Flyers’ 6th-Round Pick Connor McClennon Is Proving to Be a Draft Steal

The Philadelphia Flyers drafted right-winger Connor McClennon in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. According to Dobber Prospects, less than eight percent of sixth-round picks during the decade between 2000-2009 played 100 or more NHL games. The majority of the sixth-rounders in recent seasons are still playing at various levels below the NHL. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher assumed very little risk with his selection. He opted for a player with high upside who could’ve gone in the first three rounds if a collarbone injury hadn’t slowed him down during his draft year. 

Connor McClennon Winnipeg ICE
Connor McClennon of the Winnipeg Ice (Zachary Peters)

In two seasons since he was drafted, McClennon has shown the potential that led experts to project him in the earlier rounds. He regained his form as a top-six scorer for the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the shortened 2020-21 season with 33 points in 24 games. He has continued the prolific scoring with 15 goals and 14 assists in just 20 games played in 2021-22.

McClennon Improving Prospect Outlook

The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner corner recently discussed McClennon’s reemergence as a prospect with legitimate NHL potential. Matthew Zator complimented his role as a strong two-way player with an excellent shot. The biggest concern about McClennon has always been his size. The 19-year-old is just 5-foot-8, 161 pounds. Zator pointed out his gritty style of play at the junior level that helps make up for his lack of size. This characteristic has helped smaller wingers overcome size disadvantages in the NHL in recent seasons. 

McClennon has played on lines with high-level talent at the junior level. The Ice are dominating the WHL early in the season with a 19-1 record and a prolific offense. Matthew Savoie, a projected top-five pick in the 2022 draft, and Conor Geekie, another projected first-round pick in Montreal this summer, center their two top lines. Carson Lambos, the 26th overall selection to the Minnesota Wild in 2021, also plays on their blue line. Peyton Krebs, who recently went to the Buffalo Sabres in the Jack Eichel trade, played on the same line as McClennon at points during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

Future with the Flyers

Playing with prolific talent at the junior level can potentially inflate stats against lower-level opponents. The Athletic ranked McClennon outside Philadelphia’s top 20 prospects this summer because of concerns about his ability to score at the NHL level against the best competition in the world (from The Athletic, Top 20 Flyers prospects: Cam York, Morgan Frost and Egor Zamula headline The Athletic’s 2021 offseason rankings, 9/7/21). However, he has developed a shoot-first mentality and a habit of going hard to the net. The style allows him to capitalize on the advantage of having playmakers around him. If he can continue the development of good habits, he still holds the potential to play a secondary scoring role in the NHL.

Related: Flyers’ 3 Untouchable Prospects for 2021-22

Prior to the 2020 draft, he pointed out his experience with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as a way he was able to prove his ability to play outside the top six in “more of a shut-down role” and as an energy player. He also revealed after he was drafted that he emulates the game of Travis Konecny, a smaller winger who can grind out pucks in front of opponents’ nets and in other tough areas and score with top playmakers on his line. McClennon will need to sign an entry-level contract with Philadelphia by June 1 to avoid becoming a free agent. The Athletic predicted that his performance in 2021-22 would “decide his future with the organization.” After 20 games, the Flyers have to be happy with the progress of their potential sixth-round steal.