Last Saturday, the University of Michigan won the Big Ten Conference Tournament with a 5-3 win over Minnesota in the championship game. The Wolverines were led by superstar freshman forward Kyle Connor, who won both the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year Awards shortly before the Tournament started. In the semifinals of the Tournament, Connor scored four goals in a 7-2 win over Penn State. In the Championship game, Connor scored a goal and recorded three assists to help the Wolverines secure their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012. Connor was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Kyle Connor College Career: Should He Stay?
Going into this weekend’s NCAA Tournament regional, Connor has scored 35 goals and recorded 34 assists for a total of 69 points in 36 games played this season. He leads the nation in scoring and is the frontrunner for this year’s Hobey Baker Award. If Connor wins it, it will be the second consecutive year a freshman has won the Award, as current Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel won it last year as a freshman at Boston University.
The Winnipeg Jets drafted Connor with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Connor had spent the previous three seasons playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League (USHL), where he scored a total of 195 points in 174 regular season games.
After such an incredible season, should the Kyle Connor college career continue Michigan and or should he sign a professional contract with the Jets?
There’s evidence of college hockey players leaving school after a stellar freshman season and going on to have successful NHL careers. Look no further than last year with another freshman phenom for Michigan, Dylan Larkin. Before he was a Calder Trophy candidate with the Detroit Red Wings, Larkin scored 47 points in 35 games last year as a freshman at Michigan and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Last May, after helping Team USA win a bronze medal at the IIHF World Championships, Larkin signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings, forgoing his final three years of college. There is also Jacob Trouba, who left Michigan after his freshman year in 2012-13 and signed a contract with the Jets. Trouba has gone on to star on the Jets blueline.
Of course, Connor’s availability to sign a contract will depend on if Michigan makes it past this weekend in the NCAA Tournament or not. Whatever the case, this will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on in the future.