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Conor Timmins aims to make passion pay off with Avalanche

Defense prospect hopes to represent Canada at 2018 World Junior Championship

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A confirmed rink rat, defenseman Conor Timmins is preparing to turn what he describes as a lifelong hobby into an NHL career.

The Colorado Avalanche selected Timmins, 18, with their second-round pick (No. 32) in the 2017 NHL Draft. One of 22 prospects attending development camp this week, Timmins only wishes he could spend more than the few hours allotted for each day at the practice facility.

"I like to spend a lot of time on hockey," said Timmins, who had 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) in 67 games this season, his second with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. "This is my hobby, it's what I love doing. It's a hobby as much as it is work for me.

"Even my first year in the Soo, it'd be 7 o'clock at night and the coaches would have to tell me and my roommate to go home because we were just hanging around the rink for so long and enjoying ourselves. I think it's a good quality to have and will probably benefit me."

Timmins has grown up around hockey rinks. His dad, Dan Timmins, owned and coached the junior B Thorold (Ontario) Blackhawks in their hometown.

Video: Avalanche draft D Conor Timmins No. 32

"I learned so much from him," the younger Timmins said. "He coached me throughout my whole career, so he's definitely been a big influence on me. He played defense, and that's probably the reason I got into it. I've loved it ever since."

Timmins will return to Sault Ste. Marie for a third season, where his goals are to continue to improve his game and develop into a leader.

"One more year should be good for me," he said. "I'll try and take a leadership role with my team, continue to develop as a player and put the team on my back. Hopefully, in another year, I'll be able to take the next step in the NHL or [American Hockey League]. I want to play a solid two-way game and replicate the year I had before, show that it wasn't a fluke."

Timmins, 6-feet-2 and 184 pounds, said he wasn't surprised by his breakout season, his first in the OHL. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 60 games in 2015-16.

"I expected it," he said. "I knew I had a pretty good offseason last year and I was coming into my second year with a lot of confidence. The season before, I wasn't putting up as many points because I was relying more on defense. Now that the offense is coming, it's nice to have both assets."

The Avalanche are trying to upgrade their prospect pool, especially on defense, and used the No. 4 pick on Brooks defenseman Cale Makar.

"These are the kind of guys down the road that the Avs need," said Alan Hepple, Colorado's director of amateur scouting. "[Timmins] is a puck-moving, puck management guy. He can control the game. He's ultra-smart, he thinks the game very well.

"He's maybe not the biggest, most physical guy, but he's always in the right place. He's a guy with offensive ability. He can play on the power play, he can kill penalties because he is smart enough to get himself between the puck and the net."

Timmins and Makar have been invited to attend the Hockey Canada camp in Plymouth, Michigan, in July hoping to earn places on Team Canada's roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo.

"It's been a pretty busy summer," Timmins said. "I had the [NHL Scouting] Combine, the draft, this camp and then next month Team Canada's camp. I'm hoping to seize the opportunity and make a good first impression and see what happens in December."

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