VOORHEES, N.J. — When Travis Konecny left the Flyers’ development camp in early July, he departed with rather specific instructions.
Not about his game, per se, but about his physical stature. Add more weight, more muscle, he was told by general manager Ron Hextall.
The 19-year-old forward took it to heart. He’s gained five pounds and looks more muscular up top on a smallish frame — listed at 5-10, but likely 5-9 — to reach 185 pounds.
“A lot of it was just my preparation and making sure I put on weight,” Konecny said this week. “[Hextall] knew I was going to prepare to go back and work hard. Other than that, it’s up to me on the ice to do what I can to make the team.”
On the eve of Konecny joining the Flyers' veterans Friday for the start of main training camp (see storylines), he has a chance to make the roster, although 2017-18 seems safer, if not a sure bet (see story).
Don’t tell that to the speedster from London, Ontario.
“I have nothing but the mindset of coming in here and making the team,” Konecny said. “That’s how I approach it.”
For now, he’s playing right wing on Anthony Salinitri’s line. The two are also linemates at Sarnia (see story). Konecny assisted on Salinitri’s goal during the Flyer rookies’ 4-0 win over the Islander rookies on Wednesday night in New York (see story).
“Me and Sal played together the past year and we got chemistry on that line,” Konecny said. “It’s definitely easier to play with a guy you’ve played with before.”
Konecny was impressive last fall in camp amid a huge buildup that he might make the team right out of the draft (24th overall in 2015).
“There were some people who had their opinions where I should have been last year,” he said. “I had a great year in junior. I didn’t worry about anything. I just played my game.
“I know wherever I am I can benefit myself. I took the opportunity to make the best of it and focus on coming in this year and make the jump.”
The Flyers are wary of his size and feel he could use the extra grooming. That said, Konecny is far more relaxed and exudes confidence this fall. Just his mannerisms in the dressing room, talking to his teammates, some of whom are in their first camp, you see a difference.
“Yeah, last year was about getting my feet wet and figuring out the speed of the pro guys,” he said. “This year, I feel confident coming in here. It’s a different vibe for me.”
Asked how he can make the roster, Konecny said he can’t “veer off” and try to play a physical game to prove he’s tough. He has to stick with what got him drafted in the first round — his speed, skill and creativity.
“Stick to my skills and play smart while making the least amount of mistakes that I can,” he added.
Because the Flyers have several forwards participating in the World Cup of Hockey, Konecny will have more time to make an impression — more games, more minutes and more positions open — at right wing and center.
“Yeah, we’ve been aware of that since we heard about the tournament and what the dates were,” he said. “Everyone started eyeing preseason and knowing guys won’t be back [yet].
“We were told by coaches and management there would be opportunities for spots. Just be ready.”
He’ll get his chance on Monday. The Flyers have two exhibition games — one at Barclays Center in Brookyln against the Islanders and the other at Prudential Center in Newark against the Devils.
Konecny has already impressed Flyers coach Dave Hakstol during the rookie drills.
“He does things with pace and he has some pop to his game,” Hakstol said. “That being said, it’s a matter of earning things, day by day. ... You have to earn the opportunities that you get.
“There is more opportunity there because of guys at the World Cup. But at the same time, you've got to continue to earn the next opportunity.”
Last fall, Vinny Lecavalier compared Konency to Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson.
“It definitely means something to me to hear something like that,” Konecny said. “I guess I've got to follow it up. I had a good preseason last year. I have to continue this year and have the same.”
And if he doesn’t make the final cut again?
“If the step comes where I have to go back to junior, I’ll approach that,” Konecny said. “Right now, I hope to stay in Philly.”