Ivan Provorov

Ty Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers in NHL draft

Ty Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers in NHL draft

Ty Smith will dash across the ice as if he's saying catch me if you can.

Flyers fans know that game well.

You know, when a defenseman doesn't look like one because they're undersized, striking fear into nobody … until they take the puck up ice and skate you in circles.

Sound familiar?

"I am very well aware of Shayne Gostisbehere's game and what he brings," Spokane Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said two weeks ago in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Although Lambert coaches at the junior level in the Western Hockey League, he's tuned in with the NHL game. He knows of Gostisbehere because he follows hockey.

Lambert also knows him likely because he watches a player awfully similar to the Flyers' slender offensive blueliner. Meet Ty Smith, an 18-year-old prospect that will hear his name called Friday night in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft. Projected to be taken in the ballpark of 10th-to-20th overall, Smith could find himself going to the Flyers, who hold picks Nos. 14 and 19 and want to "restock a little bit" on defense, according to general manager Ron Hextall.

"Because of his size, I think people underestimate the type of effects he could have on a team or an organization," Lambert said. "Whoever gets Ty, whether it's Philadelphia or whoever may be lucky enough to land him, is going to be an organization that will be very happy with their pick and they're going to be very appreciative that somehow, someway he fell on their lap."

Gostisbehere, a left-handed shot, was selected by the Flyers in the third round (78th overall) of the 2012 draft. At the time, he was 5-foot-11 and between 160-165 pounds, but regarded for his slick skating and scoring ability.

Smith, also a lefty shot, is 5-foot-10, 176 pounds — tinier guy but a menace at the point of the power play with an NHL-ready offensive acumen. The lissome Canadian pivots, maneuvers, creates and transitions with some of the best in this strong defensemen draft class. If Smith's offensive repertoire lacks anything, it's the shot, a trademark of Gostisbehere's game.

"I think one of his strengths is his shot and his ability to get it off and get it on net," Lambert said of Gostisbehere. "I think that's where Shayne has a big advantage over Ty right now; Ty does not have that shot."

To the naked eye, while Gostisbehere seems to be an obvious comparison to Smith, Lambert remembered Ivan Provorov, as well. He sees traits from both of the Flyers' defensive pillars in Smith.

"You know what, when I think of Provorov, and I think of his hockey sense, and Gostisbehere, I think Ty Smith kind of fits in there somewhere," Lambert said. "A little bit of one and a little bit of the other, and you probably get a guy that equals Ty Smith. He's probably in between those two and I think they're both two special players."

Smith has become a defensive stud in the WHL, just like Provorov did with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Smith produced a 41-point increase from last year, putting up 73 on 14 goals and 59 assists in 69 regular-season games. He erupted for a seven-point night in February, a game Lambert said probably wasn't even Smith's best. 

He also went from a minus-12 in 2016-17 to a plus-44 this season. Lambert noted how such a mark is especially impressive considering Smith was matched up against the opposition's top players every game. Include the intangibles, and "the sky's the limit for Ty, even with his lack of size," the coach said.

"He's got two things that are special. One of them is his hockey IQ, the understanding of the game," Lambert said. "And probably the other one that you maybe don't know until you get to know him as a young man, is his character and just how he shows up every single day. It didn't matter if he played 35 minutes the night before or not, the next day, he's your hardest-working player at practice, so that shows a lot of leadership. 

"Not the most vocal leader, but certainly a leader that leads by example and he's a driver, a guy that pushes your teammates, pushes your team usually into special places."

Smith may be on the doorstep of starting to do so in the NHL.

"Well, to be honest with you, one of my fears is that he's going to get drafted and he's going to impress teams in a hurry," Lambert said. "And I say that as a fear, it's also one of my dreams, like I hope that for him."

It didn't take Gostisbehere or Provorov real long, either.

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Why there's no rush for Flyers to extend Travis Konecny

Why there's no rush for Flyers to extend Travis Konecny

Last week, we presented the case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer rather than waiting until 2019. Today, we’re looking at fellow 2015 draftee Travis Konecny.

With Provorov and Konecny entering the final years of their entry-level contracts, the Flyers can sign them to new deals when the new NHL calendar year begins on July 1. At his end-of-season news conference, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall did not appear to be in a rush to do so.

That said, Hextall also didn’t shut down the possibility. By studying Hextall’s previous contracts, he likes to sign players before their contracts expire. If a player reaches unrestricted free agency, it’s because the Flyers have decided to move on. Once he identifies a player he wants to re-sign, he has moved fast to lock them up. Provorov and Konecny are a little different.

Both are scheduled to be restricted free agents next summer and it’s fair to say neither will actually reach RFA. They’re both key blocks to what the Flyers are building. With both, it’s just a matter of what type of contract they sign next and whether they do it now or later. Let’s dive in.

What he’s done

After an up-and-down rookie campaign that included benchings, Konecny blossomed into an established scorer in the NHL during his sophomore season. He finished with 24 goals and 47 points in 81 games in 2017-18, but his turning point came Dec. 23 in Columbus when he was elevated to the first line. In his next 46 games, Konecny scored 20 goals and 37 points and saw his plus/minus climb from minus-2 to plus-19. During a 23-game span between Dec. 28 and Feb. 18, Konecny had 11 goals and 24 points with five multi-point games and six game-winners.

Konecny showed improvements defensively from his rookie year to his sophomore season, though further advancement will be required in 2018-19. He learned to reel back the high risks in his game but still showed a willingness to take risks. During his end-of-season news conference, Konecny said he believes high-risk plays are required if he wants to be a high-end player. He also gained the trust of coach Dave Hakstol, who provided the second-year player a longer leash. When Konecny made a mistake, Hakstol wasn’t as quick to staple him to the bench. Konecny wasn’t immune to benchings, though. There were a few games in which Konecny took a bad penalty or a mindless turnover and sat.

Now or later

While re-signing both Provorov and Konecny this summer would be sweet relief for Hextall, there should be more urgency to extend Provorov. He’s the safer bet at this moment, and when we’re talking about extending players still with term on their deals, that's what it is. Both players are still growing, but Provorov is far more polished.

You can be comfortable handing Provorov a big deal — say, $6 million AAV — and come away content with him at that price even if he doesn’t take a huge leap again in Year 3.

Konecny is a little more complicated. His next contract will be a considerable jump from his entry-level contract ($894,167). He came a long way in his development from Year 1 to Year 2, and Hakstol deserves credit, but Konecny still has a lot of room to grow. But there remains untapped potential in Konecny’s game and there's risk his defensive game never fully comes around.

[RELATED: From 'immature' to established scorer, inside Konecny's maturation]

That said, a long-term extension may not make sense for the Flyers now, and it might not even make sense next summer either. Konecny’s next contract has the feel of a bridge deal before his first long-term NHL payday. The CBA states that players cannot hit unrestricted free agency until they’re 27 years old or after seven years of NHL service.

With that in mind, a four-year contract might be what Konecny aims for because it would bring him to seven years. That would align him up to hit UFA at 25. The Flyers might want a three-year contract because it would keep Konecny as a restricted free agent when it expires. That way they still hold his rights when it expires and move the big contract conversation to another day.

Another option is signing Konecny to a long-term deal now. Say for six years and bet Konecny’s all-around game will develop to a point where they can live with the blips here and there.

As a 21-year-old, Konecny is already a 20-goal scorer, which figures to put him between the $3- and-$5 million range. If he continues to round out his overall game, that will only increase.

But this summer, there shouldn't be a rush to extend him. If it happens, it happens. But extending Provorov and adding one or two more pieces that can help out now should be higher on Hextall's to-do list.

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The case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer

The case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer

Come July 1, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have the option of checking two boxes off his agenda for next summer. With Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny entering the final year of their entry-level contracts, the CBA allows the Flyers to sign them to extensions once the new league year begins.

While Hextall noted at his end-of-season news conference that there is no hurry on extending Provorov and Konecny, signing them this summer has its benefits. Provorov and Konecny are two big building blocks to the foundation that Hextall is building with the Flyers. They both were drafted in the same year, both broke into the NHL together and both took enormous leaps in their second years in 2017-18. We’re going to break down whether the Flyers should exercise that option beginning with the Flyers’ No. 1 defenseman.

What he's done
From the second Provorov first stepped foot on Flyers territory, there was something special about him. He quickly established himself as the Flyers’ top defender as a 19-year-old rookie and took a sophomore jump to stardom in 2017-18. He finished tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals. He led the Flyers in ice time, averaging 24:09, and finished as a plus-17. While he had his bumps in his first taste of the playoffs, he also was his normal self. He averaged nearly 25 minutes in six games against the Penguins, including 27:30 in Game 2 and 30:07 in Game 5.

The Doughty situation
Because we’ve used the Drew Doughty comparison in the past and Wayne Simmonds previously used Doughty as a comparable, we’re going to use Doughty as a parameter for what a Provorov extension could look like and what the Flyers can learn from it.

Back in 2011, when Hextall was the assistant GM in Los Angeles, Doughty missed most of the Kings’ training camp because of a contract holdout before striking gold on Sept. 30, 2011, with an eight-year, $56 million extension. Contract disputes are always a messy situation. It’s too early to suggest we could get to that point with Provorov. He’s under contract for another season and it’s fair to say the Flyers know what the 21-year-old is worth. If anything, the Doughty holdout could be a reason why Hextall would want to extend Provorov now.

The Kings and Doughty settled at an AAV of $7 million seven years ago as Doughty enters the final year of his contract in 2018-19.

The 'Ghost' deal
Most of Hextall’s long-term contracts with the Flyers have been with forwards — Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn — but last summer, he inked Shayne Gostisbehere to a six-year, $27 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal on June 9, 2017. He avoided a potentially tricky situation with “Ghost” and ended up coming away with a favorable deal.

Gostisbehere developed nicely this season as his defensive game benefitted from “a little more snot.” He returned to elite-level production after a slightly bumpy second season and finished with 33 power-play points and 65 points overall. It’s safe to say the Flyers will be extremely pleased with Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million cap hit if he produces consistently at that level.

It’s hard to compare the Provorov situation to Gostisbehere’s because the Flyers waited until a few weeks before restricted free agency opened to sign “Ghost.” Provorov is a different animal. The Russian is a far more polished player all around and the Flyers ride him hard. His next deal will see a larger AAV, and rightfully so.

Why now?
The main reason why the Flyers should extend Provorov this summer is that by waiting, the price tag increases. Provorov has already established himself as one of the best young defensemen in the league and we can expect him to only grow even more in 2018-19.

Gone are the days where bridge deals with young stars are prominent. Teams are more likely to hand out long-term extensions to their young players, and it’s part of the reason why unrestricted free agency has lost some of its luster. It’s a safe bet Provorov's next contract will be long term. Doing it this summer rather than next opens up the possibility of turning his deal into a team-friendly one.

By kicking the can down the road to next summer, Provorov’s market value will only increase. There are two sides to this. Provorov may want to bet on himself, play this season and see where he stands next summer so he could earn more money, but there’s risk in that. Extending Provorov this summer benefits both the player and the team. Provorov would get his first major NHL contract and the Flyers would lock up their most important piece.