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They've Got Their Spot

After stellar preseasons, Provorov, Konecny make Flyers roster

by Brian Smith | PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

It was a wakeup call 14 years in the making.
 
And it wasn't like Ivan Provorov was going to wait, either. After a Sunday evening meeting with Flyers GM Ron Hextall in which he and Travis Konecny were told they'd made the Flyers roster, the first thing Provorov did was call his father - despite the fact that it was 4 AM back in Yaroslavl, Russia.
 
"He couldn't fall asleep after," Provorov said. "I couldn't sleep till late last night either. It was pretty exciting."
 

There was similar joy in the Konency household back in Ontario, which at least was in the proper time zone for such a notification. While there were no reports on the quality of sleep, Konency described his father as proud and his mother as near tears.
 
"It all just came into one moment with my family," Konecny said. "My brother's going to be the biggest fan in the building. It's going to be awesome."
 
Hextall made it publicly official on Monday, announcing that both players would be on the Flyers' opening-night roster when it's submitted to the NHL on Tuesday. Konency led the Flyers in scoring during the preseason and Provorov showed poise beyond his years on the blue line. But a trip back to juniors wasn't out of the question until Hextall made it so.
 
With that came the culmination of two very different roads. For Konecny, Ontario born-and-bred, it was countless trips across the 401, an east-west highway connecting many of the province's bigger cities that's been a well-worn path for maybe hundreds of NHLers as they played their youth hockey. He started in his hometown of Clachan, a rural town that's roughly due north of Cleveland, and then made a name for himself when he joined the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs in Komoka. Two years later he was drafted first overall by the Ottawa 67s in the 2013 OHL Priority Draft.
 
For Provorov, it was a path previously worn by perhaps nobody. It all started with a decision at the age of 13 to leave his friends, his family and his life in Russia and travel to the other side of the world in pursuit of a dream, but not to Shattuck St. Mary's or Avon Old Farms or someplace like that, but to Wilkes-Barre, of all places, and the Bantam level of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. From there, it was off to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the United States Hockey League before landing in the Western Hockey League in Brandon, Manitoba.

 
Those paths were linked at the 2015 draft, when they both became first-round selections of the Flyers. Provorov went 7th overall, Konecny 24th. It was actually Konecny that took home an award the very first day as winner of the first E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence from NHL Central Scouting. Accolades kept coming in - both played in the World Junior Championships, and Provorov finished last season as the defenseman of the year in Canadian junior hockey.
 
"We've been together since the draft," Provorov said. "We're really good friends and he's a great player. We have a good relationship."
 
For all the talk surrounding the Flyers' current roster issues, Hextall made it clear that they had nothing to do with the decision to keep either player.
 
"Those kids, they made this team on their own," Hextall said. "They're not on the team because anyone felt like politically or anything else. This is not, 'OK, [Brayden Schenn is] suspended so let's keep Travis because Schenner's suspended.' I don't think it's fair for a young player. Our whole thing with Travis and Ivan is, 'Are they ready to be here the whole year?' We feel like they are."
 
And that was another firm point by the general manager - that the Flyers aren't keeping either around for the extended look that's permitted by NHL rules like they did with Scott Laughton at the start of the shortened 2012-13 season. He expects both players to be in for the long haul, which was a relief for them to hear.
 
"That was the biggest thing for me in that meeting," Konecny said. "Obviously I still have to perform and do what I had to do to make the roster each and every day. But hearing it's not a nine-game tryout kind of gave me the relief to relax a little bit, settle in and just play my game and have fun and enjoy the moment."

 
Konency and Provorov will be welcomed by their new teammates, who were impressed across the boards by both of them.
 
"Those kids in this camp played unbelievable," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "They bring a lot of skill and talent, but also a lot of hard work. They're two really mature kids, and I'm looking forward to playing the whole year with them."
 
Sean Couturier, who's forecasted to start as Konency's center, feels his new linemate is in a good spot.
 
"He never really played the left wing before, so it's a little bit of an adjustment for him," Couturier said. "He's getting better every day. I'm just trying to encourage him, trying to keep him positive. He's been great. He's been asking questions, whether it's system-wise or whatever. He wants to get involved, he wants to get better. So that's a good thing. That's what you want to see."

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