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NHL Draft: Youngstown's Connor named USHL player of the year

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets


Youngstown Phantoms forward Kyle Connor, a projected first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was named the United States Hockey League Player of the Year and Forward of the Year this week.

Connor, who led the USHL with 80 points in 56 regular-season games, broke his single-season Youngstown record for points, which he had set last season with 74. His 34 goals and 46 assists ranked second in the league, and he led the USHL with nine game-winning goals and 32 power-play points. Connor also had three goals and four points in four playoff games.

"Being named both player and forward of the year is a great honor," Connor told the Phantoms website. "It all goes back to my teammates and coaches this year always challenging and pushing me to be better. After the season we had two years ago we wanted to come back strong and they pushed me every day on the ice and in the weight room."

Connor (6-foot-1, 177 pounds) is the first player from Youngstown to win either the USHL Player of the Year or USHL Forward of the Year. He is the 21st player in league history to win both awards in the same season.

"This is definitely the best junior league in all of North America and any team can win on any night," Connor said. "This league is a tough league but it does an excellent job of developing players and getting them ready for the next level."

The 18-year-old left-handed shot is No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Connor, who is committed to attend the University of Michigan in 2015-16, next will participate in the NHL Scouting Combine, scheduled June 1-6 in Buffalo.

"To prepare for the NHL Scouting Combine I will train with Rich Tremblay at Athlete Strength and Performance in Michigan," Connor wrote in his NHL.com draft blog. "I will train to get ready for next season and also do specific exercises to prepare for the Combine as well."

The native of Shelby Township, Mich., also was recognized by USA Hockey as the Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year as the top American-born player.

"It was a special year for Kyle and he took tremendous strides as a 200-foot player while also being the most productive offensive player in the League," Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. "He will certainly be missed in Youngstown because of the way he played on the ice and how he carried himself."

Connor closed his USHL career with 82 goals, 113 assists and 195 points in 174 regular-season games.

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