20 Prospects in 20 Days: Kyle Connor

(Youngstown Phantoms)

(Youngstown Phantoms)

By: Andy Hughes (@PensNation_Andy)

With only 12 days left until the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida, we will be breaking down a prospect each day up until June 26th. Today, we will take a closer look at forward Kyle Connor.

(NHL.com)

Left Wing Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL), 18 years

Height: 6’1” Weight: 177 pounds, Shoots: Left

RANKED:

NHL Central Scouting: 13th among North American Skaters

TSN: 6th among all players

2014-15 Stats: 56 games played, 34 goals, 46 assists, 80 points, 6 penalty minutes

 

If you’re a big hockey fan from Pennsylvania or Ohio, you may have heard the name Kyle Connor before. Connor has played the last few years for the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL and has improved every season. In 2012-13, he recorded 41 points in 62 games. The next season, he jumped to 74 points in just 56 games. Finally, this past season, Connor dominated the league, notching 34 goals and 46 assists for a total of 80 points in 56 games. He added 3 goals and an assist in 4 playoff games this year as well. Connor earned the USHL Player of the Year Award as he led the league in points and game-winning goals (9). The Michigan native has already committed to the University of Michigan for the 2015-16 season. His 80 points broke his previous record of 74 points for the most points in a season by a Youngstown player. He also won a gold medal at the U-18 World Junior Championship, where he tallied 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 games for Team USA. He’s had plenty of success the past couple seasons, which has put him in a good position to get drafted in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. One of Connor’s biggest assets is his skating. He is extremely fast and can handle the puck well to get around defenders quickly. He’s a very calm player who has the ability to slow the game down a bit to make the perfect pass in tight areas. He’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but he can put the puck in the net  as well. He probably could use his good wrist shot more, but Connor seems pretty happy with setting up his teammates using his good hockey IQ. In addition to his offensive game, Connor has developed into a good two-way player. As a key part of the Youngstown penalty kill, Connor was relied on to block passes and shots in addition to being physical. He did all of those things very well as he always seems to be trying to sharpen his game more. That’s always good to see in a young prospect and I’m sure it will help his draft stock. I typically say this for many players in every draft class, but Connor definitely could bulk up a bit. If he can get stronger, he’ll be even tougher to stop.

Although Connor certainly has the skill to become a first line NHL center someday, the best fit for him would probably be a second line center since he plays well defensively. He’s also an extremely disciplined player, only tallying 6 penalty minutes all of last season. Players like Connor are very valuable in the NHL and any team would be lucky to grab him. He’s been linked to the Florida Panthers (11th) and Los Angeles Kings (13th) in a couple mock drafts. which seem appropriate spots for Connor. Don’t expect to hear his name called anywhere after the 15th overall pick as he should already be taken by then. Connor will be a fun one to watch with the local connection.

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Previously Seen in “20 Prospects in 20 Days”:

Timo Meier
Dylan Strome
Mitch Marner
Mathew Barzal
Thomas Chabot
Evgeny Svechnikov
Mikko Rantanen
Ilya Samsonov