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Dynamic Konecny giving Flyers all they could ask for

When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall moved up in the 2015 first round to select Travis Konecny, he saw more than a player with speed and skill.

When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall moved up in the 2015 first round to select Travis Konecny, he saw more than a player with speed and skill.

He saw a player who could help give the team an identity because of his tenacity.

"To me," Hextall said the other day, "he played like a Flyer."

Konecny, 19, hasn't disappointed his boss. Five weeks into his rookie season, the left winger has become the Flyers' most exciting player, someone who can skate past a defender - and also play with an edge.

With his speed and playmaking, he creates scoring opportunities on almost every shift, and he is ferocious in the corners, despite his relatively small 5-foot-10, 184-pound frame.

Konecny's jump to the NHL has had a few bumps. Witness how he was given just two third-period shifts Thursday, partly because he was having a tough night, and also because coach Dave Hakstol wanted a bigger body (Dale Weise) to match up against a huge Winnipeg line.

That said, his transition from juniors to the world's best league has been relatively smooth.

"The veterans have made it pretty easy on me, making me feel comfortable," Konecny said the other day. "And the coaches have faith in the young players and that allows us to be confident on the ice and be creative. The hard part - the nine games - is over, so it's not too much thinking now, it's just play hockey and enjoy your time."

If the Flyers had sent Konecny back to juniors after nine games, his entry-level contract wouldn't have started.

But he has fit in so well that sending him back to Sarnia in the OHL never became a serious consideration.

"When you come into the league, you don't know what kind of role you're going to play, but he's been amazing since the start of the season," linemate Jake Voracek said. "He's a high-energy guy."

Entering Saturday, Konecny had four goals and 11 points in 18 games and was part of a productive second line that includes Sean Couturier and Voracek. The line has frequently played against opponents' best units.

Konecny hasn't backed down from much-bigger players, which is just about everybody, including Winnipeg's 6-5, 260-pound Dustin Byfuglien.

"I try to play the hard game, try to get under their skin," Konecny said. "But at the same time, I have a lot of respect for the players I play against. I understand they've been in the league for a long time."

Though you wouldn't know it by the way he has played, Konecny admitted he's "still kind of star-struck looking at some of the guys we go against, but it's all part of it and I'm sure I'll be over it soon."

Konecny grew up a couple of hours outside Toronto, and he almost became a Maple Leaf before they dealt their draft pick to the Flyers.

"I just wanted to get drafted. I was thinking I could go anywhere before the draft, so I wasn't expecting anything. I never really thought about Toronto," he said.

He admitted that when the 24th overall selection came and the Maple Leafs were on the board, "it was definitely on my mind at that point."

But they traded the pick to the Flyers in what has been the shining move of Hextall's tenure so far. Hextall hasn't had a lot of success in the free-agent market, but he has thrived in the draft.

"When I got picked by Philly, you look at their organization, it was an honor to go there," Konecny said. "I was definitely excited."

Playing on a line with Couturier and Voracek has helped his development. "These guys create space for me," Konecny said. "They're big guys. They have speed and skill, and I just find good spots with them."

Konecny is mature beyond his years. He will be the first one to tell you when he makes a mistake, as he did when he "got lost in the D zone" and Mark Stone scored Ottawa's first goal Tuesday. And after being benched for most of Thursday's third period in a 5-2 win over the Jets, he said "obviously it's tough being the one that's not playing, but seeing the way the guys came together and we figured out a way to close it out was perfect for us."

He also patiently waits for ice time in overtime. Thus far, he hasn't gotten much.

"I'm obviously ready when they want me there," he said. "It's all a process. I'm young and I'm working my way into those situations."

Konecny and teammates Ivan Provorov and Roman Lyubimov are rookies. They live near each other in the same Voorhees apartment complex, and bounce things off each other.

"It's good to have someone else who is going through the same thing," said Konecny, who rooms with Provorov on the road.

Provorov, 19, speaks fluent English, but converses with Lyubimov in Russian. Provorov and Konecny have become inseparable.

"Travis and I have sort of been together since the same draft and are going through the same things," said Provorov, who was selected seventh overall in 2015 - 17 spots before Konecny. "We were both sent back to juniors [last year] and both had pretty good years, and then we both made it here this year."

And both are major components of a young nucleus that, despite the expected growing pains, is headed in the right direction.