Kyle Connor: The It Factor of the 2015 NHL Draft

by Eldon MacDonald (edited by @ChrisRalphTHW) 

NHL Draft War Room: Kyle Connor

Ranked #13 – March 15, THW’s War Room Rankings

  • Hashtag: #MrIT
  • Team: #18, Youngstown, USHL
  • Commit: University of Michigan
  • Position: Left Wing/Centre
  • Shoots: Left
  • Height: 6’1
  • Weight:182 lb.
  • Born: Shelby Township, MI, 9-Dec-96
  • Twitter: @KyleConnor18



Other Rankings

  • 7 – TSN – Craig Button, Top 100, Mar-15
  • 11 – HP – Top 60, Feb-15
  • 12 – THN – Ryan Kennedy, Top 30, Jan-15
  • 13 – ISS – Top 30, Mar-15
  • 13 – TSN – Bob McKenzie’s Poll of NHL Scouts, Top 60 – Mid, Jan-15
  • 14 – McKeens, Top 30, Mar-15
  • 15 – NHL Combined, Top 305, Mid, Jan-15
  • 17 – FC – Top 30, Mar-15
  • 17 – THW – Christopher Ralph, Top 30, Mid, Feb-15
  • 18 – SN – Damien Cox, Top 30, Mar-15

THW’s Draft War Room: Kyle Connor – “Mr. It”

Eldon MacDonald, THW:  A few words on Kyle Connor:

Mr. It: Red Berenson , the legendary 75-year-old Head Coach at the University of Michigan, once described a player like this, “He had that air about him where he could win games single-handedly. You watched him, and you just knew he was going to be a winner.” Red could very well have used those same words to describe Kyle Connor because he has that air about him too. He has the air of a winner, the air of a difference maker, the air of a competitor and the air of a player who will do the necessary things to make his game even better. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the Youngstown Phantoms late season 17-game winning streak. Each game of the winning streak, Kyle Connor was out there making it happen. You could have been at your first hockey game ever and still see that a certain player was going to do something to make it (the win) happen. That certain player, Mr. It, was Kyle Connor.

Five Reasons Why Kyle Connor Should Be the First USHL Player Selected in the 2015 NHL Draft

  • Carry The Team: Kyle has demonstrated the willingness and ability to make it happen. He has shown that he is the player that the team relies on for the key situations – the last minute, the power play, the comeback surge.
  • Game Control: Kyle excels with the puck on his stick, always seeking out the best lane, the best passing option or the best shooting option.
  • Patience and Elusiveness: Certain players have a patience and elusiveness that sets apart from the crowd as a special player. Kyle is that special player.
  • Willingness to Get Better: Coaches can only do so much to develop a player. The player himself has to have the drive to be the very best in whatever skill he is trying to develop. Kyle has that drive.
  • Compete: Kyle can be like a fly after meat left on the counter during a hot day in summer. He just buzzes out there when there is a puck to be had.


  • Vision and Hockey Sense – These are the prime reasons that Kyle Connor can be considered an elite player. He sees the game at a higher level than most and is always considering the best option to advance his team in the game.
  • Passing – A high end skill, reads the defense and waits until the seam opens before making the pass.
  • Stickhandling – Has the patience and creativity to make good things happen for his team. He is at his best when the puck is on his stick.
  • Skating – Love his start, love how he runs through the gears, love his top line speed – extremely agile as well, excels in moving through traffic like a seasoned taxi driver during rush hour in Mexico City.
  • Shooting – Has the pro trigger necessary to continue to shoot the lights out as he progresses up the ranks. Currently, more of a passer than a shooter, however, the quality of the shot is there.

Defense: Defense is something that Kyle has committed to bringing his game up to elite status. He is already very good at covering his man and helping his defensemen on the breakout. The added strength he has committed to acquiring will help in this part of his game.

Awards and Achievements

  • 2013-14: USHL – First Team All-Star
  • 2013-14: IIHF U18 Tournament – Team USA – Gold Medal
  • 2013-14: IIHF U18 Tournament – Best Plus/Minus (+8)
  • 2014-15: U17 World Junior Challenge – Team USA – Gold Medal
  • 2014-15: NHL USHL Top Prospects Game
  • 2014-15: CCM Forward of the Week in the USHL – 3 times

Improvements to make: Strength is an issue. However, his Coach and General Manager, Anthony Noreen, told that, If you look at him, his body, his frame right now, he’s starting to fill out and look like a man. A big part of that is his commitment in the weight room. Not doing it because we’re pushing him to do it or we’re making him do it; he’s doing it because he wants to do it. I think as long as he continues to do that I expect him to continue to fill his frame out.” Defense is also a work in progress. However, given Kyle’s commitment to make the necessary improvements to his game I think these issues will soon be just part of the steps on the road to being a successful NHL player.

NHL Projection: Kyle is equally adept at left wing or centre. However, when the player’s evaluation says:

  • Tries to carry the team
  • Likes to control the game
  • Has made a major commitment to team defense

I think that evaluation leans more to a centre position in the future as he climbs up the ranks, at least a second line center – maybe a first.

Draft placement: Rankings currently have him 7 to 18 with the majority in the 11 to 15 range. With hockey still to be played and with Kyle’s late season surge to lead the USHL in scoring, top ten could be a reality when the names are called out in Florida this June.

Those In The Know

  • Quote 1: – Anthony Noreen, Coach and General Manager of the Youngstown Phantoms, “He’s not one of those guys that as a coach you have to continually keep preaching about the defensive side, ‘I want you to keep scoring but you got to get better defensively.’ He wants to be better defensively. I think as an elite offensive player you’d be doing him a disservice if you didn’t let him do things offensively … [but] he wants to be a complete player. He wants to be better defensively.”
  • Quote 2: – Mike G. Morreale, Staff Writer, “A fantastic east/west skater with the capability of creating time and space for linemates; he’s the top center on a team that has struggled this season but possesses great vision, puck skills and is the ultimate playmaker. He’s at his best when controlling the puck and seeking out options.”
  • Quote 3: – Bill Placzek, “A responsible up and down centre-wing with excellent skating ability and feel for the attack zone. He is smart with the puck and his soft mitts allow him to hit linemates on the move, or put his hard shot on the net. Finds the open space and creates scoring chances. Has an extra gear that he can hit to get to that scoring lane. Is a patient puck-handler who can slow things down in order to break them open. Needs more credit for being a finisher, as he really can score, even though he is always willing to use his feet and then send a soft pass to a teammate. Not a hard nosed wall player but will engage. Smooth skating winger with soft hands and good instincts.”
  • Quote 4: Draft Buzz“A very decisive player with the puck, Connor has sharpness in his skating and a crisp touch on puck handling, passing, and shooting making him dangerous in the blink of an eye. His rink wide effort and unafraid bee lining to the puck was remarkable to see from such a talented goal scorer. He showed a willingness to dig deep every shift under the spotlight, leading us to believe he has long-term allure and staying power as a well rounded, top player in the 2015 NHL Draft.”
  • Quote 5: Last Word on – Ben Kerr, “Connor is a very good skater, with excellent speed.  He has extremely good stickhandling ability, and can make plays while moving at close to top speed.  He is extremely agile, and uses this and his stickhandling ability to terrify defenders off the rush.  Connor is an excellent playmaker who has the vision to spot the open man, and the skill to make passes through tight areas.  He also is developing a good two-way game.  While he’s not afraid to give, or take a hit, he must get stronger to be more effective at it, and to be better at protecting the puck down low.”



  • Profile 1: – Brendan Ross – 15-Feb-15
  • Profile 2: – Adam Kimelman – 8-Jan-15
  • Profile 3: USA Hockey Magazine – Mark J Burns – Jan-15
  • Profile 4: – Jason Rubinstein – 5-Nov-14