Conor Timmins first reported to the Colorado Avalanche's 2017-18 training camp after being selected in the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. From day one, the defenseman made it clear that he was ready to play.
"A couple of years ago as a young player when he came in to play for us in training camp and in exhibition, I mean we had discussions about him playing for our hockey team," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "That's how good he was and what we felt through camp and through exhibition. He had been slated for an exhibition game or two, I think he probably played four or five and got better as the camp went on."
Despite the strong showing, the Avs' coaching and management staff thought Timmins would be best served by another year in junior, so he spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Timmins also represented Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship that season and helped his country win a gold medal.
Unfortunately, Timmins missed all of the following campaign after suffering a head injury in the OHL Playoffs, but he was back and ready to go at the beginning of 2019-20. Timmins was one of the best defensemen during the club's training camp and eventually made his NHL debut with the Avs on opening night against the Calgary Flames.
Video: Conor Timmins on being at the Avs' training camp
The 21-year-old played two games with the Avalanche before spending the rest of the season up the road with its American Hockey League affiliate, the Loveland-based Colorado Eagles. Timmins battled several injuries again with the Eagles but still wrapped up a solid first pro campaign with 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 40 games played.
Timmins was healthy when the AHL announced it suspended and eventually cancelled the remainder of 2019-20 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, but his season wasn't over just yet. He was invited to training camp with the Avs as part of Phase 3 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan and has constantly been involved in the team's top defensive units during recent practices.
"It's been kind of a tough couple of years," he said. "I haven't had a lot of opportunities to play a lot of games, so any time I can be around the rink and get extra reps, especially with these guys, is great for my development. It's going to be really cool to be on this run with these guys."
With now a year of pro hockey experienced, Timmins is vying for a spot on the Avalanche's 31-man playoff roster and an opportunity to travel to Edmonton, Alberta, and compete with the squad.
Bednar stated that Timmins is certainly being considered for a spot on the team, and the rookie defenseman says he knows that he's got to perform at his best at camp to earn playing time once games return.
"To be honest, I haven't had a ton of discussion with the coaching staff yet," Timmins said. "Obviously, I know what's expected of me and I just have to go out there every day and work hard and play my best."
He's making an impression, too, building off of the comfort that he already established with the squad. Timmins spent a lot of time during the 2018-19 season--the year when he was unable to play competitive hockey--as a non-contact participant in Avalanche practices and with the Eagles. That time helped him become more familiar with the day-to-day operations of the organization.
"I know Timmy quite a bit," said veteran Avalanche blueliner Erik Johnson. "He's a good guy, and I'm a fan of his game. He's worked hard since coming back from his head injury, so it was unfortunate that he missed all of last year and then, now part of this year too. He's kind of playing catch up, but he looks really good and I know he works hard and he has a good attitude and I've been trying to help him as much as I can. He's got a really big future, and he looked good out there [this week] for not playing a lot of hockey over the last couple of years."
The Avs have to set their Stanley Cup Qualifiers roster prior to leaving for Phase 4 on Sunday, and the club has an exhibition game scheduled against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday before its first round-robin matchup on Aug. 2 against the St. Louis Blues.
If Timmins continues his hard work, he will certainly be on Colorado's roster and ready to make an impact on the ice whenever he gets the chance