The National Hockey League has now officially hit the dog days of its yearly calendar. With the Stanley Cup, NHL Draft, and NHL Free-Agent frenzy in the rearview, now’s the time for teams to focus on prospect development and figuring out who their about to enter the upcoming season with on their respective rosters.
Flyers Development Camp
The Flyers just wrapped up their week of prospect development camp that saw the likes of Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanheim on full display. However, whether or not one of the Flyers top three prospects crack the NHL lineup this season is still up for debate.
Out of the big three, Sanheim would most likely be the long shot to crack the lineup out of camp. Even though he’s a year older than Provorov and Konecny, it has to do more with where the Flyers can place each player next season.
Due to Canadian junior (CHL) restrictions, being under 20 years of age, Provorov and Konecny have two options, they either can play for the Flyers or be returned to their respective junior teams for another season.
Sanheim on the other hand just turned 20, and is now AHL eligible for the first time and looks to begin his first year pro in Lehigh Valley.
Ron Hextall has said ad nauseam that in order for a Flyers prospect to crack an NHL roster spot they will have to be significantly better than a veteran, rightfully earning their spot onto the team.
The Provorov Debate
The curious case of Ivan Provorov, the 7th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is that he doesn’t have much to left prove at the major junior level anymore. After posting 61 points in 60 games in his draft year, albeit, his first year in junior hockey, too, he followed that up with a 73 point season in only 62 games this season. Which led him to being named CHL defensemen of the year.
Ivan Provorov is unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/IaLeDzaE6W
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) July 12, 2016
Couple that with a dominating performance at the World Junior Championships, it’s almost impossible to think of Ivan Provorov playing anywhere else but the NHL next season. However, as is the case with Ron Hextall and his “patience, patience, patience” philosophy, if there’s a day during training camp that Provorov doesn’t prove he belongs, he’ll most likely find his way back to the WHL.
Provorov's shooting ability is lightyears better than it looked at dev camp last year. Velocity and accuracy. He's sniping top corners here.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) July 9, 2016
The Konecny Debate
It’s amazing how two draft picks from just one season ago are already knocking on the NHL doors but that’s the case with the Flyers with Provorov and Konecny.
Both make great cases for the team, while at the same time patience with these two couldn’t hurt much either.
Konecny is coming off an utterly dominating season, much like Provorov.
Konecny has all the accolades, was the first overall pick in his OHL draft year, was named fastest skater in the OHL in 2014-15, and possesses every skill imaginable that a team would want in a hockey player, besides size.
Not meant as a slight against the Flyers' other F prospects, but Konecny is just on an entirely different level than everyone else at camp.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) July 9, 2016
Size seems to be the only thing keeping Konecny back from playing and making an impact in the NHL for the 2015-16 season. Coming off a season that saw him score 101 points in just 60 games, what more could Travis learn by going back and scoring, let’s say, 130 points?
Travis Konecny has bulked to 183 pounds; he feels he is NHL-ready. #flyers
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) July 7, 2016
This is the major question Hextall has to mull over come training camp. There’s no doubt Konecny’s skills will impress during camp, just as they did a year ago. Hextall is going to have countless sleepless nights come September trying to determine if the undersized (5’10” 183lbs) Konecny can endure and be ready for a full 82 game schedule against grown men, rather than teenagers, at just 19 years of age.
— Jen Daniels (@JenDanielsTV) July 7, 2016
Making The Case For Sanheim
The 2016-17 season will be Sanheim‘s first year in professional hockey after dominating the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen the past two seasons. The attributes Sanheim possesses is what makes the Flyers brass so giddy about his future in a Flyer uniform.
Perhaps out of all the talented prospects the Flyers have stockpiled in the Hextall era so far, Sanheim might possibly be the most physically gifted of all.
Sanheim checks every box a general manager looks for in a star player – speed, hockey sense, puck handling, shooting – which can’t be said about the other prospects.
Most of the others check three out of the four boxes but what separates Sanheim is he packs all these skills into a 6’4″ 201 pound frame that is still growing because he’s only recently turned 20 years old.
It’s a forgone conclusion that there’s no way Sanheim cracks the opening roster this season, as Hextall and Co. are sure to want him to get as much pro experience as possible before bringing him to the NHL for good.
Just don’t count him out as a midseason call-up if he ends up lighting the AHL on fire to start his career.