VOORHEES, N.J. – Maybe it was because he was given the responsibility of playing on the first line.
Maybe it was just because he learned from his mistakes his rookie year.
Or maybe it’s just because he’s a year older and is getting the hang of a two-way game.
Whatever the case, Travis Konecny played with more intelligence and more maturity the second half of last season and the proof was in the pudding, or goal total.
Konecny had only four goals the first half of the season and 20 the second half. Plus, his 46 penalty minutes in 81 games were much more manageable than 49 in 70 the previous year.
Did we mention his plus-minus went from minus-2 to plus-17?
“He’s worked hard to round out his game,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said after Wednesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “TK plays that aggressive style. He’s in attack mode.
“We don’t want to take all that out of his game. There has to be a little bit of reckless abandon to his game. But he has to round that off with the time and the place. That’s what he’s done a good job working at.’’
Konecny had a “that’s it’’ moment in March, 2017 when he took a bad penalty which cost the Flyers a game against Columbus.
Last season, there were a few questionable decisions early on but down the stretch he played the game with prudence.
“There’s still room to grow and improve,’’ Hakstol said. “He’s played quite a bit of minutes in the preseason but his legs have looked good. He’s had success, he’s been able to score a couple goals, make some plays and impact the game the way we need him to impact games during the regular season.
“He’s in a good spot, he’s had a good camp. He’s had on the path to be ready to go day one.’’
Konecny appeared to find a home on that first unit with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
“I’m not a real vocal guy,’’ Konecny said. “I definitely feel more comfortable in my role. I know what I have to do to get the job done. And I know what my responsibilities are.
“I think that kind of gives you the confidence to know your abilities and do your job.’’
The Flyers have been putting more emphasis on their power play in the preseason, trying to get more balance in their two units.
Seeing as how the second unit produced a grand total of one goal last season, more playing time for TK on that secondary squad could be helpful for team production.
“The game’s a lot about confidence,’’ he said. “And if you can find a role that you fit in, and the team’s doing well, things just seem to go.’’
This being 21-year-old’s third year in the NHL, he’s had time to make adjustments, just as opponents have had time to make adjustments to him.
“Everyone has built a book on me but I’ve also built a book on them,’’ he said. “I think your second year is usually the hardest. Guys get to know you and you have to adjust a little bit.
“Playing on that line, it gave me confidence. They’re great players. It’s nice to be able to work with them.’’