The fast, agile, offensively prolific (but defensively responsible) Kyle Connor is an intriguing NHL draft prospect. A star with USHL Youngstown and a University of Michigan commit, here’s what you need to know about this rising American star.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Shelby Township, Mich.
Current team: Youngstown Phantoms, USHL
Weight: 183 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (North American): 13th
Marek’s Take: High-end skater who gets to top speed fast. Is a gifted scorer who gets himself into offensive situations quickly and has a laser beam of a shot.
Comparable: Riley Sheahan
He’s the USHL Player of the Year
With 34 goals, 46 assists and 80 points in 56 games this season, Connor led the USHL in scoring by nine points and was given top player honours for his work.
The year before, Connor scored 74 points in 56 games, which was second in league scoring, but also set a new Youngstown team record – one that he broke again this season.
He played minor hockey with Dylan Larkin…and outscored him
Connor played on the same Belle Tire teams as Dylan Larkin through bantam and midget from 2009-2012 and finished as the team’s scoring leader in two of those three seasons.
In 2009-10, Connor had 60 points in 31 games, to Larkin’s 52 in 31 for the minor bantam team. In 2010-11 in major bantam, Larkin led the team with 47 points in 30 games, while Connor scored 30 in 31. And finally, in midget, Connor again led the team with 53 points in 40 games, while Larkin only played 20 games and scored 20 points.
Connor’s birthdate kept him from being picked in the same NHL draft as Larkin. Born in December of 1996, Connor missed the mid-September cut-off date by a few months. So while Larkin went 15th overall to the Detroit Red Wings last season, and is currently a prospect being raved about after a strong season with the University of Michigan, it will be interesting to see where Connor slots in a deep 2015 draft.
He’s committed to the University of Michigan
Speaking of the U of Michigan, next season Connor will join the same NCAA team for which his buddy Larkin played. There will be no unification though, as Larkin signed his entry-level deal with the Red Wings in May and will either join the NHL club or AHL Grand Rapids next season.
For what it’s worth, Larkin scored 47 points in 35 NCAA games with Michigan. Beat that, Kyle!
While he won’t play with Larkin at Michigan, he may rejoin another former Belle Tire teammate, Zach Werenski. The 2015 draft eligible defenceman went right to the NCAA this season instead of stopping over in the USHL and his strong season with the Wolverines has him in line to be picked early as well.
The Saginaw Spirit of the OHL hold Connor’s rights in case he decides to change his mind and go the major junior route, but at this point, that would be a shocking turn of events.
His speed is one of his best assets
As we all know, speed is the name of the game in the NHL right now. And if, for some reason, you’re still not sold on that fact, just take a look down the rosters of the two Stanley Cup finalists. Speed rules.
This is where Connor shines. Sure he has the offensive acumen to stand out on the score sheet, but the way he moves on the ice in both the attacking and defending zones is what makes him a really intriguing NHL prospect.
“I like to use my speed to my advantage,” Connor told NHL.com. “I think that’s one of my assets. Use my speed, my playmaking to make the players around me better and just produce offensively and be held accountable in the defensive zone.”
Added Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen: “He’s a solid two-way player and plays hard in both zones. Nice stride and quickness and good in tight with the puck. Saw him against the [United States National Team Development Program] U-18 team and elevated his game against them and wants the puck. And when he gets it he makes things happen.”
And of course, Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen had glowing reviews about his star pupil: “The thing about Kyle is he’s just as fast with the puck as he is without it,” Noreen told NHL.com. “If you give him an inch, he’s going to beat you. And once he beats you you’re not going to catch him.”