Last week, I talked about Claude Giroux, looking at his statistical profile and how he grades out in the near future. At the end of the day, I don’t think the results were much of a surprise. We mostly know what we expect of Giroux, and his patterns of point production are fairly evident and established. Today, however, I’m looking at a player who we have seen for a few years, but who most agree has more potential to reach than we’ve currently seen from him. This is all, of course, dependent on the Flyers re-signing him, though I’m positive they will do so.
Travis Konecny did not have a typical ‘breakout’ season, though to call last year a disappointment would be incorrect, in my opinion. In 2017-18, when paired with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier on the first line, he scored at a career-high rate. However, last season, his production could be summed up best the way Charlie O’Connor did over at the Athletic, writing as follows:
Konecny largely repeated the results of his sophomore year from a raw production standpoint — but this time spreading it out over 82 contests rather than jam-packing most of his work into the final three-and-a-half months.
I wouldn’t classify this as a disappointing result on Konecny’s behalf, but rather as a partial result of a return to normalcy, as well as being an effect of an overall disappointing Flyers season. I do think Konecny could fulfill a greater potential, especially if he is placed with Giroux and Couturier again. However, let’s let the numbers talk to see just how much more we could expect from TK.
As mentioned, his previous two years have been quite similar:
(all advanced stats via Corsica Hockey, standard metrics via hockey reference)
There’s a bit to unpack here. In terms of his point production, again, his last two seasons have been strikingly similar. There was a slight dip in his points at a 5-on-5 level, but that’s inconsequential considering Konecny scored 8 power play points in 2018-19, where he only scored 3 the season prior. He’ll almost certainly be on PP2 again, but if Konecny can help drive goals for the secondary unit, that would be huge for the Flyers as well as for Konecny’s personal stock.
Last season, Konecny’s Corsi-For improved slightly at 5v5, jumping up 0.85 percentage points. That still doesn’t see him break even, but he’s very close to it. I do think eventually, even next season, he will positively drive 5-on-5 possession metrics as he continues to “figure out” the NHL even further. In terms of expected goals, Konecny dipped slightly last season, though the first few months of last season can help explain this drop.
Konecny is young enough that there aren’t any decent point share comparables, so I’ll use comparable point shares for a similar player. I would classify Konecny as a secondary scorer who has a speed upside. TK is exceptionally quick, and uses his speed to gain an advantage. Therefore, I thought that a decently similar player would be Michael Grabner. He is known for being a burner with his speed, and his point totals come in around 0.5 ppg, which is very similar to Konecny. His point shares also match fairly closely with Konecny’s. [Point shares are a comparative statistic that function similarly to WAR (wins above replacement) in baseball, and are used to value a hockey player’s value to a team.] Therefore, I think Grabner is well suited to be used as a comparable, along with players linked to him: Valeri Bure and P.A. Parenteau.
In 2010-11, in his second NHL season, Grabner recorded 8.1 point shares with the New York Islanders, scoring 52 points and a career-high 34 goals. For me, that’s the potential that I can imagine Konecny reaching. Now of course, Grabner never reached those totals again, but perhaps Konecny can.
From looking at the overall careers of these three comparables, it appears each player had a breakout season, either early with Grabner or later with Bure and Parenteau (though his career started a bit later age wise), but were unable to recreate that level of success later. This would lead me to believe that those breakout seasons were situational, and that seems to fit the bill with Konecny. When given his “own line”, he has struggled to carry it to positive outcomes, and has shown great chemistry and results when paired with Giroux and Sean Couturier.
Point share trends among comparables show he is likely to produce more, though it is likely his results could be situationally volatile. Konecny is approaching his 4th season in the NHL, and will be a similar age to Grabner when he produced his 50+ point, 30+ goal season at age 23 (though TK will be 22 and has played more games compared to Grabner at that point).
A breakout year under a new coach?
The numbers alone suggest TK could improve, but marginally so. However, I think there is more reason to believe in TK with the new coaching staff. At first, I was mostly negatively reacting to the Vigneault hire. However, I’ve warmed up to it slightly. I think it’s the best the Flyers could have done given the desires on part of the team and fanbase for an experienced mind. Setting aside Yeo and Therrien (both of whom I don’t like as hires), Alain Vigneault has shown that he is very capable at utilizing players with Konecny’s skillset. Just look no further than Michael Grabner! The Austrian forward played on Vigneault’s 2016-17 Rangers, and scored 27 goals, 40 points total, on a team whose top scorer only registered 59 points. I don’t think AV will use a similar system in Philadelphia like he did in New York, but there is evidence towards Vigneault bringing out the best in a player like Konecny. That alone makes me optimistic for what TK can bring to the table next year.
I think for next year, we’re looking at a point share of around 6.0 to 6.5 if he plays better than he did last year, with Vigneault hopefully getting the best out of TK. His previous highest point share was 5.7, in 2017-18, so I think that is a realistic expectation for Konecny. That should equate to around 50-55 points if the Flyers are closer to their 2017-18 form rather than that of 2018-19. That being said, I would not be surprised if that total jumps to 60-65 if he plays on the top line for a majority of the year. I don’t think he’ll produce any more than that, as he’ll almost certainly not play top power play.
If we’re going by the trends, then 55-60 points is probably where TK will range out for his career, with slight variations in this here and there depending on linemates and tactics. That’s certainly excellent for a secondary scorer, and could even push him into primary scoring territory should events fall that way.
There’s a lot to be excited about with Travis Konecny. He has exciting speed, great skill, and can use those abilities to produce spectacular goals. Even if he is unable to carry a line to success, he makes for a top rate piece to pair with a player who can. It is promising that TK has continued to show growth, and has even become a bit chippy. We will of course have to wait and see how AV utilizes TK, but I’m hopeful that the results will be positive.