VOORHEES, N.J. – From coach John Tortorella to several of his players, the opinion is fairly unanimous.
Travis Konecny is not only the team’s best, most consistent position player right now but becoming a lead-by-example one as well.
Everyone knows the 25-year-old right wing has loads of hockey talent. But this year he seems to working on the role of someone who sets a standard with accountable play.
It wasn’t always that way, especially with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier on the roster. But Giroux is playing in Ottawa now and Couturier is sidelined by back surgery, so it’s been left to young veterans such as Konecny and Scott Laughton to show others the way.
“I’m not sure if anybody has asked him (Konecny) to be leader,’’ Tortorella said after Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center. “I’m not sure if he’s ever been put in positions to be a leader. So as he keeps growing and we keep going here and situations arise, I watch that.
“I think if I brought in a leadership group, he would be a part of that. But as far as where we’re going as far as leadership, with letters and all, we’re still aways away from that. The way he leads by example, that’s a big part of leadership. Sometimes people confuse leadership with saying the right things – you can say all the right things but it’s a matter of doing the right things. That’s when people follow you, that’s a big part of leadership.’’
Laughton, the only player currently wearing a letter (an “A’’ for alternate captain), has noticed a certain maturity in Konecny’s overall game.
“With some key guys out, guys have to step up,’’ Laughton said. “I think he’s done a good job right from the start of the year. He’s starting on the penalty kill for the first time in his career and he’s done a really good job at it.
“He’s such a good skater and good with the puck. And he’s a little bit of a rat out there, too. When he’s playing like that, it brings a little bit of a different element.’’
When asked about his possible increased role in leadership, Konecny took a modest approach.
“Honestly I’m just trying to work as hard as I can,’’ Konecny said. “I think everyone’s done a good job of buying into the system. Maybe just now the bounces are going my way. But everyone is going to have their turn. Everyone’s being leaders now in their own way. Doesn’t matter how old you are, everyone is doing the right thing. Everyone has their turn.’’
“I just think he plays hard,’’ Tortorella said. “Everything about TK is energy. He’s probably been our most consistent player to this point early in the season. I think he understands how to practice. He’ll lead by example.
“I sometimes I just have to tone him down. I’d rather have a player that way but I don’t want to turn him down too much because that’s a big part of who he is. I think he’s been very consistent showing who he is.’’
>Hart practices but status unclear
Goaltender Carter Hart, who missed Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, practiced on Wednesday but Tortorella said he wasn’t sure if he would be available for the game against the Blue Jackets.
However, the Flyers did return goalie Samuel Ersson to the Phantoms, one day after he was called up to serve as backup to Felix Sandstrom in the St. Louis game.
Hart left the door open to possibly playing against the Blue Jackets.
“I feel better,’’ Hart said after the practice.
Meanwhile, defenseman Egor Zamula was placed back on the roster after he was technically loaned to the Phantoms on Tuesday.
>No nostalgia for Columbus
This will be Tortorella’s first trip back to Columbus since he last coached there. He was behind the Blue Jacket bench from 2015 to 2021.
As for any sentimentality, forget about it.
“I’m going back there to a coach a hockey team,’’ he said. “I have a tremendous amount of friends there, a great spot but I’m going back there to coach the Flyers and try to win.’’
Konecny acknowledged the Flyers want to do their best in their coach’s return to a former home.
“When Cam (Atkinson) went back there (last year), we wanted to win that game for him,’’ Konecny said. “It might be a little different as a coach but we want to get the win for him.’’
As of Wednesday morning, the Flyers were leading the NHL’s Eastern Conference for fewest goals allowed with just 29 (Philadelphia has played a game or two less than many of the other conference teams).
While Hart has played a big part in that, the Flyers have played some good, cohesive defense on most nights.
“The last two games we’ve played much more solid as a team,’’ Hart said. “And more to our structure. It’s something to keep building off of.’’
Defenseman Ivan Provorov was provided a maintenance day on Wednesday and did not practice. . .Tortorella had words of praise for Owen Tippett, who scored a goal in the Blues game. “He’s growing,’’ the coach said. “Still has a lot of things to learn, the quickness of the league and everything that comes with that. He’s given us some good minutes. He has a chance to be a real good player in this league.’’