CHL, OHL, Ottawa 67s, Philadelphia Flyers, Sarnia Sting, Travis Konecny

Flyers’ Konecny’s Junior Career Paved Path for NHL Success

In the current day, Travis Konecny is one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ better young players and looks to be a big part of the team’s future. The Flyers are competing for a Stanley Cup in this weird season and he needs to play a large role in anything they hope to accomplish.

This is something that Konecny was given the chance to prepare for in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with both the Ottawa 67’s and the Sarnia Sting. A stint in that league helped him prepare for a larger role as one of the Flyers’ better players in the NHL.

Becoming the Star

From the minute Konecny was drafted by the Ottawa 67’s in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, expectations for the London, Ontario-native were sky-high. Those expectations existed because he scored 180 points in 81 games in the 2012-13 season with the U16 Elgin Middlesex Chiefs. These numbers made the 67’s choice to take him first overall in the draft simple, leaving players like Dylan Strome, Sean Day, Lawson Crouse, and Mitch Marner on the board.

Travis Konecny (CHL Images)

Konecny’s first season in the OHL was a tough one for the 67’s. Despite finishing just two points out of a playoff spot, they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference and third last in the league overall. Seemingly nothing went right for the barber poles who finished the season with a record of 23-39-3-3 playing out of the Canadian Tire Centre thanks to renovations to their home arena.

Related: Ranking Former Ottawa 67’s in the NHL

Homeless and rebuilding, the 67’s did have one thing they could be very optimistic about, and it was their first-overall pick from just one year ago. Konecny took little time to get acquainted with the OHL and scored a very impressive number of points for a rookie. The season was successful for him scoring 26 goals and 44 assists in his first 63 games, a point total that won him the rookie scoring race by 11 points over second-place Marner.

Konecny was thrown into the lineup and produced better than could have been expected, but it gave a glimpse into what he could accomplish at the OHL level and potentially beyond. The flashy skill paired with the willingness and desire to head to the dirty areas of the ice was very reminiscent of a player like Brad Marchand, someone who is widely hated, but also very successful.

Video courtesy of the Ottawa 67’s YouTube channel

His second season in the OHL didn’t have the flashy points production that some would have hoped for, but Konecny was still a very valuable piece for the 67’s. The team improved dramatically from the previous season and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference winning 38 games. This is also around the time where it was expected that the team’s window to win a Memorial Cup should be opening and the 2014-15 season was very promising.

The first two games of the 2015 Playoffs looked good for the 67’s who outscored the Niagara IceDogs a combined 16-7 taking a two-game lead in the series heading back to Niagara. This is where things began to go wrong for Ottawa. The IceDogs would come back and win the next four games including a win in Game 5 by a score of 8-3 and won the series. As fast as the door had opened for the 67’s, it was slammed in their face with the force of a thousand suns. This series started the beginning of the end for Konecny in Ottawa.

But while his time in Ottawa was coming to an end, he was finding out where his NHL career would begin. The 2015 NHL Entry Draft was headlined with names like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and saw players like Marner and Crouse who he was taken ahead of in the OHL draft a few years prior be selected ahead of him this time around. But being the 24th-overall selection by the Flyers turned out great for both parties.

Heading to Sarnia

The 2015-16 season forced the 67’s to take a serious look in the mirror and figure out if they had a legitimate shot of winning anything with the current roster — to keep things short and sweet, the answer was a resounding “no.” At this point, there were two options: either made some trades and add at the expense of the future or sell off assets and enhance the future. The second option was taken.

Travis Konecny
Travis Konecny. Photo via OHL Images

Konecny started the season with the 67’s and didn’t struggle to put up points, but he did struggle with putting the puck in the back of the net. Through 29 games to start the season, only seven of his 45 points were goals. Despite some of the struggles, he was invited to be a part of the Canadian World Juniors team in 2016, a team that would fail to medal after losing to Finland in the quarterfinals.

Rumours surrounding Konecny were hot before he left to represent Canada, but they would only get hotter while he was away. Before long, the 67’s and Sting came together on a franchise-altering deal that would send Konecny and Sam Studnikia to Sarnia in exchange for Sasha Chmelevski, Chase Campbell, and eight draft choices falling between 2016 and 2020.

The aggressive move by the Sting was meant to set them up for a long playoff run and during the regular season, it looked like that might be the case. Konecny caught fire with the Sting, scoring 23 goals and adding 33 assists in 31 games, leaving him with 101 total points on the season. The Sting won the West Division and thanks to the way the playoff seeding works in the OHL, they were given the second seed despite only having the fourth-most points in the Western Conference.

Travis Konecny Sarnia Sting
Travis Konecny, Sarnia Sting (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

This would establish a match-up with West Division rival, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Sting would lose the first two games of the series, but their biggest loss was still to come. Konecny, the player they had mortgaged their future for just months before was going to miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Even though the Sting would give the Greyhounds everything they could handle, they fell just short in Game 7 of the series, effectively ending Konecny’s junior hockey career.

For reasons out of his control, Konecny wasn’t able to be part of anything special at the OHL level. The Sting were in tough with other teams like the Erie Otters and London Knights, but losing to the Greyhounds was both unexpected and disappointing. But if you value players who have faced adversity through their careers, Konecny would have been the player for you.

Making Strides in Philadelphia

Konecny became a full-time NHLer in the 2016-17 season, but took some time to become the player he is today. His rookie season in the league was by far his worst season to date, but he wasn’t entirely ineffective either. His rookie campaign saw him score 11 goals and 17 assists in 70 games. Nowhere near what Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine scored, but impressive nonetheless.

Travis Konecny (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since then, Konecny has solidified himself as a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. Each of his last three seasons have ended with 24 goals and at least 47 points. But the 2019-20 season is when he took the next step and became one of the better players for the Flyers.

He was nearly a point-per-game player last season with 61 points in 66 games in the pandemic-shortened season. During the regular season, Konecny looked like a star in the making. A talented player with the puck, but a gritty player who was more than willing to lay or take a hit, something that meshes really well with the Flyers’ style of play. For as much as he did in the regular season, however, fans were disappointed and left wanting more from him during the playoffs in the bubble.

Struggled was an understatement for Konecny in the NHL’s 2020 Playoff bubble. He couldn’t find the back of the net and only assisted on seven Flyers goals in 16 games. For whatever reason, the bubble wasn’t kind to Konecny and it had a large impact on the Flyers going down in the second round of the playoffs in seven games at the hands of the New York Islanders.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens Travis Konecny Philadelphia Flyers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens and Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 2020-21 season saw Konecny get off to a hot start, but it has been very interesting so far. As of writing this, he has scored five goals and three assists in 12 games, but has also been a healthy scratch and been a part of numerous trade rumours — even though those have been shot down, they are worth keeping your eye on.

Konecny’s production has been very good for the most part in Philadelphia, especially for a player who is only being paid $5.5 million per season according to CapFriendly. No matter what happens with him from here on out, he will continue to a fixture on an NHL team. If the Flyers do end up wanting to trade him, there will be a long line of teams who are willing to bring him on board, but the best option for the Flyers might just be to recognize what a great young player Konecny is and use him to build around in the future.

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