We are fifty four games into the 2017-2018 NHL season, and Hakstol finally got something right. No, Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning are still on the roster. For now. And no, Dale Weiss hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth. Let’s get real for a second here.
One of the more recent roster shakeups resulted in Travis Konecny getting the nod to play wing opposite of Claude Giroux and next to Sean Couturier at center. This move has been pivotal not just for the Flyers, but for Travis Konecny himself.
As we have seen in the past, wingers have been almost interchangeable when it comes to the top line with Giroux and Couturier. The season started with Jakub Voracek on that line, and he is leading the league in assists, and about to surpass Bobby Clarke for most assists in a season with the Flyers, and there are 28 games remaining. Simmonds had a cup of tea with the top line, and it gave him a little jump. Last year, Jordan Weal spent some time with Giroux and Voracek and experienced an immediate boost in play. The list goes on and on.
Since becoming a regular fixture on the top line, Konecny has put up 9 goals and 8 assists in 18 games. He had a five game goal streak, coming against some of the toughest competition the Eastern Conference has to offer in New Jersey, Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Washington again. Not to mention, he scored the overtime winner in two of those games, back to back as well.
When looking at the previous 36 games Konecny spent on, usually, the third line, he found the back of the net 4 times and added 6 assists for a whopping total of 10 points. It’s amazing what a promotion can do for a guys level of production.
When looking back at former top-liners and their newfound success after being slotted in on that line, people like Jake Voracek come to mind. Voracek played on a top line with Claude Giroux and the legendary Jaromir Jagr. Voracek learned a lot from Jagr, and if you pay attention to how he protects the puck, that wasn’t happening pre-Jagr. His puck protection very closely resembles that of the 45 year old Czech.
When Jordan Weal spent a little bit of time on the top line with Giroux and Voracek, he started scoring towards the end of last year. Michael Raffl experienced the same result when he spent time with the “dynamic duo” a few years back. Most of these players won’t experience that kind of success outside of a top line role.
The biggest name that comes to mind, aside from Konecny of course, that benefitted from a top line bump is none other than Sean Couturier. Couturier is in the midst of a career year, posting numbers that resemble that of his days in the QMJHL where he put up consecutive 96-point seasons with Drummondville. Couturier is playing at a point-per-game pace and is considered by many as a front-runner for the Selke Trophy at year’s end.
Top line bumps are common, especially when you consider the amount of youth in the Philadelphia farm system with the potential of being a playmaker at the NHL level. Some of them will thrive, while others will flounder. Those that flounder may just not have it, or they won’t be put in to a position to succeed. Konecny was bordering on being put into a negative position. He was simply to good to waste away on the third line.
The move to the first line has paid dividends. Nolan Patrick’s move to the second line is paying off as well, and putting Scott Laughton in the middle of the third line could pay off in spades as well. There’s no magical “first line fairy dust” that makes a player better overnight. Konecny belongs on the top line. I don’t want to be the guy that says, “I told you so…” But in case you were wondering what our preseason line projections were, I’ll leave you with this.
Ok, I might have missed the “Sean Couturier on the first line” projection, but I was, and still am, all in on Travis Konecny. He’s finally in a place where he can thrive, and the sky is the limit, especially having two elite linemates. Yes, I said elite. Great things are coming, and I for one can’t wait to see how things pan out with this top line.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports