Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Connor Zary.
A late 2001 birthday, if Connor Zary was born a week earlier he would have been eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. He was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in the second round, 37th overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. After breaking out in 2018-19 with 24 goals and 43 assists for 67 points in 64 games, as well as four points in four playoff games, Zary has been even better this year. He put up 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points in just 57 games for Kamloops. He even scored the coveted Teddy Bear Toss goal for Kamloops in December. Zary also played in the CHL Top Prospects game, recording three assists.
Zary has also shown his skills on the international stage. Last spring, he put up four goals and three assists for seven points in seven games for Team Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships. The Saskatoon-native also played for Team WHL in the Canada-Russia Super Series, picking up one assist in two games. Zary represented Team Saskatchewan at the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup in 2016-17, picking up one goal and one assist for two points in the five-game tournament.
Connor Zary Scouting Report
Center — shoots Left
Born September 25th, 2001 — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm/82 kg]
Zary is a good skater, if somewhat unconventional. His stride can be a bit short and choppy at times, but this doesn’t seem to take away from his speed. He is still above average in terms of his top-end speed and he reaches that quickly with good acceleration. Zary also has very good agility and edgework. This helps him to get around defenders, both with and without the puck. Strong backwards skating also helps him to play a 200-foot game. Zary has a strong stride, that helps him to fight through checks and get to the dirty areas of the ice. It also helps him to work along the boards. If he can improve his lower body strength, this will improve even more going forward.
Zary is at his best working in the dirty areas of the ice. He gets to the front of the net both with and without the puck. From there he can bang in a rebound, deflect a teammate’s shot into the net, or one-time a quick pass on goal. He can produce points in the dirty areas of the ice. Zary is willing to battle for loose pucks along the boards. He is also good at creating pressure on the forecheck, forcing opposing defenders to make quick decisions and capitalizing on their mistakes if they don’t. Zary’s stick-handling is strong and he protects the puck well on the cycle and makes plays in the slot. He has good vision and passing skills allowing him to set up teammates for scoring chances.
Zary can also score with a good wrist shot or snapshot. His shots are hard and accurate They also feature a quick release. Zary is a smart player who anticipates the movements of his teammates. He gets open without the puck and sets himself up to take that pass, fire that puck on net, or quickly keep it moving and get it to a teammate. He often makes the smart play with the puck on his stick.
Zary plays a two-hundred-foot game, as he is not afraid to be involved in his own end. He brings good back-pressure and helps his team’s defencemen down low. He supports his teammates against the cycle game. Zary also uses his high-end hockey IQ in his own end. His positioning is solid, he reads opponents well and he has the anticipation and an active stick necessary to create turnovers. He is also willing to play physically along the boards or in front of the net. Zary does the little things right and helps his team to win games. He is willing to put his body on the line to block a shot. He is also strong in the faceoff circle. Zary is a natural leader and his teammates follow his on-ice example. He can also play against opponent’s top lines and on the penalty kill.
Projection and Comparison
Zary is the type of player who will be loved by his coaches, no matter where he is playing. His solid all-around game means that he can be used in any situation, from the power-play to the penalty kill. If Zary reaches his potential he can be a top-six centre at the NHL level. He will likely find himself back in the WHL next year, continuing to work on his skating and mature physically. He could also be part of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Following that, as a late birthdate, he will be eligible for the AHL in 2021-22. He will likely need those two years before he is NHL ready. Zary’s game is reminiscent of Bo Horvat. This is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skills and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Connor Zary that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Connor Zary Main Photo:
KELOWNA, BC – NOVEMBER 16: Connor Zary #18 of the Kamloops Blazers skates against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on November 16, 2019 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)