did go somewhere else and become these great players. I look at the Chris Kreiders, I look at the Derek Stepans, the Ryan McDonaghs, the Jesper Fasts, and I go on. All those guys when I got to New York, they were just the same as all these young guys. And they’re all turning out to be pretty good players. 

Sometimes there’s a perception — sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong. For me, it’s no big deal. I’ve just got to go do my job.

Vigneault has a valid point about his time with the Rangers, which we detailed here.

Konecny, a spirited winger who plays with pace and aggressiveness, has also made a point by racing out of the chute in Year 1 with his new coach. Vigneault’s teams play a style predicated on wearing down the opposition through an effort-based, possession-oriented attack.

The smart play is the best play — it doesn’t mean a 200-foot focus completely restricts creativity.

“He has an expectation for the team and that’s that — every player is accountable for their actions and we have to play the right way and do all the little things the same,” Konecny said. “It’s not one line that has to chip the puck in or play the right way in the D-zone. He’s got every single line, every single player doing the same stuff. And just over time, the consistency shows how dominant we can be. His style of play has worked elsewhere, so we trust it.

“He wants the sure play, like the 100 percent play that is going to help us win. Whether it is chip it in, whether you make a hockey play, you get in and see somebody open, you try to make the play. You better hope it at least gets through, you don’t want it to get picked off. But other than that, there are no real guidelines to exactly what you have to do. He wants you to play hockey, he wants you to have fun, but make sure you’re doing the right play for the team.”

Age be damned, Konecny and Lindblom have done a lot of the right things.

“As a coach, you’re looking to be able to trust your players,” Vigneault said.

Trusting his young players in Philly has been no big deal, just like his thoughts on that perception in New York.

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What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

These are different times; or the new norm as many like to call it.

Everyone is tasked with adjusting to these times. For me, on Monday, July 13, I was tasked with my own adjustments ... in order to watch and report on hockey. Suffice it to say, for me, life — and my simple adjustments, considering all things — could be much worse. I was happy to return to Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days.

The Flyers were back to work at their practice facility with the opening of training camp in preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Monday, July 13, was different — and that's OK. I'm going to enjoy as we adjust.

Here was a different day at Flyers practice (with plenty of hand sanitizer and wearing my mask):

Checking in

I arrived to the facility at 9:23 a.m. and hung tight in my air-conditioned car. Not too bad, right?

Gritty was probably back inside on the elliptical and hitting the bench press. Respect the grind.

Typically, I would walk in through the front doors of Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at my own leisure, head upstairs, get situated and prepare for the day at hand.

On Monday, though, media members permitted back to the facility had to enter between 10-10:30 a.m. for a temperature and symptom check. Wearing a mask (as all were in the facility), I passed my temperature check, filled out a form answering symptom questions, and was on my way upstairs.

Watching practice

There is a ton of space in the common area upstairs. Instead of all reporters cozying up in the more confined media room on that level, the Flyers and Skate Zone set up separate workstations for each writer in the common area with proper social distance.

Very safe and very nice of them.

At one point, I think I nearly drank my coffee through my mask; we made it work.

But I digress.

When the morning and afternoon practices were held, we could stand and watch from the media room, which has windows that overlook the ice. We were asked to maintain social distance when doing so ... no biggie at all. When practices wrapped up (or whenever we needed to), we could head back to our individual and assigned workstations.

During development or training camps, entering the rink area and watching along the boards is an awesome luxury. It provides a terrific vantage point to shoot video, take notes, snap pictures, analyze drills and gain a greater insight of the competition.

Currently, no media members are allowed to enter either of the two practice rinks and understandably so. Not the end of the world as we can still observe from upstairs with a great view.

Good to see faces, even on video

Normally with practice, whenever the first skater heads off the ice following a practice, we all scurry downstairs and toward the Flyers' dressing room for access to interview players and head coach Alain Vigneault.

Conversing with players in person and 1-on-1 is what I've missed greatly during the coronavirus pandemic. Building relationships and telling stories are what make our jobs special. Access to a locker room is so beneficial because it offers you an emotional sense for the story, allows you to see and feel beyond the score of a game and what happened on the ice.

Right now, having close interactions in media scrums or tight quarters is not feasible or logical. But it's still great to see faces of colleagues or Flyers personnel from a distance or via video.

From our workstations using Webex, we were able to interview Vigneault, general manager Chuck Fletcher and players Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny.

Raising your hand virtually ain't so bad. It's like a supremely organized way to work in your question. And everyone could hear us through our masks.

Stick taps to all those involved

So many deserve a ton of credit for creating a safe environment in uncharted waters.

Three folks who are always helping and have made these waters as smooth as possible for us media: Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill, director of public relations Joe Siville and manager of broadcasting and media services Brian Smith.

Following the final interview around 3:30 p.m., it was time to pack up and hit the road. We usually can stay as long as we'd like to write and work but the Flyers have asked media members to exit the premises approximately 15 minutes after the last virtual press conference. Again, completely understandable.

I've always liked staying at the facility to work. It's pretty quiet and there's a rink. Then I can drive home at a calmer hour.

But these are different times and we all need to adjust. Like a hockey team, everyone plays a part.

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Flyers sign Mark Friedman to 2-year contract extension

Flyers sign Mark Friedman to 2-year contract extension

VOORHEES, N.J. — Mark Friedman took the ice Monday afternoon with a new contract for the next two seasons.

The Flyers signed the 24-year-old defenseman to a two-year, one-way contract extension with an average annual value of $725,000. Friedman was set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason.

Friedman has given the Flyers good depth to their crowded blue line. Head coach Alain Vigneault liked what he saw from Friedman in the 2014 third-round pick's six games with the club during the regular season.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder is reliable, quick on his feet and plays with purpose. Friedman looks like he'll be the Flyers' eighth defenseman during the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament. He was a part of the afternoon session Monday at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone as the team opened training camp in preparation for the resumption of the season.

Friedman will compete for a roster spot next season and serve as a dependable call-up option if he's with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

In the offseason, the Flyers will have to decide if they want to re-sign veteran Justin Braun, who has been good for them and can become an unrestricted agent. The Flyers' defense will get only more intriguing in 2020-21. The blue line is an area of strength for the Flyers, who are young at the position and have prospects nearing, as well.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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