Flyers first-rounder Travis Konecny should lend Team Canada 'dynamic' element

Konecny is second in the OHL in assists (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

Travis Konecny, over time, has become that skill player with a willingness to the dirty work.

That, of course, is the paradigm for Canada's national junior team, even as Hockey Canada has shifted its focus more to skill and speed after learning some hard lessons during a half-decade gold-medal drought at the world junior championship. Konecny, the the Philadephia Flyers first-round pick and Ottawa 67's captain who is tied for second in the OHL assists race, fits in with that. The 18-year-old right wing getting the call on Tuesday to join Team Canada selection camp in Toronto really just about confirming expectations of those who have followed the Clachan, Ont.'s native progress closely for 2½ seasons.

Konency put up numbers in his yearling OHL season, when he was the circuit's rookie of the year. In coach-GM Jeff Brown's grand scheme, he's more of an all-around player, with a reverse Cy Young stat line. With six goals and 33 assists, he's the only only top-10 scorer in the OHL with a single-digit number in the G column.

"You just realize as you go up through the levels, you take advantage of when you're asked to play different roles on different teams," Konecny says. "You never know when it's going to come back up and you're going to need that bit you picked up. I always took that seriously and whenever I had a chance to learn something new, I kept it in the toolbox. And I know someday it will come in handy.

"Maybe that will be right now," Konecny adds. "I'm really excited — it's a honour and something I've dreamed about since I was a little kid, It's going to be incredible and work hard to give myself the best chance of playing on the team."

From an outside perspective, it was mind-blowing to see Konecny linger on the draft board in June until the Flyers selected him No. 24 overall. It is understandable that talent evaluators for the next level would have concerns about a 5-foot-10, 176-pounder who plays a robust game lasting for an 82-game grind. The recency factor might have worked against Konecny, who had a shoulder injury that cost him the end of the playoffs and a chance to play at the IIHF world under-18 championship, the last showcase before the draft.

The world junior is mostly followed through a NHL lens, but wearing the Maple Leaf at age 18 or 19 does not directly correlate with long-term success. For instance, in recent years 67's stars Cody Ceci, Logan Couture, Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli didn't make the cut before getting a foothold in the NHL. The franchise has been graced by another Brendan Bell since the original wore the Maple Leaf at Chrismastime in 2003.

Chances are, Konecny will end that drought.

"Travis is a leader for us and he's a dynamic player that's going to be dynamic at the world championship," Ottawa coach-GM Jeff Brown says. "He is a complete player, kill penalties, forecheck, he can do it all.

"When you get an opportunity to represent your country, all of a sudden you become very much a team guy and do whatever it takes," Brown adds. "Travis, just like a lot of high-end offensive guys, it's not always 100 per cent, 100 per cent. You [as a coach] have to gauge, you have to let them fly, I guess is the point.

"But come playoff time last year, Travis was wonderful as a leader and as a team guy and it's going to be the same thing there. They are getting a guy who can play each end of the rink and in all areas — whatever is asked of him."

While Konecny missed out on last spring's U18, he achieved the unique distinction of earning medals with both the spring and summer under-18 teams in 2014. He supplemented his OHL rookie-of-the-year campaign by being an underage player on a bronze-earning team at the worlds. After the summer break, he captain the team that won the preseason Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. That has him in good stead with Hockey Canada.

"I'm not going to be as nervous, I've been to a lot of Team Canada camps," he says. "You have to approach them as a professional."

As for his six-goal first half, that's a bit of an enigma for someone who's had 26- and 29-goal campaigns in his first two seasons in the nation's capital. Konency entered the OHL with more notice for a NHL shot than for his passing. Regardless, his 33 assists is the most of any player outside of the Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome sectors in London and Erie. He's helped the 67's sit third in the Eastern Conference with a .635 point percentage.

"For his stats to be completely opposite of that is ironic," Brown says. "A lot of it is him making plays and generating offence by shooting and other guys capitalizing."

Conveniently, that does serve a junior hockey narrative — put up the numbers for show, then do everything else in order to play for real dough. The Team Canada invite came on the eve of Konecny catching up with the Flyers organization prior to their game against the Ottawa Senators.

"They just told me, 'get bigger, get stronger, and come back next year prepared to make a difference,' " he says.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @naitSAYger.