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BSH 2020 Community Draft Board, No. 11: Connor Zary

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2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

After a Finnish center playing in the Liiga was taken with the 10th overall pick we have another pivot up next, as WHL forward Connor Zary has been selected 11th overall in our Community Draft Board. The 6’0” 181-pound skater is coming off his second straight WHL season with 24 goals or more while finishing second in goals and points on the Kamloops Blazers, the club that led the 22-team league with 271 goals. Regarded as a two-way center without any major red flags, Zary has been labeled a safe pick by some but that would be a little unfair to his offensive upside. With that said he doesn’t really have a skill that puts him above and beyond the competition, which may lead him to potentially dropping a bit in the opening round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. However it works out if the Philadelphia Flyers end up with a chance to grab him at 23rd overall they shouldn’t think twice.

BSH 2020 Community Draft Board, No. 11: Connor Zary

2019-20 Season:

Team: Kamloops Blazers, WHL

Statistics: 38g, 48a in 57 games

Pre-draft rankings

No. 15 (NA skaters) by NHL Central Scouting

No. 17 by Future Considerations

No. 15 by ISS Hockey

No. 13 by Wheeler/The Athletic

What’s there to like?

Everything about his offensive side of the game. Zary has a great wrist shot, isn’t afraid to rip the puck on net from anywhere, is able to create for himself or his teammates, and has a nose for the net. He has a well-rounded game and is able to dictate play while creating several scoring chances on a nightly basis. Zary’s ability to produce shots and goals will be what helps to sell his game at the next level, as his 62 goals over the last two seasons is the most for a first-year draft-eligible player in the WHL. On top of that his 257 shots on goal in 2019-20 were the fifth-most in the league and the most for a draft-eligible skater as he averaged 4.5 shots-per-game and provided six shots on goal or more in 18 of his 57 tilts last season.

He got to that shot total thanks to his ability to find soft areas in the offensive zone while helping to create passing lanes for his teammates. Zary consistently found open space at 5-on-5 and the Blazers leaned into the forward’s shooting capabilities on the power play, as one of their successful setups on the man advantage last year was letting Zary find open space in the left circle before a cross-ice pass from the opposite point set him up for plenty of opportunities to unleash his wrist shot from a high-danger area. The center also threw a few in the back of the net on the penalty kill as well to highlight how his coaching staff also trusted him in defensive situations as well.

What’s not to like?

There’s some concern centering around Zary’s skating. You can see his somewhat awkward stride when he’s pulling away or even with somebody in an odd-man rush situation. He has enough speed that he is still able to pull away from the competition in the Western Hockey League, but it’s fair to question whether or not his current skating capabilities will hold up at the professional level. That’s something Flyers’ fans have heard before, so he shouldn’t be written off right away if the Orange and Black pick him, but it’s safe to say if he doesn’t hit his potential in the NHL his skating most likely had a hand in it.

How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?

Perfectly. Zary is a pretty straightforward player who just gets as many pucks as possible to the net as a shoot-first two-way forward. With a current roster that features plenty of pass-first players and a prospect pool with more of the same, a skater with an above-average shot who consistently uses it would be very welcomed. There are a few Flyers’ prospects that are expected to be dynamic forwards in the NHL (Morgan Frost and Bobby Brink) that are pass-first, but not nearly as many forwards that are considered goal scorers first and foremost. On top of that a few goal scorers in the prospect pool, like Wade Allison (injuries) and Isaac Ratcliffe (six goals in 53 games during his first pro season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms), have provided Philly fans with reasons to doubt their likelihood of NHL success. Zary wouldn’t jump Frost as the Flyers’ prospect with the biggest expectations of success at the highest level, but he would most likely become the franchise’s most promising up-and-coming goal-scoring threat.

Could the Flyers actually get him?

There’s a chance. Zary is expected to go in the middle of the first round, but every year at the draft there is a player or two that unexpectedly slides surprisingly deep in the first 31 selections. Travis Konecny should have been long gone before the 24th overall pick in 2015, a few Flyers’ fans wanted Eeli Tolvanen 27th overall after the Finnish forward inexplicably dropped in 2017, and Cole Caufield scored 72 goals in 64 games in 2018-19 before going 15th overall last year. Zary may not be in the same class as these three in terms of pre-draft hype, but it’s three notable instances of players with desirable traits most franchises are always looking to add yet they all fell. At this point in time it seems as though Zary will be off the board by the 23rd overall pick, but if a couple teams ahead of the Flyers raise a few eyebrows with their selections then Philly has a chance to nab him.

2020 BSH Community Draft Board

  1. Alexis Lafreniere — LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
  2. Quinton Byfield — C, Sudbury (OHL)
  3. Marco Rossi — C, Ottawa (OHL)
  4. Tim Stützle — LW/C, Manheim (DEL)
  5. Cole Perfetti — LW/C, Saginaw (OHL)
  6. Lucas Raymond — RW, Frölunda (SHL)
  7. Jamie Drysdale — D, Erie (OHL)
  8. Alexander Holtz — LW/RW, Djurgardens (SHL)
  9. Yaroslav Askarov — G, SKA (KHL)
  10. Anton Lundell — C, HIFK (Liiga)
  11. Connor Zary — C, Kamloops (WHL)