After totaling 50 points in 56 games last season, Kyle Connor also led the Winnipeg Jets in goals, demonstrating why he is one of the best players on the team. His 26 goals ranked ninth among NHL scoring leaders in 2020-21. In 2019-20, he recorded a career-high 38 goals and 73 points in 71 games. Connor is looking to smash those marks in 2021-22. With a full season ahead and his recent rate of production, he could put up well over 90 points this season, playing on the top line.
After he was drafted 17th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, Connor dominated at the University of Michigan and became the first freshman since Thomas Vanek in 2002-03 to record over 30 goals. It was evident at a young age that he was a pure sniper and would have little trouble transitioning to the NHL. He’s flown under the radar for much of his NHL career and is underrated, but in the last four seasons, he has scored over 30 goals three times. During the 2019-20 season, he was on pace to score 40 or more goals if the NHL hadn’t suspended the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Connor’s focus this season is to lead the Jets, he will also look to represent the USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. He has played in international competitions three times before, but this would be his first Olympic Games. During the 2013-14 World Junior Championships, he recorded seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games, helping Team USA win the gold medal. He also had two goals and one assist in five games during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup that same year, and he donned the US jersey at the 2016 IIHF World Championships in Russia as well.
ICYMI: Kyle Connor (@KyleConnor18) was named #40 on the @NHLNetwork top 50 players!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) September 7, 2021
KC hit 5️⃣0️⃣ points in 5️⃣6️⃣ games last year. How many do you think he’ll hit in 2021-22? 👀 pic.twitter.com/YgagADngUa
Connor has developed his confidence and skills over the past five seasons in the NHL and would be an asset to Team USA. He knows how to put the puck in the net, which should put him in a top-six role on the team. He might also be joined by Jets teammates Connor Hellebuyck and captain Blake Wheeler on the USA roster.
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Connor Solidifying Himself as a Top Winger
Connor has proven that he can compete with the best goal scorers in the NHL, including Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, and Sebastian Aho. As Pierre-Luc Dubois gears up for his first full season with the Jets, head coach Paul Maurice could play him alongside Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers. But playing Connor on the wing with Mark Scheifele at center and Wheeler on the opposite side seems like the best option.
He has also been successful on the power play, scoring 10 power-play goals last season to rank fifth among NHL skaters and three assists. He will likely be used on the first power-play unit again this season, which should help him set new career scoring highs.
The Jets and Connor are about to embark on another exciting season. It will mark the first time in over a year that teams from the USA and Canada will be able to play each other during the regular season. Throughout 2021-22, Connor will focus on continuing to be the offensive weapon that he has been in recent years. Additionally, he will compete to earn a position on Team USA.
Connor has successfully become the Jets’ top goal-scorer, and if he can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit. Watch for him to assert himself as a top point producer in the NHL this season. As one of the Jets’ most used forwards, he will have lots of chances to surpass his career highs. The return to the familiar Central Division shouldn’t be a problem and if he is able to find his form early, Connor will surely have a career-high season.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.