ALLENTOWN - Only minutes after stepping off the ice from his first morning skate during his first training camp, and a few hours before a bus took him to his first preseason NHL game, Travis Konecny acknowledged he was nervous.
A year ago, he said, he was watching players such as Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on highlight shows.
Yesterday, he skated in the same morning skate with them, took the same bus and sat on the same bench. The Flyers' second first-round pick of June's draft shared the ice with them, too.
And, all things considered, it was an impressive debut for the 18-year-old winger, in the Flyers' 5-3 win over the New York Islanders in a split-squad game.
New coach Dave Hakstol said before the game he was looking for the same thing he'd seen from Konecny and fellow first-round pick, defenseman Ivan Provorov, since they showed up for rookie camp last Monday.
Each of them did that, but especially Konecny.
"He made something happen every time he was on the ice," Hakstol said. "(He has) a lot of hockey sense and plays with a lot of jam."
Jam, many Flyers fans will remember, was a term seemingly coined by former coach Peter Laviolette. Konecny's jam and playmaking and natural offensive abilities were apparent in the first period, and he was rewarded in the second period with his first goal, taking advantage of a misplayed puck in front of the Islanders' net by depositing a backhander past goalie Thomas Greiss.
After the game, Flyers winger Vincent Lecavalier likened Konecny to Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson, a speedy, short forward who scored 29 goals last year.
"That's pretty awesome," Konecny said when hearing the comparison.
"I think my first shift I got the legs going and made a couple hits, and got the feel of the game and the speed. By the second period and into the third, I was comfortable, making plays that I wouldn't make my first or second shift of the game."
Konecny was considered a top-15 talent in this year's draft. When the Flyers saw him continue to slide, they pounced, moving up five spots to No. 24 to select him.
Most times, first-round picks get a lot of attention. Provorov has clearly been the talk of the Flyers' draft class since June. It's almost allowed Konecny to slip under the radar a little.
Does Konecny see it that way?
"Honestly, I don't really think about it," Konecny said. "I think a camp is just an opportunity for everyone, a fresh start for everybody. I try not to think about that, and, as far as I'm concerned, I'm coming here to work hard and do what I can do and try not to worry about anything else."
At June's draft, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Konecny had "the heart of a lion" as a 5-10 winger. Last season with his junior team, the Ottawa 67's (which he captains), Konecny had 68 points in 60 games. He was the Ontario Hockey League's Rookie of the Year the season before, posting 70 points in 63 games.
While Provorov is considered the more-ready NHL talent, Konecny has seemingly less competition to go through than Provorov has on the back end. He has the speed, two-way ability and puckhandling that would look pretty darn good in Hakstol's up-tempo system. He was one of the fastest players on the ice last night, playing alongside likely Phantoms Cole Bardreau and Jay Rosehill.
Despite Konecny's talents, Hextall has said all along that no prospect will be rushed to the NHL level and that development is paramount. It's unlikely Konecny makes the Flyers out of camp unless injury occurs or he's just downright too good to send back to Ottawa. Time will tell on that front, of course.
Hakstol said evaluation in camp comes from the entire body of work, on a day-to-day basis. There's no question, though, play in games is sexier to the eye than a day at practice.
"I think it's all mental," Konecny said. "If you approach it the right way and you're just working hard and doing all the little things right and not trying to overdo stuff then you should be fine."
He was more than fine last night.
In addition to Konecny's tally, the Flyers got goals in the Allentown win from Michael Raffl, Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Del Zotto and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (empty-netter) in the 5-3 win. Del Zotto's tally came on a redirection from Giroux early in the third period.
In the split-squad affair in Brooklyn, the Flyers fell to the Isles, 3-2, and got goals from Taylor Leier and Brayden Schenn.
The Flyers announced yesterday the signing of 6-5 defenseman Philippe Myers to an entry-level contract. Myers, 18, was in rookie camp the past week on an amateur tryout. He had eight points and 55 penalty minutes in 60 games with Rouyn-Noranda, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he'll likely return after camp ends. Myers went undrafted in June's draft. "He came in and he earned it. That's the old-fashioned way," Dave Hakstol said . . . Defensive prospect Travis Sanheim was left off the roster in both Allentown and Brooklyn. Each NHL team must send at least eight regulars to preseason games, so getting everyone in camp into the lineup isn't as easy as it sounds. Sanheim likely will play tonight, when the Flyers take on the New York Rangers at home . . . Steve Mason, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz, Flyers regulars, also had the night off and likely will play tonight, as well.