The summer of 2019 will forever be remembered as the year the NHL's top restricted free agents took their dear, sweet time to re-sign with their clubs. Among them, Travis Konecny, who waited until mid-September before signing a six-year deal worth $5.5-million per season. Right from the start, the deal seemed fair. Many in the sport were projecting a breakout season for Konecny after he had flirted with the 50-point mark in each of his past two seasons. If it worked out as expected, the term was set to give the Philadelphia Flyers an absolute bargain down the line.
And not even a full season later, the deal is already starting to look like a steal.
With 57 points through 60 games, Konecny is on pace for 75 points this season – only Sean Couturier, on pace for 72, is in reaching distance on the Flyers – and the 22-year-old has been especially hot over the past couple weeks. Since Valentine's Day, Konecny is tied with New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad with a league-leading 10 points in five games. It's a small sample, to be sure, but Konecny has been efficient. With an average ice time of 15:55 over that span, Konecny's 7.54 points-per-60 minutes is first by quite a wide margin, more than half a point clear of second-place Tyler Toffoli (6.94). Konecny is making the most of his chances.
In terms of goals at 5-on-5, Konecny's 18 puts him in an eight-way tie for 10th and his goals above expected of 6.7 is good for 15th. Among players with at least 780 minutes of 5-on-5 action this season (consistent top-six forwards, essentially), Konecny's 1.37 goals-per-60 is good for sixth and his 16.67 shooting percentage is ninth. Konecny's average ice time across the entire season sits at 16:56, up nearly two minutes from his career average, and that is due in part to his power-play responsibility. The 2:49 per game he's seen with the Flyers up a skater this season is a significant boost from his 1:39 one season earlier, which has translated to additional power play output. Konecny has 16 assists with the man advantage this season, a mammoth increase in special teams production considering he had just seven power play assists in the past three campaigns combined.
It's not just the goals-and-assists columns where Konecny has improved. Digging a little deeper, Konecny's advanced stats have risen almost across the board. His Corsi percentage of 55.8 at 5-on-5 is a huge step up from 50.3 percent last season, and he's experienced a similar bump in Fenwick percentage to 54.6 percent from 50.3 percent. Konecny's 52 percent on-ice goals percentage is a minor step up from 51 percent last season, and he's seen one of his biggest gains in scoring chance percentage. He's jumped seven points to 55 percent.
The numbers don't lie: Konecny has capitalized on two years of solid hockey to become one of the Flyers' best players. If Konecny can hold on to this type of 70-plus-point output, his $5.5-million cap hit until 2025 will make his one of the most cost-effective contracts in the league.
His strong numbers are no surprise based off of his junior stats with Ottawa and Sarnia, however. From 2013-14 until 2015-16, only seven players had a better point output than Konecny in the OHL and Konecny naturally made the linemates around him better. Skill-wise, Konecny was a sought-after prospect, but his 5-foot-9 frame (at the time) and defensive deficiencies made him a tough sell to go high, leading to his selection 24th overall by Philadelphia. On points alone, Konecny's 181 points make him the eighth highest scoring player from the 2015 draft, one that produced high-quality talents such as Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Marner and Rantanen.
"Few players had the ability to control a game at even strength like Travis did in junior," said a junior hockey scout who followed Konecny's career closely during his OHL career. "The only way he wasn't going to make the NHL as a top-six forward was if he struggled with consistency like he did at points with the (Ottawa) 67's."
That hasn't been a problem this season. Konecny's longest scoreless streak was a three-game run in mid-November – since then, Konecny has failed to record a point in consecutive games just once and has had at least two shots in 41 of the 60 games he has played in this season. His defensive play has improved over time, too. The biggest concerns about his game in junior have been nullified.
The Flyers have built a good young group to supplement the veteran contributions of long-time star Claude Giroux. Konecny is will turn 23 in a couple weeks, defensemen Ivan Provorov, Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim are all 23 and Carter Hart, the Flyers' goaltender of the future, is 21. But having Konecny hitting his stride in a big way this season has been important in Philadelphia's quest to maintain playoff position in the Metropolitan Division and reach the post-season for just the second time in Konecny's career. And if Flyers do make it, the strides Konecny has made from being a good player to one of Philadelphia's standouts will be a big reason why.
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