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Kyle Connor was part of Team USA’s gold medal winning squad at the IIHF U18 World Championships last spring, putting up four goals and seven points in seven games in the tournament. Connor returned to the Phantoms in the USHL this season and has had an excellent year with 32 goals and 78 points in 55 games. He also played for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge in each of the last two seasons, and won a gold medal in the 2013-14 version of the event. The Shelby, Michigan native is staying close to home for college as he is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2015-16 season. Should he change his mind and go the junior hockey route, he was drafted by the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL.
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Dec 9 1996 — Shelby Township, MI
Height 6.01 — Weight 182 [185 cm/83 kg]
Kyle Connor is an outstanding skater, with excellent speed, first step quickness, and great acceleration. He also has extremely good stickhandling ability, and can make plays while moving at close to top speed. He is extremely agile, and uses this and his stickhandling ability to terrify defenders off the rush. His ability to change speeds is yet another weapon that he can use to beat defenders wide, or to slow things down and open up passing and shooting lanes. Connor could use a bit more strength and balance so that he can be better in board battles and at protecting the puck down low on the cycle game. He doesn’t shy away from physical contact at all, but would be more effective with added strength.
Kyle Connor is an excellent playmaker who has the vision to spot the open man, and the skill to make tape-to-tape passes through tight areas. He is extremely poised with the puck on his stick and can slow the game down and wait for a seam to open up to make that pass to a teammate. He stickhandles well in traffic and avoids defenders. Connor also shows a very good wrist shot and release, but he doesn’t seem to use it often enough. He is much more content to be a playmaker than a scorer. He has good hockey IQ, usually making the smart pass, and also looking to get open when he doesn’t have the puck.
Connor also is developping a good two-way game. He has become an important part of the Youngstown penalty kill this season. Connor backchecks hard, supports his defense down low and has a very good understanding of positioning. He is able to read the play well, and anticipates well, using an active stick to cut down passing lanes. Connor is not afraid to block shots either. He has also worked at improving his face-offs. Again, his game could be improved by continuing to add more muscle to his frame.
Connor could potentially develop into a top line NHL centre if everything goes perfect with his development and he hits his ceiling, however is more likely to be a very good second liner, with a two-way game. His playing style is reminiscent of Nicklas Backstrom, but this is merely a stylistic comparison and not a talent projection.
Here are some videos of Kyle Connor in action.
Check back tomorrow for the #13 prospect on my NHL draft board.