Flyers

Why Travis Konecny may be most important factor for a successful Flyers season

Why Travis Konecny may be most important factor for a successful Flyers season

While Travis Konecny is an RFA and due for a new contract before the start of the 2019-20 season, it’s important to take a look at what our expectations should be for him heading into October.

After analyzing his potential contract, Konecny and his performance since starting his professional career lingered on my mind for quite some time. He's been a key player in crucial moments but has also fallen short and we honestly never know which version of him the Flyers will get.

Konecny is just one of the many pieces in the young core who need to own their role, and while all of them finding their stride is a key factor to a possible postseason run, T.K. may be the most crucial.

Time to step up

The 22-year-old is entering his fourth season as a pro — the training wheels need to come off and it’s time for a level of productivity like we’ve never seen before. This can simply start with Konecny becoming his own player and not being as reliant on who he shares a line with.  

Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier are two players who can elevate anyone on their line, which has a direct affect on Konecny’s stats. With it being far too early to predict possible lines, there is always a chance that he isn’t alongside two of the best forwards in the league.

The biggest factor in all of this is if it will knock his confidence or be a booster to advance his play even further. My hope is the latter.

A big step was needed in 2018-19 production-wise but 49 points just was not enough — only two assists separate these numbers from his in 2017-18.

Accuracy ... and lack thereof

There’s no denying that Konecny can find his way to the net. He had the fourth-most shot attempts on the team with 182, behind only Giroux (229), Couturier (223) and Jakub Voracek (210).

The issue, however, was the level of inaccuracy and the absurd amount of times the puck found the post instead of the back of the net. He ended his season with 24 goals but if he straightened out his shot, he would’ve easily had 30-plus goals. On the surface, a few goals wouldn’t seem like a big deal but considering Couturier was the only player who reached the 30-goal mark? It would have improved the offense quietly but effectively.

New enforcement

There is no one else in the league like Wayne Simmonds and filling that gap in the roster and locker room is going to be tough. The team lost a leader, an enforcer and while there are many players stepping up in a leadership aspect, the Flyers are well beyond the bully days that once branded the franchise. With trading Radko Gudas in the offseason, the lack of physicality is shining very clearly through the current roster.

Konecny is a chirper, he is able to get under the skin of anyone he is matched up against but most importantly, he sticks up for anyone who may need backup. It’s been seen time and time again, if Simmonds or Gudas was not on the ice, Konecny would come to defend one of his teammates without hesitation.

There is the possibility of defenseman Samuel Morin making the roster but with that uncertainty comes an open opportunity for Konecny. Even though he’s one of the smaller builds on the roster at 5-foot-10, he can pack a punch.


Missing puzzle piece

This is the year we need to see just why Konecny was the 24th overall pick in his draft class back in 2015. He needs to drive play, become an asset rather than a filler on the power play, remain a force to be reckoned with — and do it consistently.

Is it asking a lot to expect this all from him at the start of this season? Honestly, no. We have seen time after time that he is capable of doing such things but it’s time he puts it all together. Plus, that new contract of his will come in to play as well — he’ll need to bring his A-game with a bridge deal to earn a high-value, long-term contract, or prove that he is worth the big bucks right out of the gate of being an RFA.

It’s a big year for everyone repping the orange and black, but all eyes should certainly look to Mr. Chirper himself and his possible career-best season ahead.

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Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' preseason games are becoming more and more important.

The next one is Saturday night as the Flyers welcome the Rangers for their fourth exhibition contest out of seven.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• It will be fun to see Travis Konecny and his usual energy back out there. He will make his preseason debut after missing the first three days of training camp.

The 22-year-old has shaken off some rust and feels caught up following plenty of work from Tuesday to now.

"I'll be ready," Konecny said Tuesday about the Oct. 4 regular season opener (see story). "I didn't miss too much time, I did a lot of work on my own when I wasn't here."

• Saturday night is a big game for roster hopefuls Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Chris Stewart and Carsen Twarynski (see story). The Flyers want to shape their roster as soon as they can in preparation for the opener (see story). The teams flys out to Switzerland on Sept. 27 before its final preseason contest on Sept. 30.

• Keep an eye on Matt Niskanen if he's paired with Ivan Provorov. The 32-year-old blueliner will be crucial to the Flyers' defense this season and he wasn't happy with his first preseason performance, despite scoring the team's lone goal.

"We didn't do too good. Or I didn't at least," Niskanen said Thursday. "But it's part of the process. Get our feet wet together for the first game. I have to get my timing back. But it's good to get in there and you can see his skill. He is a fun guy to play with and we will be better next time."

What didn't Niskanen like about his own game?

"Just too much time in our zone," he said. "I couldn't execute well enough to get on the attack enough."

• Carter Hart is expected to play the first two periods before giving way to Jean-Francois Berube. In Hart's final preseason outing, the 21-year-old will go the distance.

Quotable

I know as media and a fan standpoint, you see three losses and you're like, 'Oh my God, this isn't what we thought it was going to be.' I don't think that's a big deal, but it is a whole new system for a lot of guys in this room — pretty much every guy in the room besides myself basically. In order to get to the best part of your system, you need to get the regular guys who the coaches think are going to be there every night.

- Kevin Hayes on the Flyers' preseason and roster

Game roster

The Flyers did not hold a morning skate, so the projected lines and defensive pairs are to be announced.


Forwards

Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl
Kevin Hayes
Scott Laughton
Oskar Lindblom
James van Riemsdyk
Claude Giroux
Chris Stewart 
Morgan Frost
Joel Farabee
Carsen Twarynski
Jakub Voracek

Defensemen

Travis Sanheim 
Robert Hagg
Ivan Provorov
Matt Niskanen
Samuel Morin
Mark Friedman

Goalies

Carter Hart
Jean-Francois Berube

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Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Kevin Hayes scored a career-high 25 goals at 25 years old during the 2017-18 season with the Rangers.

As a restricted free agent in the summer that followed, Hayes signed a one-year, $5.175 million deal with New York. He played only 51 more games for the Rangers before being traded to the Jets last season in February.

Seven months later, he has a seven-year, $50 million contract. On Saturday morning, he was wearing an orange sweatshirt with the No. 13 on it and standing in the Flyers' dressing room at Skate Zone.

Times have seriously changed for Hayes following that trade.

"Obviously you get comfortable with where you're at but it's a business. It's something I thought could have happened by signing a one-year deal that year," Hayes said. "I'm very happy with where I'm at and what I have at the moment. Looking back a year ago from today, I was asking for things from New York that they said no to and we went our separate ways in February. 

"I'm ecstatic with where I'm at right now, playing with this group of guys. The players that we have here, the goalies, the Ds and the forwards who I'll be playing with are elite and it's something that I'm excited for — and tonight's just one step toward the regular season. I'm sure there will be mistakes out there but I'm happy with what side I'm on."

Although it's just the preseason, tonight will be the first time Hayes has played against the Rangers since the trade. New York put its rebuild into overdrive this summer by acquiring Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin, and drafting Kaapo Kakko.

Is it tough for Hayes not seeing the rebuild through after watching the steps the Rangers made this offseason?

I don't know if they're good steps or bad steps, that's what you guys get to decide, but they're steps I guess. I have no hard feelings toward them. I loved my time there, I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I feel like this year is the best shape and best mentality I've ever been in in my career. I don't know if it has to do with the change or the excitement I have to be here in Philly, but I'm excited to get this going.

Three of the Rangers' top six scorers are gone from last season, including Hayes and Jimmy Vesey, who was traded to the Sabres on July 1.

"They chose to get rid of me and Vese, but that's their decision," Hayes said. "I'm sure it'll come back to them, we'll find out."

Hayes is back with Alain Vigneault, who coached the 27-year-old from 2014-18 in New York. Vigneault was a major selling point for Hayes signing with the Flyers on June 19 after the club acquired his rights earlier in the month.

Hayes was a plus-30 under Vigneault and his minutes climbed each season. The 6-foot-5 center is now one of the better penalty-killers in the league and a two-way guy poised for his biggest offensive role yet.

"I had a great relationship with him in New York for the four years we were together," Hayes said. "He turned me into a 200-foot player and I think that was — if not the biggest reason — one of the biggest reasons why I decided to come here.

"There was some tough love there, for sure. It's the NHL. It's not easy for everyone. … It's growing pains. I thought the way he handled my situation and how I responded was very professional and I think I entered the league as an offensive guy and A.V. kind of turned me into a 200-foot player and an NHL guy. 

"At the time, I don't know if I was super excited about it — fast-forward six years and I couldn't be more happy with where my game is at."

The Flyers play the Rangers four times in 2019-20. The first trip to Madison Square Garden is on March 1. From his rookie year in 2014-15 to now, the New York roster is very different.

"I have friendships there outside of the hockey players — equipment guys, media guys, trainers that basically shaped me as the person I am today," Hayes said. "I think it will be more emotional seeing those guys — I don't even know half the team anymore to be honest.

"I'm sure going back to MSG will bring back some memories and be a little bit emotional. I'm not even just saying this just because I have to, I couldn't be more excited to be here in Philly, to start a new chapter in my NHL career where I have the security to be somewhere for a long term. In New York, my longest contract was two years, the last three years it was trade bait basically every year. I'm happy with where I'm at it, physically and mentally, and getting excited again to play hockey."

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