Unless you're a super hockey nerd, there's a good chance you've never heard the name Cory Conacher before roughly three weeks ago.
Conacher's path to the NHL has been less than star-studded. The 23-year old undrafted Burlinton, ON native played four years at unheralded Canisius College, a Roman Catholic institution nestled cozily between Main St. and the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo, NY.
Canisius is a member of the easily overlooked Atlantic Hockey Conference, home of the not-so prestigious hockey programs of Robert Morris, Mercyhurst and Air Force, to name a few.
It was at Canisius that Conacher first made inroads to what would morph into an NHL career. Playing four years with the Golden Griffins, he amassed an impressive 147 points and 1.14PPG scoring average. After graduation, NHL teams still had cold feet and Conacher bounced around the minor-pro leagues, playing in ten games between the AHL's Rochester Americans and Milwaukee Admirals, as well as a quick stint with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones.
In 2011-12 -- his first full year as an AHL regular, he set the league on fire. Eighty points in seventy-five games, second to only Chris Bourque in league scoring. His thirty-nine goals however, were an AHL best and he later contributed another fifteen post-season points as the Norfolk Admirals pillaged their way to a 2012 Calder Cup Championship.
His accomplishments did not go unnoticed, as he was awarded the AHL MVP of the Year and the AHL Rookie of the Year to cap off what an amazing season.
Due to the extended NHL lockout, Coracher's NHL debut was delayed until mid-January, but he has definitely been worth the wait to those who follow the Bolts. With nine points through six games, he is now tied atop the NHL's rookie scoring race with Vladimir Tarasenko and making an early case for his Calder Trophy candidacy.
I guess you can say he has a thing for Calder's.
We caught up with Cassie McClellan of Raw Charge to get an idea of what Lightning fans for their thoughts on Conacher's play thus far:
@tj_maughan Fearless, feisty, a bit hot-headed, intelligent, sees the ice well, as a good a playmaker as a scorer, responsible defensively.— Cassie McClellan (@dagmar27) February 1, 2013
Nevertheless, as his award campaign continues to gain steam, fans of the Jets will get their first look at what 29 other NHL teams missed out on later tonight. Hopefully for Ondrej Pavelec and Co., the results are more positive than they've been in the first two games of this three game road trip.