Welcome to our eighth and final player profile for the 2015 Draft. If you missed our seventh profile, you can check it out by clicking here. Each profile will document a 2015-draft eligible player that the Panthers could pick based on their draft position, which we now know to be the 11th pick.
The final prospect that we will be highlighting is Kyle Connor, a left-wing or center on the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League. Keeping reading for more on this potential pick for the Panthers.
Kyle Connor is 6’1” and 180 lbs and he is currently playing for the Youngstown Phantoms. In 2012, he committed to playing college hockey with the University of Michigan and he would be eligible to do so next year, but this may be sidetracked if the team he is drafted to believes that he is NHL-ready. He was drafted to the Youngstown Phantoms in 2012 as a 15 year old and has steadily progressed with each season with the team. He had 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points in 62 games in his first season with the Phantoms (2012-2013). He was the 4th-points leader on the Youngstown Phantoms that year. In the 2013-2014 season, he earned 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points in 56 games. He was the USHL’s 2nd leading scorer as a 16 year old, behind only Omaha’s Jake Randolph. This season, he had 34 goals and 46 assists in 56 games for a total of 80 points. He became just the 3rd player in USHL history to score 50 goals before he turned 18. He also was recently named the USHL’s Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year. His gameplay earned him 13th place in Central Scouting’s most recent and final ranking of North American players. Before joining the Youngstown Phantoms, Kyle Connor had spent time on the Belle Tire Minor, Major, and U-16 teams located in Chelsea, Michigan. Connor has also played for Team USA on 4 different occasions and has won 2 gold medals in that time. In 20 games with Team USA, he has scored 9 goals and 8 assists, for a total of 17 points.
Kyle Connor is a scrappy player who is known for weaving in and out of his opponents’ reach in order to score, despite his lanky build. He is a great two-way player who can easily compete in both the defensive and offensive zones. He has been played as a center in recent years but he shoots left and would also be able to play left-wing. He also clearly has no trouble scoring. In fact, he was the leader in points in the entire USHL during this past season with 80. The next highest total was 71 by Adam Johnson, so there wasn’t even competition. He was also 2nd place in shots with 256, which shows that he is not afraid to shoot the puck. Plus, his 13% shooting percentage is not too shabby. Although he is often overlooked because the USHL doesn’t get as much attention as say the OHL, Connor is a fast player and a smart player. He knows how to shoot, he knows how to score, and he knows how to get to the net in general. He has a “Hockey IQ” that is higher than most of his age. He is smart and makes calculated decisions on the ice, and this organization shows in his point totals year after year.
How Does He Fit In with the Panthers?
Kyle Connor is projected to be chosen between the 12th and 15th spots, but some mock drafts even have him being chosen in the top 10. With the Panthers having the 11th spot, many believe that there are other more eligible players that could be chosen before Connor. Yet, he really does seem to have many of the qualities that the Panthers are looking for. He is fast, which is important for the Panthers who have recently been lacking speed and cannot rely on solely the future of Quinton Howden to fix that. He also knows when to shoot the puck (whenever he can!), which is beneficial to the Panthers because many of the young players have struggled with shooting the puck. Recently, Jaromir Jagr has had to teach Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to shoot the puck instead of passing it because they can’t score if they don’t shoot. This would not be a problem for Kyle Connor. The Panthers need a player who can dismiss all of the cute tricks and is able to drive the puck to the net and score. Connor may not have pretty goals but he sure does know how to score some goals. Kyle Connor happens to be the leading points scorer in the entire USHL, which is no small feat. This can be extremely helpful to the Panthers, a team that has the talented players but is struggling to score. The Panthers certainly have the talent in both their young guns and their veterans to be able to compete for a playoff spot. Yet, they had trouble scoring throughout the season and had many games where they only scored one or two more goals. The team is looking for a player who simply knows how to score. The Panthers are loaded with centers right now and although Kyle Connor usually plays center, he is also comfortable on the left-wing. If he is drafted by the Panthers, I can see Jonathan Huberdeau being a beneficial mentor for him. The two have similar playing styles and Connor may even end up joining the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau in the rankings. More than anything, the Panthers need left-wingers. Kyle Connor may be their guy. Connor is young and small in size (although large in stature) and still has a lot to learn. He may not be the most NHL-ready player and it is unclear whether he will strive or fail in a more competitive environment. Yet, he does possess many of the qualities that the Panthers are looking for in a draft pick and could be a potential choice for Tallon in late June.