Travis Konecny had a typical rookie season. There were some flashes of the player he’ll become: a feisty competitor with blazing speed and the common rookie nights of mistakes, bad penalties and playing an unnoticeable game.
But like most heralded rookies, the positives outweighed the negatives and the future is certainly bright for Konecny.
Somewhat of a surprise to make the roster in September, the then-19 year old recorded two assists in the first game of the season on a line with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Unfortunately for all parties involved, that was the best game that line played.
However, that didn’t slow down Konecny. In the first eight games, the winger scored seven points, including his first goal of the season on Oct. 25 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Like the rest of the Flyers last year, Konecny’s best stats came at the beginning of the year, into December, before hitting a wall in January and February. With Shayne Gostisbehere, Konecny found himself a healthy scratch in the beginning of February.
Fans were outraged again, namely because a rookie who usually provided impact bit the healthy scratch bullet before veterans like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde, who provided very little impact.
While I agree with the philosophy that those players should be held in similar regards, I believe that a night or two off for Konecny wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Unfortunately, he saw a lot of nights off after the scratching when he suffered a lower-body injury.
The rookie returned in early March and finished the season with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 70 games.
Konecny should see more ice time with the trade of Brayden Schenn. I’m not completely convinced that will be on the first line, but definitely somewhere in the top six in an offensive role.
With his rookie season and, for some reason, a trial with Bellemare and VandeVelde as linemates, out of the way, coach Dave Hakstol should be willing to use Konecny in a bigger role this season.
However, I’m not expecting Konecny to take Schenn’s spot on the first power play. I believe Oskar Lindblom fits the mold left by Schenn better than Konecny would.
Others are expecting Konecny there and believe he’s due for a breakout year after an under-the-radar rookie campaign, but I think we’re still a year away from that. It was obvious at the end of last season that the rigors of an NHL season was a lot for the London, ON native. Sometimes that’s still an issue for a smaller forward in the big league.
For example, Claude Giroux had 27-point (in 42 games) and 47-point seasons before breaking out in his third year with 76 points in 2010-11. Both were prolific junior scorers with speed to burn and are separated by just an inch (Giroux ahead of Konecny at 5-foot-11).
Like Giroux, expect a modest increase in point production for Konecny. The high thirty’s may be a good range for the sophomore as he still learns to adjust to the NHL.