Flyers’ Atkinson, Konecny coming in hot in 2023-2024

Flyers' Atkinson celebrates against Anaheim.
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Cam Atkinson (89) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In the early stages of the 2023-2024 season, the Philadelphia Flyers hold an 8-7-1 record, treading water in the NHL Metropolitan Division. The lineups compete closely against opponents, and coaches across the league acknowledge the commitment to the rebuild.

“John [Tortorella] is a hell of a coach and has a reputation of [being] ‘not fun to play against.’ They’re always ready to play, they’re always ready to compete, they’re definitely better than they were a year ago, and playing much more assertive; better as a group, as a team.”

Don Granato; 11/1/2023

John Tortorella missed a few critical elements in his lineup a season ago, seeking a foundation as he began to understand the roster. Travis Konecny, who missed 22 games, was the featured forward during his first season as head coach. Cam Atkinson, the veteran most familiar with Tortorella, missed the whole season due to a muscle atrophy in his tricep.

Now, they’re both in the lineup.

Both are off to a hot start. For Konecny, it’s his best start since 2019-2020. After missing a season, Atkinson paces his best start since 2018-2019. Together, they’re the current driving force for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny

After ten games, Konecny notched 11 points (8G, 3A). That included 50% of all the special teams scoring (4), including a pair of powerplay and shorthanded goals. He leads forwards in point production, but his high motor and instigation contribute to excellent team play. Konecny shares some similarities with Atkinson, and while they go about their business a little differently, they’re bonded as two of the top forwards in Philadelphia.

Konecny turned in five multi-point performances during his first ten games.

When the Flyers hosted the Minnesota Wild, he tallied a goal and an assist. He maximized his minutes (13:35), the smallest share of ice time Konecny received this season.

His performance versus the Carolina Hurricanes exemplifies Konecny as effective without point production. In an increased role (20:20), Konecny forced a couple of takeaways, nearly scoring a powerplay goal early in the second period, but missed wide right. With and without the puck, the Hurricanes felt his presence.

For context, Konecny is pacing with Sean Couturier from 2017-2018. He’s ahead of Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter from 2008-2009 and Mike Knuble from 2005-2006. If Konecny maintains this push, he’ll shatter his career-high in goals last season (31) en route to a new career-high in point production.

Cam Atkinson

In his first ten games, Atkinson totaled nine points (6G, 3A). Those include two powerplay points versus the Wild, setting up Couturier and Bobby Brink; the other 50% of powerplay scoring excluding Konecny. Atkinson has a nose for goal-scoring, too. He only trails Konecny for the team but leads Philadelphia in game-winners.

Atkinson played for Tortorella on the Columbus Blue Jackets the last time he paced this well to begin a season.

When the Flyers hosted the Edmonton Oilers, Atkinson scored twice, including the game-winner, in 18:36 on the ice. He paired well with Owen Tippett, who secured an assist on each goal by Atkinson. Building chemistry with Tippett is the important note this season as veterans set the pace for the younger forwards:

“It was only a matter of time until he [Tippett] broke out, especially. He’s so highly skilled, especially him playing his off wing. He’s getting more and more comfortable out there. Hopefully we continue to get better, build our chemistry, and build our confidence.”

Cam Atkinson; 10/19/2023

He scored another versus the Buffalo Sabres in a loss, playing a similar share of minutes (18:07). Atkinson generated a three-on-two rush en route to his scoreboard contribution. It’s not just goal scoring; Atkinson is a pest on the penalty kill, a perfect fit for a four-on-five ‘power-kill’ attack. His work ethic is contagious, a significant positive step from a season ago when the franchise missed him:

“Everyone wants to score goals. One of my biggest things I always say to everyone, ‘if we’re getting chances, we’re doing the right things, they’re going to go in.’ It’s when you start cheating and thinking that you’re going to get chances, and it’s in the back of our net, but we have a lot of great players on our team, whether you’re a young guy or a little bit older. We just have to bear down a little bit harder on our opportunities, and our powerplay’s gotta step up a little bit.”

Cam Atkinson; 11/1/2023

Similar to Konecny, Atkinson appears on both special teams units. The powerplay is poor, ranked 31st in the NHL with a 7.6% conversion rate. The penalty kill, however, ranks in the top half of the NHL (14th), stopping 80.4% of opposing extra-man-advantages.

Appearing on both special team units is a telltale sign that Tortorella trusts Konecny and Atkinson as leaders of the offense. They’re two pillars in Philadelphia, critical to the foundation of a rebuild.

“The room is together, and I think that’s the biggest improvement we made from last year. I don’t think our room was awful last year, but our room needed to change. It’s been very well talked about and documented.”

John Tortorella; 10/26/2023

Last season, Tortorella noted Konecny would be considered for a leadership role in one of the candid moments he cared to comment on the matter. Atkinson fits the mold, too. The difference in the locker room from last season to now is starting to articulate on the ice and in the record book.

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)