Colorado Avalanche Draft Profile: Hockey Smart Connor Zary

The Colorado Avalanche wouldn’t mind if two-way pivot Connor Zary fell to their #27 selection in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The Colorado Avalanche are back. A handful of skaters are practicing at the Pepsi Center as part of Phase 2 of the NHL’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The focus is on the playoffs and a deep Cup run — if not the hoisting of Lord Stanley’s Cup in some highly unusual but completely legitimate circumstances.

While everyone in the Avs organization is sure to have an eye on the Return to Play, there’s a group of men whose main focus is elsewhere. That’s the team’s scouting stable, and they’re sure to have their attention on the upcoming draft.

The NHL had floated out the idea of holding the 2020 NHL draft this month, June, even though it was before teams had finished the season. Team GMs seemed to universally quash the idea, so it appears the draft will be held after the Stanley Cup is awarded — late September if not October. (Gives a while new meaning to “Is it October yet?”)

The Colorado Avalanche, being #3 in the NHL and a solid Cup contender, don’t have a high draft pick in the first round. In fact, they’ll be choosing at the #27 position.

It’s hard to say if center Connor Zary will still be available at that time. Central Scouting has him ranked at #15 for North American skaters. He’s slated to go anywhere between #13 to #24 in the draft, so he’s not expected to be around at #27.

You never know what will happen, though. So let’s look at the 6-foot, 181-pound center.

Connor Zary Statistics

Connor Zary, who is a late September baby so will turn 19 before the draft takes place, has played three years in the WHL for the Kamloops Blazers. His rookie year was about as you’d expect — 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 68 games. Next season he did a sight better — 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) in 63 games.

This last season, his draft year, was even better. In 57 games, he recorded 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points. Very impressive. He also represented Canada at the WJC-18. He earned 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) in 7 games.

Connor Zary Highlights

Scouts praise Connor Zary’s hockey IQ. Here’s what Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst says of him:

“He’s an intelligent two-way center who provides support in a variety of ways, including subtle touch or bank passes in the defensive zone that leads to swift breakouts. Playmaking is just one of his distinguishable assets, as he can deliver precision passes from either his forehand or backhand.”

The scout also mentions that, while Zary is a gritty, tight-checking forward, he’s still a skill player.

Dayton Reimer of the Hockey Writers also sees much to praise in Zary:

“Boosting his strong offensive instincts is Zary’s hockey IQ and work ethic… He often plays in high-danger situations, using his playmaking abilities to set up easy goals with perfect passes, or digging out his own rebound to pop it into the net. He also possesses a strong defensive game, making him an effective two-way player and a mainstay on the Blazers’ penalty kill.”

Indeed, more than one scout mentions his strength at the two-way game.

Let’s look at what Connor Zary has to offer:

You can definitely see his playmaking abilities.

Connor Zary and the Colorado Avalanche

As noted, center Connor Zary is likely to go before GM Joe Sakic has a chance to call in his selection in what’s sure to be a virtual draft. And he doesn’t appear to be the kind of player whom the team would trade up to acquire.

Scouts did tout Zary’s skating ability, so if he did fall and the Avs picked him, he would get left behind. He’d eventually be an asset to the team.

That said, Zary is sure to return to the WHL for a final season, which works just fine for an Avs team that’s pretty stocked on offense anyway.

The Colorado will select a first-round player this season who won’t see NHL ice time for at least a couple years, because that’s how it works when you’re a Cup contender. And I don’t think Avs fans will complain.

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