Draft season is kind of a bittersweet time. It's the acceptance of defeat in the NHL season; your team is no longer relevant, so go fawn over draft rankings and grainy YouTube videos while the rest of the NHL enjoys playoff hockey. On the other hand, we get to fawn over draft rankings and grainy YouTube videos while the rest of the NHL enjoys playoff hockey. There's nothing quite like the month-long excitement build up in anticipation for draft day, and the eventual future of the team.
That is where the Flames find themselves right now, and despite the playoff elimination, it’s not all that bad. Thanks to the NHL’s draft order rules, a season of over-achievement and a second round berth is rewarded with the #15 overall pick, ahead of the vanquished Vancouver Canucks. It’s not McDavid, but we’ll take it.
At #15, the options aren't as clear cut as the previous two drafts. There's not a lot of elite-potential players left in this range, so it is critical that teams scout, study, and draft a high value player rather than shoot the breeze and hope for something good (see Flames drafting strategy 2006-2010).
To begin our draft coverage, we're going to review Travis Konecny, former #1 OHL draft pick, and Ottawa 67's captain.
|March 11th, 1997
|NHL Central Scouting Rank
|#14 NA (#26 midterm)
|NHLe (Draft -1)
There’s a lot to list under here. Konecny’s accolades do not end at first overall draft pick. He came straight out of the gate in juniors, scoring 70 points in 63 games on a depleted 67’s roster (no coincidence that it was the same year Sean Monahan was drafted), and won OHL rookie of the year. In his second year, he was given the ‘C’ for the 67s and for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, leading the country to gold and scoring a goal per game.
His hockey skills are considered among the best in the OHL; he's widely regarded as a smart two-way player. Konecny has a "lightning release" according to eliteprospects, which explains his 55 goals in 123 OHL games. In case you needed more convincing, an OHL Eastern Conference coaches poll ranked Konecny as Best Skater and second for Best Stickhandling for 2014-15.
If you’re worried the Flames will pass on him because of size (this is a legitimate concern), don’t. Konecny has the sort of intangibles that Lance Bouma and Kris Russell have. He’s been praised for his tenacity and compete levels, especially considering his physical play in relation to his size. He’ll crash the net, fight in corners, battle along the boards, and even – of course- block shots. It’s the best of both worlds for Brian Burke.
If he's so highly regarded, then why could he fall to the Flames at #15? Besides the fact that this is a very top heavy draft, one of the issues definitely is his size. He's the smallest among the top 50 North American skaters, and near the bottom for weight. His physical style has led to injuries in the past, including an undisclosed injury that kept him out towards the end of the OHL season and the deciding game in the first round. While I think size is a tad bit overrated, it can be an issue if it limits him like it did this season.
Another issue is point production. After a stellar rookie season, Konecny didn't do much better in his second year. His PPG increased a tiny bit, but not by a whole lot. One argument for him is the increased pressure he faced as a 17 year old coming off a good 16 year old season. It took him a while to find his groove, and after New Year's, he scored 48 points in his remaining 38 regular season games plus 10 in his five playoff games. The second half of the season suggests a potentially elite player, but the first suggests a mediocre one. It also raises the question of adaptability and NHL-readiness.
Konecny is undersized for a centre, but the Flames don’t need to use him as one. As a right-winger, Konecny is a very valuable draft pick. The Flames currently only have one true right-winger on the roster; 30 year old David Jones, who certainly isn’t getting any younger. In the prospect pool, the top two choices are Emile Poirier (a converted left-winger) and Hunter Smith. Konecny’s addition will bolster the depth, and offer an immediate option in the NHL. Looking at shot plots, the Flames lack any real scoring threat from the right side
His size clearly won’t hinder him as a winger; ask Johnny Gaudreau. A lot of the scouting reports do remind me of Johnny Hockey; excellent puck-handling, speed, skating, and hockey sense. Certainly, having another one would be nice for the club. A potential Poirier-Bennett-Konecny line is mouthwatering-ly good. Even if he doesn’t fit in immediately, the Flames have been getting away with not having right-wingers for the longest time. They’ll be fine for a year or two.
Why draft him?
Why not draft him?
Konecny is a very good player who is being overshadowed by the big picks in the draft and conventional drafting wisdom. While I feel that he would be a solid addition to the Flames, he's not exactly the missing piece, nor is he the necessary piece. There's plenty of fine defencemen that will be available at #15 that the Flames could pick up and produce immediately. He's definitely somewhere on Brad Treliving's draft board, and if the right dominoes fall, he could be the one picked. Otherwise, I feel there is at least one or two more people ahead of him that BT believes he has a realistic chance of picking
We'll have more of these coming for you as the week goes on. Stay tuned!
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