Assuming he is not busy skating in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers this winter, there is no doubt that first round draft pick Travis Konecny is a lock to make Canada’s squad for the upcoming 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship which be will be co-hosted by both Montreal and Toronto …
(photo courtesy Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)
der Eishockeyzuschauer, ALLENTOWN, Pa
Even the great Bob Rotruck, radio announcer of the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, acknowledged during his broadcast of the NHL exhibition contest between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown last Wednesday that there is a “less than fifty percent chance” that highly touted teenager Travis Konecny will be able to claim a major league roster spot coming out of training camp this fall. Personally, I am of the decided opinion that the Flyers’ first round pick (# 24 overall) at the 2015 National Hockey League Draft has a significantly less than fifty percent chance to stick with Philadelphia to start this 2016/17 season. This is why Konecny will almost certainly be returned to the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League soon enough:
There would be no point whatsoever in keeping the decidedly undersized Konecny (5’10” 176 lbs) on the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster if all the youngster can not nail down a regular place on one of the NHL club’s top three lines. Limited minutes on the fourth line or a seat in the press box as a healthy scratch would not be doing either the 19-year-old forward or the Flyers organization any good over the long haul, in the sacred terms of player development. Konecny, who is reputed to be in the mold of a natural scorer, needs to be somewhere this season where he is going to be receiving plenty of ice time and, perhaps even more importantly, lots of minutes on the power play, too.
Yes, it is true that Konecny has now scored at least one goal in each of his two appearances at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown in successive years and become a heart-throb of many locals in the process. But neither the New York Islanders nor the New Jersey Devils iced anything even remotely close to a full line-up of crack NHL regulars in either of those two very early pre-season games that were played in the spectacular new arena located at the corner of 7th & Hamilton Streets. It should be interesting to see how Konecny progresses with the Philadelphia Flyers over the course of the next week or so because NHL teams will be using fewer and fewer AHL and/or junior players in upcoming exhibition games as the start of the regular season draws closer and closer.
Viewing at matters from a historical perspective, it has always been rather hard for a teenage player to hold down a regular spot at the elite National Hockey League level — this even for someone who was among the top ten players taken in the first round of his respective draft class. A quick review of the results from the 2014 NHL Draft, this being the year prior to Konecny being selected by Philadelphia, shows that only four of the twenty players who were picked following the top ten in the first round were, indeed, able to maintain a regular spot in the NHL as 19-year-old players last season. Among those sixteen from the bottom two-thirds of the first round in 2014 who have failed to become an NHL regular as of yet, a few have already appeared in an American Hockey League game at the PPL Center including the talented Czech center Jakub Vrana (Hershey Bears), the promising American defenseman Anthony DeAngelo (Syracuse Crunch), the exciting Finnish winger Kasperi Kapanen (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins), the skillful Russian winger Nikita Scherbak (St. John’s IceCaps) as well as the hopeful Canadian defenseman Travis Sanheim (Lehigh Valley Phantoms).
A quick review of the 2013 NHL Draft, this being the year that Samuel Morin was the 11th overall player selected in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers,will yield similar results. In fact, only three of the twenty players who chosen after the top ten in the first round of that draft class were able to maintain a regular spot, i.e., skate in more than 50 NHL games, as a 19-year-old player during the 2014/15 season. Furthermore, quite a number of the sixteen players from the bottom two-thirds of the first round in 2013 appeared in AHL games at the PPL Center last season as full-fledged overage professionals including Ryan Pulock (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), Frederik Gauthier (Toronto Marlies), Hunter Shinkaruk (Utica Devils), Michael McCarron (St. John’s IceCaps) and, of course, Morin (Lehigh Valley Phantoms).
It should also be remembered that current Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton, the 20th overall player taken in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, did not appear in any NHL games as a 19-year player. This after Laughton had skated in five NHL games as an 18-year-old player for the Flyers at the start of the 2012/13 season. So, again, it is extremely difficult even for a first round draft pick to make the mighty leap to the vaunted National Hockey League as a player who has not yet reached twenty years of age.
Konecny will be so much better off skating in the OHL for Sarnia and having another go around with Canada at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship this season. Last winter, the native of London, Ontario, made the Canadian junior national team that competed at the 2016 IIHF WJC in Helsinki as an 18-year-old player — always an accomplishment in any country but particularly in a nation like Canada that has such an enormous and deep talent pool from which to select its squad. Konecny (5 ga, 1 go, 1 as, – 1 def) netted his only goal of the tournament for Canada in the wild 6-5 loss to host nation Finland at the quarterfinal stage while playing mostly a supporting role as a bottom six forward.
There is a chance that Konecny could find himself skating on the top line for host nation Canada at the upcoming 2017 IIHF WJC, this depending upon how many 19-year-olds make an NHL roster coming out of training camp and are not then loaned back to the Canadian junior national team for the tournament later this season. At most, the Canucks — who failed to reach the semifinal round at the annual IIHF WJC for the first time since 1998 last winter — could have as many as nine returning skaters but, in the end, could also have as few as five including Konecny. There is absolutely no question, though, that skating in the planet’s premier tournament for players under the age of twenty which has always been a proving ground on the pathway to NHL stardom for so many through the years, would do nothing but aid in the overall development of the obviously talented Konecny.
There is also the chance that Konecny could ultimately skate in a few American Hockey League games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the tail end of this season, as did his teammate on the Canadian squad at the 2016 IIHF WJC, the defenseman Sanheim, last spring. Laughton actually competed at three different levels — in both the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League as well as in the Canadian junior system — as an 18-year-old player during the 2012/13 season. Naturally, all would depend upon how soon the campaign concluded for Konecny’s junior team in the spring.
Categories: Phantoms Hockey