ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.
Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.
“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”
Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).
He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.
He showed off vision and smarts.
When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.
Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.
First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.
“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”
Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.
“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”
Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.
At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.
With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.
“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.
“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”
Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.
“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”
Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.
“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”
If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.
“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”
Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.