In a draft that has been hailed for a Connor at the top of the board, it is a fitting coincidence that one of the top USHL entries shares a name. Youngstown Phantom and Michigan commit Kyle Connor is a scoring forward to watch in the first round.
Connor took home USHL hardware in May as he was named the league's Player of the Year and Forward of the Year. He was the USHL's regular season scoring champion with 34 goals and 80 points in 56 games. He also recorded three goals and an assist in four playoff games. He'll be off to the University of Michigan in the fall, wrapping up his USHL career with 82 goals and 113 assists for 195 total points in 174 career games.
In 2013-14, Connor was the USA's only non-NTDP skater to take part in the U-18 World Championships. He had four goals and seven points in seven games and captured a gold medal.
As a player, Connor is a high-skill scoring forward. He possesses great speed and puckhandling ability. Those skills in tandem with a good hockey IQ and creativity on the puck have led to such a high level of production. His complete game took big strides in his third USHL season, as he grows into a 200 foot player. The defensive progression combined with his offensive ability will make him an exciting prospect for many.
At the next level Connor will have to improve his strength and continue to round into form as a two-way player. He has great speed but the ability of NHLers to take away time and space means he'll need to get stronger to hold his own in tight spaces. The two-way development is a natural next step for a player of his skillset. Coaches at the pro level are notoriously wary of the one-dimensional forward. If Connor is to make the leap and have a long career, he'll have to evolve his 200 foot game. The good news is he has shown plenty of evidence that he can become that player.
Expect Connor to be taken in the first half of round one at the NHL Draft.