OTTAWA - Travis Konecny was all smiles Tuesday morning outside the Flyers' locker room at Canadian Tire Centre, a short drive from the home of his junior team, the Ottawa 67's.
The 5-10 forward was chatting with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall - the man who drafted Konecny 24th overall in June - and looking up toward the much taller Hextall with a smile during much of their conversation.
Sure, it was good for Konecny to be back around the guys he spent training camp with, but it was also an exciting day for the Flyers' prospect.
Konecny, who doesn't turn 19 until March, was named to Team Canada's selection camp for the upcoming World Junior Championships, Hockey Canada announced Tuesday morning. He wasn't the only Flyers prospect, either. Defenseman Travis Sanheim was also one of 28 non-goaltenders named to the camp, which opens Dec. 10 in Ontario and lasts until Dec. 14.
Konecny, who has 39 points (six goals) in 25 games as the captain of the 67's, watched his best friend Lawson Crouse play in last year's tournament and said it got him hungry to make this year's team.
"It's one of the things I've always wanted to do," Konecny said. "It's been on my mind ever since last year."
The World Junior Championships is the biggest under-20 hockey event in the world. This year's version will take place in Finland from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Both Flyers prospects figure to make Team Canada.
"Hopefully they both make the team and play big roles," Hextall said. "But, one way or another, it's a great experience. If you grow up in Canada, you know the importance of it, not only to Hockey Canada but to the country. So it's a huge stage for these kids. It's a hard experience to replicate for a kid. It's awesome."
Hextall said he plans to attend the event. With the large talent pool there, he said it's a good time for "education" on various players. That includes ones he's already drafted.
"You see them at the height of competition against their peers," Hextall said. "If you see a kid in the American (Hockey) League or the National (Hockey) League, sometimes in their first year or two, it's hard to kind of define what he's going to be as a player. But when you see them with their peers, it's pretty easy to kind of see what you expect them to be or what you want them to be as they move up the ladder."
Konecny won the inaugural E.J. McGuire award at this year's draft, awarded to the player who "best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism." He then showed flashes of climbing that ladder Hextall mentioned pretty quickly throughout this year's training camp. The Ontario native had a goal and an assist in his two games before being sent back to juniors for the season.
"He's a dynamic player," Hextall said. "He makes things happen. He's one of those special players that can make something happen out of nothing, and they're hard to find. But, again, it's juniors and he's got a lot of work to do, but he's got the qualities in a player that we covet."
Konecny's 67's own the Eastern Conference's second-best record in the Ontario Hockey League. His 39 points are a team high and ranked ninth in the OHL entering Tuesday.
Some Flyers fans clamored for Konecny to stick around on a team that needed a youthful burst of energy, but salary-cap constraints and Hextall's insistence on patience led to the decision to send him and the rest of the junior-level prospects back to their respective teams.
But the organization keeps a watchful eye.
"He's kind of been right on track with what we hoped," Hextall said. "People tend to forget he's a younger kid. His overall year has been good. They've got a good team, they're very competitive and I think he's progressing the way we hoped."
Tuesday was a similar experience to one in early November for Sanheim and his Calgary Hitmen teammate and fellow Flyers prospect Radel Fazleev. Both got to spend time with the organization they hope to contribute to one day when the Flyers were in Calgary.
"It's definitely fun coming to say hi and seeing some of the faces," Konecny said. "The way they prepare and stuff before games, seeing them in the rink, it's always fun."