Let’s make no mistake about it, the 2015 draft class is ridiculous. When there is so much top end talent available, it’s easily to overlook a player who is slightly off radar, playing in North America’s 4th best junior league, especially when said player wasn’t showcased in the top scouting circuit tournaments.
Kyle Connor hasn’t received as much exposure as many of the other top names in this draft, and as a result this potential future star could slip out of the top 10. I’ll break down his draft year after the jump.
- Age: 17.81 years old at start of season. Born December 9, 1996
- Birthplace: Shelby Township, Michigan
- Frame: 6’1, 183 lbs
- Position: C
- Draft Year Team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
- Accomplishments: 2014 World U-18 Gold Medal, 2014 USHL First-Team All-Star, 2014 World Junior A Challenge Gold Medal, 2015 USHL First-Team All-Star, 2015 USHL Scoring Leader, 2015 USHL Forward of the Year, 2015 USHL Player of the Year
|PCS% 2014||PCS Pts/82 2014||PCS% 2015||PCS Pts/82 2015|
|PCS Most NHL GP||PCS Highest Pts/GP|
|Erik Cole||Paul Stastny|
|Thomas Vanek||Thomas Vanek|
|Paul Stastny||Max Pacioretty|
- PCS = Our Player Cohort Success model. Click here for more information about PCS.
A dynamic two-way center with speed and creativity to burn. Consistently displays elite-level skating ability, and an astonishing top speed. Sees the ice very well and is constantly looking to either score or make a player; the confidence he has in his abilities lets him do things with the puck that other players wouldn’t even try. Skillful puckhandling skills, paired with a deceptively accurate shot, make him a lethal scoring threat. His will to compete and, ultimately, win fuels his defensive game; he tracks the puck well and creates a lot of turnovers. All-in-all, a highly skilled, proactive center that can dominate in all three zones.
His combination of smarts, skating ability and puck skills makes him a very dangerous offensive player because he can make any type of play as the situation dictates. He can speed the game up or slow the game down. Plays with great confidence and projects as a top line player who can complement others.
From Brendan Ross, Dobber Prospects:
Highly energetic USHL pivot with slick puck handling ability, Kyle Connor drives the offense for the Youngstown Phantoms. Connor was a standout for Team USA at the 2014 Under-18 Tournament as an underage forward producing at a point-per-game and he’s clipping along over that rate in his third season with Youngstown. Named USHL Player of the Week for the week ending January 25th, Connor’s four goals and five points in three games added to his impressive season point totals. Connor sits at 19 goals and 48 points through 38 games which ranks him second in USHL scoring. Committed to the University of Michigan next year, Kyle Connor has a bright future as a two-way forward who’s capable of becoming a top line player at the next level based on his superb skating skills, strong hockey sense and driven motor.
Connor has a very short list of comparable players in our PCS database because there have been very few players in USHL history that have scored at the rate he has both in his draft year and his pre-draft season.
In his draft year, he led the USHL in scoring by 9 points while in his 16 year-old season he was 2nd in the league. Players in his 17 year-old cohort included Paul Stastny, Erik Cole, and Max Pacioretty, while his 16 year-old cohort included Colin Wilson, Brandon Saad, and Thomas Vanek. If you make the (pretty safe) assumption that both Matt Nieto and Jason Zucker will hit 200 career NHL games, that would give Connor an 88% PCS% as a 16-year old, and a 100% 17-year old PCS% since 1996 – as close to a guaranteed NHL player as anyone not named “McDavid” or “Eichel.”
To stress test his PCS results a bit, I did a bit of digging into the overall makeup of his Youngstown team, to try to discern whether Connor was really this good, or maybe his results were inflated based on being on a really good team, as is quite common in the junior ranks. This year, Youngstown had one of the better offenses in the USHL, scoring at a 3.9 goals/game clip, but it was clear Connor was driving the bus, contributed on 37% of the team’s total points, and 16% of the teams goals. To provide context, this is pretty comparable some of the top CHL players in this year’s draft, the closest match being Dylan Strome (TmPT% 39.5%, TmG% 11.4%).
What is even more impressive was his results from his 16 year-old season, where the Phantoms had a far less potent offense, scoring 2.9 goals/game, and they had to lean even more heavily on the then 16 year-old Connor (TmPT% 46%, TmG% 19%). He didn’t have the benefit of having team mates of the quality of Connor McDavid, Strome, or Max Domi, and it’s clear he was the one driving the success of this year’s Youngstown team.
Despite the fact that more and more elite players are coming out of the USHL than ever before, there still seems to be a value disconnect for players who don’t play in the CHL or as part of the US National Development Program. Connor is an elite talent that excels at both ends of the ice. He has exceptional skating, puck handling, and hockey IQ, making him a future potential first line center. If you can get a player like that in the low teens, your draft has been a massive success.