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Flyers pick Konecny wins inaugural McGuire Award

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Ottawa 67's center Travis Konecny, a first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, was named Saturday as the first recipient of the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence.

The award will be presented each year to the draft-eligible prospect who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.

It was created in honor of E.J. McGuire, who served as NHL director of Central Scouting for seven years before dying of cancer in April 2011. A head coach at the collegiate, junior and American Hockey League levels, an assistant coach for three NHL teams over 12 seasons, and a scout for two teams, McGuire began serving as director of Central Scouting in 2005.

The award was announced on the second day of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center after roll call by Jim Gregory, who served as director of Central Scouting for many years before becoming Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.

"We are excited to announce this year's very qualified recipient and to know that going forward each year an elite draft prospect will be recognized as the pinnacle of his draft class in Edward John (E.J.) McGuire's honor," Central Scouting's David Gregory said.

Konecny, who served as captain for the 67's in 2014-15, said getting motivated to excel was as simple waking up in the morning.

"My parents pushed me that way so every time I get up I ask myself 'What are you going to do?," said Konecny, who was selected at No. 24. "Will I put in hard work that day or slack off. You always got to think there's someone pushing harder than you and that's the way I look at it. I'm going to push hard every day and give myself every opportunity to be my best and make the NHL."

In two seasons with the 67's, Konecny (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) had 55 goals and 138 points in 123 regular-season Ontario Hockey League games.

"He's one of those high-character players, who brings skill, competitiveness, and he can play virtually in any situation and deliver, so he's a player the coach can trust because he leads by example," said Dan Marr, NHL director of Central Scouting . "His teammates trust him. He has high character and no maintenance and he's got the skills that he can contribute."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall coveted Konecny. He moved up five spots to No. 24 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to secure Konecny.

"He's got the heart of a lion, and that's huge for us," Hextall said. "I didn't think we had a chance to get him, and we got a call and acted on it quick."

The Flyers traded their No. 29 and No. 61 picks to Toronto to acquire the No. 24 selection.

Konecny, selected No. 1 in the 2013 OHL draft by Ottawa, got off to a slow start in 2014-15 with three goals and 12 points in the first 18 games. In NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the draft, he was No. 26.

"That was definitely a learning experience for me; when you're going into your draft year and have all those expectations for yourself and then you see yourself drop a little bit, I think it's a humbling thing," Konecny said. "It helped me a lot and made me realize you need to work hard and stay focused, enjoy hockey. Once I got back to having fun and doing the little things, my stock started to go back up again."

He finished the regular season second on the team with 68 points (29 goals, 39 assists) in 60 games. He had 26 goals and 56 points in his final 42 games and was No. 14 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He was voted 'Best Skater' and finished second in the voting for 'Best Stickhandler' in the OHL Eastern Conference coaches' poll.

He had three goals and 10 points in five OHL playoff games.

"It's humbling," Konecny said of being drafted by the Flyers. "It's an amazing opportunity and the fan base there is unbelievable. I had a chance to see it last year at the [2014 NHL Draft]. It's the Philadelphia Flyers, they're a great team and I'm just really looking forward to being a part of it all."

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