Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, two of the best prospects in the Flyers system, are expected to make the club after an outstanding preseason.
Heading in to this year’s Philadelphia Flyers training camp, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny were both long shots to stick with the big club. Several things were working against them. Both are only 19 years old. Neither one of them has any AHL experience which is something GM Ron Hextall wants all of the Flyers prospects to have before being promoted to the NHL. Players aren’t allowed to play in the AHL until they will be 20 years old by December 31 of their 20th year. So the only two choices for both Provorov and Konecny are that they stay with the Flyers or they get sent back down to their junior teams.
The jump from Juniors to the NHL is a significant one. You are skipping right over a level of hockey so the adjustment going from juniors to the NHL is a lot bigger than going from the AHL to the NHL. Flyers prospect Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, who played six games in the American Hockey league last year, talked about the adjustment of just going from junior hockey to the American Hockey League.
“The biggest thing is the quickness of the pass, the quickness of the play, It’s hard to create turnovers, it’s hard not to make turnovers, it will be a good challenge”.
Ron Hextall also talked about the jump from Juniors to the AHL.
“They come from Junior and think it’s almost going to be easier in the American League and it’s not even close. It’s at least a couple of steps up. It’s a good experience for them.”
So as you can see, just making the jump from junior hockey to the AHL is a big one. And it is understandable why Hextall wants the Flyers prospects to at least spend some time in the AHL. Another advantage to having a prospect play a full season in the AHL is that a prospect gets used to the rigors of a full pro season. In Junior hockey, teams only play 65 games while in the NHL, they play 82. A lot of times when a player makes the jump directly from junior to the NHL, they hit a wall right around the 60 game mark because they aren’t used to playing that many games in such a short period of time. If a prospect plays a year in the AHL, where they play 76 games, their bodies and minds will be more acclimated to playing a full NHL season.
A lot of people like to bring up the possibility of the nine game tryout for the Flyers prospects. This probably won’t happen either. Hextall has stated several times that he isn’t a fan of the nine game tryout. In his eyes, a player is either ready for the ups and downs of a full 82 game season or he isn’t. And that is something that should be figured out during training camp.
So as you can see, the deck was stacked against Provorov and Konecny making the team right out of training camp. But, both players have played extremely well all camp. And the Flyers seem to be putting both players to the test to see if they are truly ready for a full 82 game NHL season.
In the case of Provorov, he has been given a ton of ice time in exhibition games, logging 23 to 25 minutes a night. He has played both the power play and the penalty kill. Konecny has played up and down the Flyers line up, from playing on the first line with Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn to playing in the bottom six on a line with Pierre-Édouard Bellemare and Dale Weise. Konecny currently leads the Flyers in scoring in the preseason with six points and is tied for the team lead in goals with Jake Voracek with 3. Both players have done everything they can to force Ron Hextall’s hands to keep them both on the team.
I was one of the people who was against putting both Provorov and Konecny on the team this year mainly because of the reasons I had stated above. I also didn’t understand the push by the fans and some of the Flyers commentators to rush both of these players to the NHL before even watching them play in one exhibition game. To say that the Flyers need secondary scoring and therefore Konecny should make the team is short sighted thinking in my opinion. If Konecny isn’t NHL ready, he isn’t going to produce at the NHL level and he won’t fill the hole you are looking to fill. And you’re putting the short term gain of a playoff birth ahead of the overall big picture of developing your young players the right way which will eventually lead to winning a Stanley Cup.
Like I have said many times, it is more important that players like Provorov and Konecny are developed properly and are brought up only when they are ready than it is for the Flyers to maybe make the playoffs this year and most likely get bounced in the first round. Even worse, the Flyers could have both players start out in the NHL, play well for maybe 50 games but then hit a wall and their play suffers as a result. Then the Flyers are faced with the prospect of do they continue to play the kids while hurting their chances of making the playoffs? Or, do they sit the kids in an effort to make the playoffs at the cost of hurting a kid’s confidence and therefore stunting his growth? It’s not a position you want to be in.
After watching both Provorov and Konecny through this whole training camp though, it looks like they are both ready. Before the start of training camp, Hextall said that for one of the young players to make the roster, they would have to clearly outperform a veteran who is already on the team. Both players seemed to have done that. With the cautious approach that Hextall has when it comes to promoting young players to the NHL, if Provorov and Konecny both make the team, then you can trust that they are both ready to handle the rigors of a full NHL season.
The future has arrived a year early, at least as far as I saw the Flyers progressing. I thought that both Konecny and Provorov would both get sent back down to their junior teams, would get some AHL experience at the end of this year after their junior seasons ended ince they would both be in their 20th years, and then both would make the team out of training camp to start the 2017-18 season. Both players look as though they have proven me wrong and will be on the team to start the upcoming season.
And since they are both ready for the NHL, the Flyers will be a much better team this year as a result of that. I was against rushing these players to the NHL just to make the playoffs this year. I didn’t want them on the Flyers roster unless they were truly ready, even if it meant the Flyers falling short of a playoff spot. These players are the Flyers future and their long-term development is far more important than just getting in to the playoffs this year. But now that they are on the team because they have truly earned a spot, they weren’t just promoted to fill some holes even though they might not have been ready, in my opinion, the Flyers go from a team that would take a step back and miss the playoffs this year to a team that will make the postseason this year and who, unlike last year’s team, will truly be a club that is scary to play against and who could even win a round.
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With Provorov and Konecny both making the team, the anticipation level for this coming year instantly rises. It looked as though the Flyers were going to enter this season with basically the same team as last season. And with teams like the Buffalo Sabers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Montreal Canadians making significant improvements to their rosters, missing the playoffs looked like a real possibility for the Flyers.
With the additions of Konecny and Provorov though, the Flyers have improved dramatically. They have added a dynamic winger to give them the secondary scoring they desperately needed and they added another puck moving defenseman on their back line. The injection of youth should also give the Flyers a spark just like it did with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.
The process of combining the talented young players in the Flyers minor league system with the young core already on their NHL roster has now begun. This upcoming season now has a whole different feel to it. As a fan, I have gone from approaching this season as just another year to get though until the young kids were ready to come up, to being genuinely excited about the upcoming season. Just thinking about the player introductions on opening night in Los Angeles is exciting.
The future has arrived a year early. It should be a fun and interesting ride.