— Kyle Connor (@KyleConnor18) April 11, 2016
The bluechip prospect signed a three-year, two-way Entry Level Contract with an average annual value of 1.75 million dollars, thus ending his collegiate career and beginning his professional level career.
With 35 goals, 36 assists, and 71 points, Kyle Connor lead the NCAA in scoring as a freshman. He matched Jack Eichel’s impressive freshman scoring the year prior, although with two less games played and at about 10 months older.
Some have used the weaknesses of the Big10 Conference as a reason to diminish Connor’s accomplishments. It should be noted, however, Connor still scored 8 goals and 12 assists in 16 non-Conference games, which Connor mostly did at the start of his rookie season while on his team’s second line.
His 1.25 point per game pace in non-conference games is also higher than Jack Eichel’s 1.15 non-conference point per game pace, and Eichel was allowed to feast on the weaker Big10 Conference in some of those games… so maybe we over estimate the impact of playing in “weaker conferences.”
Oh shit, Boston could get Barzal, Connor, and Kylington here
— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) June 27, 2015
The Winnipeg Jets were pretty lucky to draft Kyle Connor at 17 overall. It’s not normal for talent of Connor’s level falls to that late in the draft. Usually high quality players like Connor drafted outside of the top-10 are players with issues like size or are late bloomers who develop well beyond typical expectations.
Connor was a well established talent heading into the draft. He had lead the USHL in points two seasons in a row. The PCS drafting system (developed here by Nations Network individuals and since purchased and made proprietary by the Florida Panthers) placed Connor as a top-five talent, suggesting that over 50% of players that perform like Connor in the USHL make the NHL for 200+ games.
If you limit the talent pool to those who played since 1996, Connor’s 17-year-old PCS rises to suggesting 100% of players, with statistical cohorts ranging from Max Pacioretty to Paul Statsny.
It wasn’t surprising to us then that Connor gave the best performance for all freshman in the NCAA. Matching Eichel’s 71 points and leading the league in scoring though was a bit surprising.
So the Winnipeg Jets once again drafted a player that had no reason being picked as late as they were, with thanks given to the Vancouver Canucks for Nikolaj Ehlers and the Boston Bruins for Kyle Connor.
What should we expect of Kyle Connor? Well, probably something similar to what the Jets saw this season with rookie sensation Nikolaj Ehlers.
Ehlers made the Jets straight out of camp and started the season in the Jets top-nine. He spent much of his time playing with the Jets best and put up an impressive 1.5 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 icetime. He didn’t always get to play with the Jets best, however, and sometimes was stuck with noted anchor Chris Thorburn. In ~200 5v5 minutes Ehlers put up only 2 points while with Thorburn, and many wrongfully were suggesting other teams were figuring Ehlers out. His point pace away from Thorburn was an even more impressive 1.7 points per 60 minute pace.
Like Ehlers, Connor is ready for the NHL despite his size. While Connor’s height at 6’1 is actually about average for NHL forwards, Connor weighs about 180 lbs and has a lot of room to fill out his frame. Due to their playstyle though, neither are overly dependent on strength in order to contribute. Both players separate themselves from defenders using high-end speed, rather than overpowering their opposition with their strength. This is why someone like Ehlers was able to make an impact right away despite some scouts comments on him needing to put on weight to play in the NHL (and are saying this now on Connor).
There are some very large differences. While both are incredibly fast scoring wingers, Ehlers is a far more noticeably dynamic player. Ehlers had a tendency to wow players every time the puck was was on his stick, while most fans may end up wondering how Connor is scoring as much as he does when he is in the NHL. Ehlers likes to carry the puck as much as possible, while Connor usually lets his linemates carry and instead operates as a trigger man to get set-up.
So, welcome Connor to the Winnipeg Jets. We’re pretty excited to see what you can do next season.