The possibility of the best player in college hockey donning a Winnipeg Jets sweater next season isn't far fetched. Kyle Connor's name has quickly gained some traction as the year has gone on, going from a "really good prospect" to a "you need to check this guy out" type of player.
While everyone knew the Winnipeg Jets' 2015 first round pick had the talent and the potential, nobody expected what Connor would do at Michigan this season. Kyle Connor has simply dominated college hockey and asserted himself as one of the best prospects in the world. As the Jets are ending their season in a direction of evaluation, they are giving young prospects opportunities and trying to see who could stick with the big club next season. While they do so, fans are talking as if Connor is already a certainty on the team next year. A lock to be a huge component to the team.
So, is Kyle Connor ready for the NHL?
Two scouts reactions to that question, poised by Sportsnet's Elliotte Freedman in his 30 thoughts column, basically sums up the consensus. One scout said, "Is that a serious question?" While another said, "Why are you bothering me with this?" What is making people so confident that the 19 year old is ready to make the leap?
Connor's freshman season can be compared to none other than, Jack Eichel. The numbers are dauntingly similar.
Eichel scored 71 points in 40 games ( 1.75 P/PG) while Connor scored 69 points in 36 games ( 1.92 P/PG). Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award in his freshman year, and Connor could take the hardware home as well in his freshman season.
It would raise some eyebrows if Connor didn't win the Hobey Baker. While candidates such as the likes of Harvard's Jimmy Vesey and Yale's brick wall Alex Lyon boast strong cases, none amount to the success Connor has had in his freshman season.
It's still hard to believe this guy was left off Team USA's world junior roster.
His speed and shot are NHL ready, there is no questioning that. Along with that, Connor is a very smart player. He's got a great hockey IQ and he knows when to be in the right spots to make the red light go on. He's a player that can take over a game, but also do the little things right.
Connor's coach at Michigan, Red Berenson, talked about the possibility of his star player turning pro. "(He) would need top six minutes in the NHL ( to turn pro)." He later added. " If they don't think he can play in a top six on a regular basis, then he is better off staying at Michigan"
I'd disagree with this notion. With the way the Winnipeg Jets depth chart is most likely going to line up to be next season, it could be Connor's spot to lose in the top six. That being said, even if starts on the third line and is more of a top nine guy, that certainly doesn't mean returning to Michigan is the right course of action.
Returning to college could stagnate his development. Connor needs a challenge, not to be the alpha dog for another season at Michigan.
Kyle Connor and the Michigan Wolverines take on Notre Dame tomorrow at 5:30 ET in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Watch and find out for yourself if you think he's ready.
Prepare to be amazed if you tune in.