When Travis Konecny returned from his first NHL All-Star Game in 2020, he was a blossoming 22-year-old on a team with established names like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Matt Niskanen, among others.
Saturday in Toronto was his second All-Star experience, this time as a proven 26-year-old leading a surprise playoff push for the rebuilding Flyers.
John Tortorella's club is going to need Konecny to play like a star and continue to be its nonstop motor down the stretch.
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"He drives me crazy in some of the things he does, but the things that drive me crazy about him and how reactive he is and how dumb he can be, also make him a great player. He is a great player," the Flyers' head coach said over two weeks ago. "I love coaching the guy because you never know what you're going to get from him as far as what happens on the ice. But I know the great engine that he has, the condition he comes in to camp each and every year and what he does for this hockey team is invaluable."
Playing for Team MacKinnon at the 2024 NHL All-Star Game, Konecny recorded an assist and a shot in a 4-3 semifinal shootout loss to Team McDavid.
Despite going into the break on a season-worst five-game losing streak, the Flyers are 25-19-6 through 50 games. They currently hold a playoff spot, sitting in third place of a busy Metropolitan Division race.
The Flyers return from the break with a matchup Tuesday against the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
"We're reminding ourselves every day that we've put ourselves in a great spot as of where we are right now in the season, what we've done as far as in the standings," Konecny said last Saturday. "No one believed in us, that we'd be here. Maybe it's a good time for a break — regroup, get some energy, enjoy some time with your family and friends and get back here."
Konecny has a team-high 22 goals and is on pace for a career-high 36. Last season, he finished with a career-high 31 despite missing 22 games because of two separate injuries (right hand; upper body).
He also leads the Flyers with 42 points and is first among the team's forwards with a plus-9 rating.
"I think he wants to be a difference-maker every night," Sean Couturier said a month ago. "He has taken a step forward over these last couple of years. It's fun to see him grow on both sides of the puck, offensively and defensively. I think he's getting thrown out in a lot more situations. Instead of just being all offense, he's now killing and making a difference. It's fun to see."
When Tortorella arrived in 2022, he asked Konecny to become a penalty killer. Over the last two seasons, Konecny has led the NHL with eight shorthanded goals.
"He's one of the most instinctive players I've coached," Tortorella said.
Couturier, the longest-tenured Flyer on the roster, has watched Konecny develop from a 19-year-old rookie into an all-situation player.
"He has learned the game, he's getting more comfortable," Couturier said. "I think as you get older, the game just kind of slows down or gets a little easier. ... He has found a way to become quite a player."