Prospect of Interest: Standout Connor Zary a well-rounded centre

Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

Connor Zary will join Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan and Scottie Upshall as the latest Kamloops Blazers forward taken in the first round of the NHL Draft.

Zary has shown throughout his junior career that like the players mentioned above he also has the potential to make an impact at the NHL level.

NHL Central Scouting describes him as a smart, competitive player who’s fast and skilled on both sides of the puck – comparable to players like Bo Horvat or Derick Brassard.

Zary finished the 2019-20 season as the 15th-ranked North American skater. Here’s what else you need to know about the skilled forward.

Team: Kamloops Blazers
Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Age: 19 (Sept. 25, 2001)
From: Saskatoon
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 178 pounds

Was on one of the top lines in junior hockey

Zary finished tied for fifth in scoring in the WHL with 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games this past season yet he didn’t even lead his team in points. Zary centred one of the most dominant lines in the CHL, skating in between Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo. The three combined for 258 points (111 goals, 147 assists) with Franklin’s 91 leading the way and Centazzo chipping in with 81 himself on a Blazers team that finished with a 41-18-4 record to lead the WHL's B.C. Division.

“Those guys are really good players and when you surround yourself with good players, it’s just going to make yourself better no matter whether it’s in practice battling against those guys or in games,” Zary said of his linemates back in January. “We found a lot of chemistry at the start of the year, so it’s really been going good and it takes a lot of pressure off me being in my draft year to have guys around me supporting me.”

Comes from strong minor hockey program

Before being selected by the Blazers and making his WHL debut in 2017, Zary played for his hometown Saskatoon Contacts. That program has also developed the likes of Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, Darcy Kuemper, Blake Comeau, Chandler Stephenson and Colby Armstrong among others.

Many of Zary’s good habits were developed with the Contacts and Zary considers himself a versatile forward.

“I think I’m a guy who could be used in multiple situations, a guy who could fit in different areas up and down the lineup,” he recently told The Province.

https://youtu.be/ZRwE4ZmeGx4

What do the experts say?

Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino: “High compete level and character who moved up the rankings due to higher than expected offensive production. … Super smart, energetic player who handles pressure well. In-tune with the defensive game and should produce at NHL second-line pace. … Remarkably consistent performer in all three zones. Never had a stretch of more than one game where he went pointless.”

NHL Central Scouting’s John Williams: “Connor has been a good player in the WHL for some time now, but this year I wanted to see him take a step and be a dominant player. He can beat you one-on-one, reads the play well and is real good on the penalty kill. He's more quick than fast, and is elusive in tight.”

NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale: “Zary has taken steps this season as a dominant two-way player who shows patience with the puck. He tied for fifth in the WHL with 86 points, tied for third with 15 power-play goals and tied for fourth with three shorthanded goals.”

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