Monday, June 22, 2015

2015 NHL Draft Preview: Kyle Connor Write-Up

I apologize for the long time since the last update, my computer decided it wasn’t going to cooperate with me…it actually broke down but I’m still working on accepting that. I got the chance to go to Toronto and visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, among other things, in the beautiful city for the week. It really is a wonderful city. Below are the links to my previous player write-ups:

-Mathew Barzal
-Denis Guryanov
-Rasmus Andersson
-Mikko Rantanen
-Pavel Zacha

Either way, I’m here with the next prospect profile. Over time I have gotten more used to the idea of taking him with the 6th overall pick for the Devils. He is really ranked all over the place, as high as #5 and as low as in the late teens in terms of draft projections. In terms of projected players, General Manager Ray Shero said to be ready for anybody in case they are picked. This means that he is keeping the door open to selecting a defenseman at #6 overall, most likely Ivan Provorov or Noah Hanifin (if by some act of God, he falls to that point). Honestly I’m not putting too much thought into this because while the Devils are rebuilding, the defense is pretty much set, and there is very good depth in terms of defensive players and prospects at the NHL, AHL, NCAA, and now CHL levels…especially with the most recent signing of Vojtech Mozik to an entry-level deal. If anything, this could be an attempt to get a team to try and pay a little extra to move up to 6th overall. I’m sure it would be great to add another second round pick or forward prospect to a team that desperately needs youth and offense like New Jersey. I don’t think Lou Lamoriello would have hired Ray Shero if Shero didn’t want to address the team’s need for offense.

However, without any further ado, here’s the next player profile we will look at today:

Kyle Connor
Height: 6’1”
Weight:  184 lbs
Position: C
Shoots: Left
Team (League):Youngstown (USHL)
ISS rank: 13
CSS rank: 13 (NA Skaters)
FC rank: 12
THN rank: 11
Statline for 2014-2015 Season:  56 GP, 34G 46A 80P 6PIM, +3, 1.43Points/Game

I feel like Kyle Connor hasn’t been getting as much attention or hype because of the league he plays in. The USHL is overall a lesser talent team than the Canadian Hockey Leagues (OHL, WHL, QMJHL), but it is also a very difficult league to score points in overall. At scoring almost 1.5 points per game is a practically offensively-stifling league is very impressive, especially considering that he wasn’t even playing for the offensive powerhouse of the USNDP, which plays against the USHL teams. Connor outscored his second highest teammate by 16 points all while playing two less games than him (Maxim Letunov – the 2016 Boston U. commit and 2014 2nd round St. Louis draft pick).

Where should I start with Connor? He’s incredibly fast. He’s made significant progress this past season in how he developed his offensive game. It used to be only off of the offensive rush (by his speed), but this past season saw an improvement in his offensive cycle game. Connor is an exceptional talent in the offensive zone in terms of playmaking and scoring goals. He has elite skating ability and, as I mentioned earlier, very high level speed. He has a very high level of “Hockey IQ” and thinks the game through very well. It is through his combination of speed, skill, shooting, passing, and high intelligence that makes him a very dangerous player.

This season with Youngstown (his third season with the team/in the league), Kyle Connor earned the award for USHL Forward of the Year, USHL Player of the Year, most points in the USHL, and USHL First All-Star Team (he was also awarded this honor last season as well). Additionally, Connor was the second highest scoring player in the USHL last season (his pre-draft-eligible season), scoring 74 points (31G 43A) in 56 games.

Poistionally, Connor played as the top-line center for Youngstown last season, and is committed to playing for the University of Michigan next season, where he has the opportunity to step right in as their top-line center, if he can take it away from rising senior, and New York Rangers 2nd round pick in 2012, Cristoval Nieves. There are questions as to whether or not his game will be better suited as a winger in the NHL. My opinion of the matter is that he’ll make a fantastic center.  In terms of areas of improvement for him, I don’t think there are any stand-out issues to his game. If anything, the league he plays in is the biggest cause of concern, and it’s not even that big of an issue in my opinion. Like many prospects his age and progression, he needs to add more muscle to his frame to help improve his game, as well as build up more lower body strength to help propel his game forward to be NHL-ready. It’s best if he brings the same level of focus and intensity to U of Michigan that he had in Youngstown. Overall I believe the best way for Connor to improve is to build even further off of the already very impressive toolset he does have.

Defensively, Connor is excellent. He positions himself well in his own zone. He is able to balance himself between defending the man and defending a zone, and he does not lose his man defensively. His quick hands, good reads, and speed allow him to be dangerous in his own zone as well, potentially sparking a quick break-out.

The thing I really like about Kyle Connor is his overall ability in all three zones as well as his role as not only a creative playmaker but a goal scorer with his deceptive shot. While my computer is not quite fixed yet, I really wanted to try and get this report out there because of the possibility of the Devils selecting him. I think he really fits the bill well for GM Ray Shero’s new vision for the team being “fast, attacking, and supporting”. While Shero did not necessarily mean physical speed moreso mental speed, Kyle Connor brings both to the table. In terms of attacking, he has solidified himself as a potentially elite scoring talent. Finally he is an extremely supportive player when he does not have the puck, in any zone. Many scouts who have interviewed him describe him as a “team-first player”, which is always the types you want to build around.

It’s interesting because his game is almost a combination of Mathew Barzal and Pavel Zacha’s, in the sense of combining high-end playmaking ability (though not as good as Barzal) with an elite goal-scoring ability (though not as high as Zacha). I put the parentheses notes to make sure we don’t let all the horses out of the barn with Connor. He serves as a good balance point between the two prospects. I think Connor might be this year’s Dylan Larkin – not in terms of playing style, but relatively unknown U. Michigan commit playing in the USHL that will make many teams regret passing over to pick him.

There are questions as to whether or not he will be worth a 6th overall pick, but I believe Connor will be a top-line center at the NHL level, and I think that is worth a selection that high. In any other draft, I think Connor would be getting looks to be a top 3 pick, but he just so happens to contend with McDavid and Eichel this year. I am excited to follow Kyle Connor wherever he goes in his career, and look forward to tracking his progress at University of Michigan next season.

I hope you enjoyed my preview of Kyle Connor. Draft Day is only a few days away and I’m really excited as to what will happen! If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see me write about, please let me know!

Follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more updates.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment