Conner Bleackley THW Close-Up
Date of Birth: July 2, 1996
Place of Birth: High River, AB
Ht: 6’1” Wt: 196 lbs
Position: Center/Right Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2014
It’s rare for an underage player to truly emerge as an on-ice leader for an established Western Hockey League club. But that’s exactly what Conner Bleackley did this season. One of the youngest members of the 2014 draft class by virtue of his July birthday, Bleackley emerged as one of the most consistent players in the Dub. He was the Red Deer Rebels’ leading scorer and was 40th in the entire WHL in points, despite spending the entirety of the season as a 17-year-old. Unlike a lot of players his age, Bleackley just seemed to “get it” this year.
Bleackley may lack a single elite attribute, but he’s quite strong all-around. He’s solid in his own zone, has good offensive instincts and showed an underrated killer instinct this season on an opportunistic Rebels team that had to be that way to survive with little pure fire-power. And on a team that didn’t score a ton, Bleackley managed to get on the scoreboard most of the time. (Granted, a lot of his goals came on the power-play.)
More impressive about Bleackley are arguably his versatility and leadership. He played in every situation for Rebels head coach Brent Sutter. He was team captain for the Rebels as a 17-year-old. He’s worn letters for Team Canada at the U-17s and U-18s. And he’s not even 18 yet, and he’s played over 150 games in the Western Hockey League. As an extremely young player, Bleackley plays with maturity, poise and consistency.
If he can continue to grow, and can continue to learn good habits under veteran coach Brent Sutter in Red Deer, Bleackley has the talent and the intangibles to become a consistent contributor at the NHL level.
“Conner Bleackley is learning to use his size and speed this season to get in quickly on the forecheck and play a more physical game. Bleackley has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. He shows the ability to drive hard to the net, and has good balance and strength on his skates to fight through checks and battle in the dirty areas of the ice, in front of the net and in the corners.”
–Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports
“Conner is a determined, competitive player who doesn’t take any shortcuts. He’s smart, gets to the right areas and is a catalyst for positive plays all over the ice. He doesn’t allow himself to be denied!”
–Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting
Bleackley represented Team Pacific at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge – winning silver – and Team Canada at the U-18 World Championships – winning bronze.
Risk 1/5, Reward 3.5/5
Second or third line center.
- Strong work ethic.
- Good skater.
- Good offensive instincts.
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
- Could add a bit of muscle and physicality to his game.
- Defensive instincts aren’t quite as well-formed as his offensive side.
- Relied too much on extra time and space of power-play to produce offense. Needs to take more charge 5-on-5.
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive 8/10, Defensive 7/10
NHL Player(s) Comparison:
A good comparable for Bleackley is Derek Stepan.
When He’ll Go In June:
Bleackley projects anywhere from the late first round to sometime in the second round.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.