August 29 2011 02:29PM
Kevin Connauton, the lanky powerplay specialist with both Major Junior and NCAA experience to his name, had a moderate offensive breakout in Manitoba last season as a rookie. With 11 goals and 12 assists to his name as well as a shorthanded tally late in a playoff game against Lake Erie, the former AJHL, CCHA and WHL player had a pretty successful campaign scoring-wise as both a rookie and a defenseman in the AHL.
The Canucks have seldom had success drafting defensemen in the middle rounds of the NHL draft (Brett Skinner, Daniel Rahimi, Kris Fredheim, Zenith Komarniski), but Connauton, taken in the 3rd round at 83rd overall after a pretty good year at Western Michigan University, looks more to settle into the upper tier of mid-round picks. At 6'1" 195 and just 21 years old, the Edmonton has put on some weight over the last year and may have a little more filling out to do.
Christian Ehrhoff's butler told me that the offensive defenseman was becoming a more valuable commodity in the National Hockey League, and at no point in his career was Connauton ever looked at as anything more than a potential even-strength puck mover and powerplay quarterback. The man wields an impressive shot and displays effective patience.
"He was voted as having the hardest shot in the Western Conference by 45 players, management and broadcasters from the 10 clubs in the Western Conference of the WHL" his Hockey's Future profile brags. "His best assets are his ability to make plays from the blue line and his patience and poise while in possession of the puck. Connauton has a smooth stride and good foot speed."
To eliminate all the buzz words and clichés, the important takeaway from the profile is that he has a good shot, can control the puck and is a good skater. Despite the fact that we won't see him for any length of time with the Canucks anytime soon, here are his NHL equivalents over the last three seasons with Western Michigan, Vancouver Giants and Manitoba Moose:
|Season||GP||G||PTS||G/82 - NHL||P/82 NHL|
Not much of a sexy takeaway. His meteorotic spike in the 2010 season was helped along thanks to a terrific Vancouver Giants club under head coach Don Hay. That team has pumped out some impressive names of offensive defensemen, particularly Cody Franson, Andrej Meszaros and Jonathon Blum, all of whom are set to be regular NHLers this upcoming season.
Five goals is the benchmark for any competent offensively rearguard in the NHL, but, given Connauton's age, he'll likely improve. The eagle-eyed reader will note that Connauton's point total is not too far ahead of his goal total which means that Connauton may have some difficulty moving the puck, but as we know, the key to many defensemen's assist total is from the play of the forwards in front of him and their ability to create offense. There weren't a wealth of forwards who could create offense on the Moose last season, so I'm willing to put some money that Connauton's on-ice teammates had a pretty low shooting percentage.
Connauton will likely spend this season in Chicago with the Wolves. It will be his sixth city in six years of upper-level hockey, so the adjustment to a new system under a new coach may take a little more time. Hopefully Craig MacTavish can emphasize the right parts of his game to offer Mike Gillis as a bit of insurance in the unlikely case that six or seven of the Canucks top defensemen go down at some point during the season (like that will ever happen). His constant year-to-year movement is a likely reason why Connauton has turned to the online world to build friendships. His twitter account can be found @k_nauts and it appears as if the young defenseman has gotten off to a good start finding his place within the classy establishments within the city of Vancouver.