Did the Flyers Steal a Superstar at 24th Overall?

The Philadelphia Flyers are often mocked for their lack of success at the draft, and for good reason.

The Flyers have owned some fairly valuable draft picks over the past decade, only to have a select few of them turn out.

Of the past 12 NHL Drafts, only Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, and Zac Rinaldo have suited up for at least one full season with the Flyers. Only four players since the 2004 NHL Draft are on the Flyers’ roster today. Those include Giroux, Couturier, Scott Laughton, and rookie Shayne Gostisbehere.

Of course, many of their drafted prospects continue to develop in the minors, especially over the last three drafts, in which no one has made their NHL debut yet.

However, one of their first-round draft picks from the 2015 NHL Draft could turn out to be a superstar in the league. Selected 24th overall, Travis Konecny has all the tools to become a first-line winger in the NHL. As an 18-year-old, Konecny is currently developing in the Ontario Hockey League as a member of the Sarnia Sting.

Travis Konecny’s Minor Hockey Journey

Travis Konecny
Travis Konecny had an outstanding minor hockey career with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs. (Photo: London Free Press)

Born in London, Ontario, Konecny spent his minor hockey career playing with the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs. He tore up his final two years, scoring 78 goals and 152 points in 63 games in bantam, before scoring 87 goals and 187 points in 84 games in minor midget. Those outstanding numbers made him the player to watch for the 2013 OHL Priority Selection. When that day came around, the Ottawa 67’s held the first overall pick, and they were ecstatic to select Travis Konecny.

Konecny had an excellent rookie season with the 67’s, despite playing for a bottom feeding team. He would go on to tally 26 goals and 70 points in 63 games, while Ottawa would finish last in the Eastern Conference with a 23-39-6 record. Konecny would capture the OHL Rookie of the Year award, scoring the most goals and points among all rookies.

An interesting fact that very few know, is that Konecny was actually drafted 25th overall after his rookie season, at the 2014 KHL Draft by Dinamo Riga. Obviously, he will almost certainly never suit up with the team.

Travis Konecny
Travis Konecny was selected 1st overall by the Ottawa 67’s in 2013, and was named OHL Rookie of the Year in 2013-14. Photo via OHL Images

Expected to take the reigns of the team and become a league leader in production, the 67’s named Konecny their captain for the 2013-14 season, making him the youngest captain in franchise history. Ottawa would make drastic improvements, moving up the standings to fourth in the conference with a 38-25-5 record. However, critics were tough on Konecny, expecting him to close in on 100 points, he would nearly match his rookie season numbers with 29 goals and 68 points in 60 games. But, Konecny was certainly still improving, working on his two-way game and leadership skills, as well as becoming much stronger.

Being his NHL draft eligible season, Konecny was chosen by scouts to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game. He used this game to ensure that teams knew of his tremendous abilities, showing flashes of brilliance with his speed and physical game, despite being listed at 5’10 and 176 pounds. He also played in the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament, honoured as the captain of Team Canada. He would lead the team all the way to a gold medal, further solidifying his spot in the first round of the NHL Draft.

24th Overall at the 2015 NHL Draft

Going into the draft, Konecny was expected to go 10-15th overall. Here are the final rankings from six well-known draft sources.

  • 11th by Future Considerations
  • 12th by ISS
  • 14th by McKeen’s Hockey
  • 14th by NHL Central Scouting (North American)
  • 15th by TSN/Bob McKenzie
  • 19th by Hockeyprospect.com

Evidently, Konecny was a very highly regarded prospect entering the draft, but was still at a level below the elite top 10. At the end of the day,  Konecny began to slide in the first round, down past the teens and into the 20’s.

As the Philadelphia Flyers took the podium to announce the 24th overall selection, Konecny was undoubtedly beginning to feel more than a little anxious. 17 forwards had already been selected, but his name remained on the board. Then, Ron Hextall made an announcement that changed Konecny’s life. His future would be in Philadelphia.

Less than a month after the draft, Konecny would sign his three-year entry-level contract with the Flyers.

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Building Hype in 2015-16

After an exciting offseason, Konecny was returned to junior with the Ottawa 67’s. He got off to a hot start with his playmaking abilities, leading the OHL in assists for a large portion of the first few months. Although the 67’s weren’t a top contender by any means, the team was playing well and Konecny appeared to be making excellent progress.

Then came the World Junior Championships. Konecny was honoured to represent Canada at the tournament, and quickly became one of their most dangerous assets. Although he would total just a goal and an assist, he may have been the most impactful forward. Speed, agility, physicality, and compete level are just a few of the areas that Konecny excelled in.

Right now, he sits sixth in scoring in the OHL, with 79 points in 48 games, while his 57 assists ranks third in the league. He has certainly found an extra offensive edge this season, and has proved that he has the strength and skill to make his NHL debut in 2016-17.

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Change of Scenery – From Ottawa to Sarnia

An extreme, yet positive, twist was thrown into Konecny’s year on Jan. 6th, 2016. The 67’s decided to trade Konecny at the OHL Trade Deadline to the Sarnia Sting. The reason for this trade was that Ottawa was not in contention to make a championship run, and didn’t want to lose him to the NHL next year for nothing in return.

The Sting recently took a hold of first place in the West Division, and have a legitimate shot to rifle up the standings to make a run at the title. Konecny has blended well with the Sting, including scoring a hat trick in his Sting debut. He has scored 15 goals and 34 points in just 19 games, as Sarnia has gone 13-4-2 in that time. The team went through a crucial stretch two weeks ago, playing the top four teams in the conference, going 2-1-1. They dominated Erie, but lost in a shootout. Then, they imploded in the third period against London to lose 4-3. Without a doubt though, Konecny and the Sting have a shot at making a run this spring.

Scouting Report and Comparable NHL Players

In a recent viewing of Konecny and the Sting facing the Erie Otters, the number one ranked team in the CHL, I came away with a few specific thoughts on the talented winger.

He has the speed and agility to make an easy transition into the NHL. His skating is reminiscent of Dylan Larkin, the young rookie who recently broke the All-Star record for fasted lap around the rink. Konecny is able to reach top speed in just three strides, but more impressively, can change direction and stickhandle on the fly with ease. He often uses his skating to create time and space for himself, understanding that a slight change in pace can throw defenders off.

Here, in Konecny’s debut with the Sarnia Sting, he shows off all of his exceptional abilities on his way to a hat trick. On the first goal, he changes the shooting angle to open up additional room on the short side, before rifling a quick release past the goaltender’s glove. On the second, he shows off his awareness to slip in behind the defenceman to find open space, before burying a sweet Pavel Zacha pass. The third goal is just unreal. Coming in from a sharp angle on a one-on-two, Konecny is able to dangle in between the two defenders before firing a backhander top shelf.

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Konecny’s compete level is second-to-none. As someone who has seen Konecny mature and develop in all three years of his OHL career, this has always been part of his character, which bleeds through into his leadership. This part of his game instantly reminded me of Zach Parise. Both forwards are a little bit undersized, but make up for it with their core and lower-body strength. They engage in every puck battle and are never afraid to jump in physically either. It’s a significant part of finding success in the NHL as a forward below 6’0, and Konecny has it.

Something that is rarely talked about with regards to Konecny’s game is his awareness. He always seems to know where his teammates are, and where they are going. He can see plays developing and adapt accordingly in an instant. Another underrated aspect of his game is his positioning. He understands where he should be in both ends of the ice, and is also able to jump into plays exactly when space is opening up.

One last note of significance is Konecny’s poise with the puck. He has incredible patience and can out-wait defenders without panicking. With that in mind, he is able to do the same to goaltenders. He understands that slightly changing the shooting angle, or waiting an extra second, can put the goaltender out of position, giving himself a prime shooting opportunity.

Konecny’s Future With the Flyers

Looking ahead to Konecny’s future in the NHL, which could begin as early as next season, he has the potential to quickly become a top-six forward. He possesses all the tools to come in and make an immediate impact for the Flyers. Fitting the style of the NHL perfectly, Konecny could begin the 2016-17 season as a third-line winger.

As for the future, he certainly has the talent and work ethic to thrive in the league. Without a doubt, I could see Konecny becoming a first-liner winger who not only leads his team on and off the ice, but also drives their performance and contributes with an offensive upside. In the low scoring era of the NHL right now, a fair prediction for Konecny could be 20 goals and 40 assists a year.