PHILADELPHIA – The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club selected center Conner Bleackley with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft held tonight at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Bleackley, 18, played in 71 games with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League this past season, leading the team with 68 points and finishing tied for the team lead in goals with 29. The 6-foot, 197-pound forward began the 2013-14 season with eight goals and 19 points in his first 15 games, surpassing the total of his entire 2012-13 campaign—his first in the WHL—where he scored 18 points (9g/9a) in 66 games.
Named Red Deer's captain in November 2013 at 17 years old, Bleackley had one assist in one playoff game this past season; a one-game tiebreaker against Prince Albert for the final seed in the WHL Eastern Conference.
"One thing that attracted us to Conner is his hockey sense and strength on the puck," said Avalanche Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Pracey. "We like his versatility, as we have seen him play all three forward positions. Being a right-handed shot, he potentially addresses a need on the right side on our organizational depth chart. We think he is a responsible two-way player, and his leadership qualities were a positive factor. It is very rare to see a 17-year-old captain of a major junior team. Other key quality traits we liked were his competitiveness and instincts."
The High River, Alberta native was an alternate captain on Canada's bronze-medal winning team at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship where he recorded two points (1g/1a). He also wore an 'A' on his chest for Team Pacific at the 2013 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, picking up four points (3g/1a) in five games.
Bleackley played 62 games in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League with the Okotoks Oilers Bantam AAA team from 2009 to 2011. He also recorded four points (2g/2a) in four games and won a gold medal at the 2011 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup with Team Alberta.
He lists his favorite team as the Avalanche and his favorite player as Joe Sakic.
NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald says, "He deserves every point he has with his strong work ethic and decent size. He hustles every shift, and is not afraid to get in on the forecheck and make things happen. He's solid with smart positioning, and he pays attention to detail at both ends of the rink.”
The NHL Draft resumes tomorrow (Saturday, June 28) with rounds 2-7 beginning at 8 a.m. MT. NHL Network will provide live coverage beginning at 8 a.m. MT.