Sorry, Flyers Twitter, Travis Konecny Is Not A Proven Core Player
In case you didn’t know, Travis Konecny is having a magnificent season to date. In 35 games this season, Konecny has accrued 21 goals and 22 assists for 43 points.
I wrote this article yesterday, and then Konecny decided to play another game. And add two more points to his season total.
Over an 82 game season, that amounts to 49 goals and 100 points. That is a stellar number. Those are the numbers of a superstar.
Because of the numbers he’s produced to date, the discourse around Flyers Twitter usually revolves around him being a core player. Someone who absolutely must be kept throughout this rebuild, and be a player who is built around.
After all, the general rule for a rebuild: move everyone except players who figure to be part of your core in 5 years.
One potential casualty of that rule? Ivan Provorov, as you can read about below:
But surely a 25 year old breaking out as a superstar figures to be part of your core in 5 years?
Yes. In a general sense, that is exactly right. A player like that is a core player.
Here’s the problem: we have no reason to believe Travis Konecny is actually that guy.
WARNING: These stats do not include the most recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, though the changes are likely to be gradual if anything.
Over the years, data inclined people have devised a number of ways to decipher genuine breakthroughs from simple hot streaks. The first, most simple means of testing?
Of the shots that player takes, how many of them–by percentage–end up resulting in a goal. Now, it isn’t enough to just look at a player’s shooting percentage and say, “Wow. That’s high. Too high to last.”
You have to look at the totality of their career, and if the player’s shooting percentage is way higher than career norms? They are almost certainly due for regression.
Here are Travis Konecny’s shooting percentages in every season of his career:
Career Average: 12.3%
Notice how one of these years is not like the others? Travis Konecny is converting shots into goals at nearly a 20% clip. The NHL average for a forward is 9%. Shots are falling for Travis Konecny at over double the rate they are for the average forward.
The only time Konecny has held a shooting percentage anything close to this was in 19-20, which was a 66 game season–and as we’ve seen in recent years–was not sustainable.
The highest mark Konecny has scored at over a full season is 13.6%, a number he dearly duplicated to a tee in the next year. So it’s a safe bet that Konecny can convert at a 13% rate when he’s on the top of his game.
He sure as hell can’t keep converting at a 20% rate.
The 50 goal pace he’s on? He won’t meet it. A goal drought is coming, and may not even hit 40.
A second way of separating breakthroughs from hot streaks?
On-Ice Shooting Percentage:
While the last number measured a player’s individual shooting percentage, this number measures how many shots turn into goals for either yourself or any of your 4 teammates. Assists, after all, can also be a product of hot streaks and cold spells.
If shooting percentage told us when a player’s goal pace isn’t passing the sniff test, on-ice shooting percentage tells us when point totals aren’t passing them either.
Here are Konecny’s on-ice shooting percentages through his career
Career Average: 9.7%
See the pattern?
Because of the higher raw count–all the shots taken while you’re on the ice as opposed to all the shots you take–the difference in on-ice shooting percentage has less variability over the years.
After Konecny’s rookie season, he stayed flat at 9.7% almost invariably. There are only two exceptions. A one percentage increase in 19-20… where he was spectacularly lucky. And a one percent decrease in 2021-22… where he was spectacularly unlucky.
Then there’s this year, where he and his teammates are shooting a ridiculous 12.7%. That is three percent departed from his average, and two percent more than his lucky 19-20 season!
Travis Konecny is pacing for 100 points, but there’s pretty much 0 percent chance he actually hits that number. Regression is coming. If it doesn’t come this year, it is sure as hell going to come next year.
And next year–as well as the years beyond–happens to mean a lot to the Flyers.
But Derek, what if more shots are going in because he’s producing more quality shots than before?
Fantastic question. Fortunately, we have a means of testing that too!
Individual expected goals tracks every shot a player takes, and assigns a value based on the location of the shot that is meant to depict how likely a goal is to be scored on that shot. If a shot is worth 0.2 expected goals, you can think of that shot as having a 20% chance of scoring a goal.
Expected goals aren’t perfect, and they can’t calculate every valuable. But they are a good way of seeing if players are actually generating quality shots.
In this case, it’s a good way of seeing if a player is generating more expected goals this year than they have before.
So, how about it? Is Konecny generating more quality shots, or just getting really lucky?
Here are Konecny’s individual expected goals generated per 60 minutes of ice time, in each year of his career
2016-17: 0.83 xG/60
2017-18: 0.91 xG/60
2018-19: 0.82 xG/60
2019-20: 0.83 xG/60
2020-21: 0.76 xG/60
2021-22: 0.95 xG/60
2022-23: 1.0 xG/60
Here are Konecny’s individual actual goals per 60:
2016-17: 0.67 G/60
2017-18: 1.19 G/60
2018-19: 1.15 G/60
2019-20: 1.3 G/60
2020-21: 0.83 G/60
2021-22: 0.69 G/60
2022-23: 1.82 G/60
Here is his goals above expected per 60:
Again… doesn’t one of those numbers look A LOT higher than any of the others?
Doesn’t one of those numbers look even higher than the outer outlier number, which we had proven to us as a lie over 2 years?
Don’t fall for the bullshit.
Travis Konecny has proven nothing. He has solidified himself as a very good hockey player. But unfortunately, this team isn’t in a position where 25 year old “very good hockey players” are of paramount value.
If Konecny truly has taken another step and reached superstardom, as his base stats so far would suggest, it isn’t showing up in any single underlying metric.
Travis Konecny is failing every single “sniff test.”
And unlike another guy whose breakout didn’t necessarily pass a sniff test but turned out being real, Tage Thompson of the Sabres, Konecny is an established player with a track record.
There was no way of knowing just how good of a finisher Tage is, because he had only ever played 100 some games in the NHL before he broke out.
Travis Konecny has already proven he’s a good finisher in the NHL. What he’s never done is prove he’s a great finisher, and I don’t see him magically figuring that out after 7 full years in the league.
And he sure as hell isn’t the Mario Lemieux like historic finisher that his current base numbers suggest.
Travis Konecny is no more “untouchable” than anyone on this roster.
Mandatory Credit: Emilee Chinn