Each day over the next 10 days leading up to the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, held on Oct. 6–7, The Rink will be taking a look at draft prospects who could be available when the Chicago Blackhawks announce their selection with the 17th overall pick. We will group the players by position, starting with forwards.
Next in the series of prospect profiles is Canadian center Connor Zary.
2019–20 Team: Kamloops (WHL)
Date of Birth: Sept. 25, 2001
Place of Birth: Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 178 pounds
NHL Central Scouting Final Ranking: 15 (North American Skaters)
NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking: 12 (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable: Bo Horvat
Nothing flashy, but highly effective. That would be a pretty good way to describe the game of Kamloops center Connor Zary. The pivot is quite well-rounded despite not particularly standing out in any given area, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Zary can do a bit of everything offensively, as he possesses a quality shot with a quick release. His puck handling and creativity allows him to make something out of nothing, while his vision and hockey sense help him find and set up teammates for high-danger scoring chances.
Zary’s 200-foot game is strong, as he is very reliable and sound in his own end. His hockey smarts help him anticipate plays well and he uses a good stick to clog up passing and shooting lanes.
Perhaps the best part of Zary’s package is his high compete level. Zary is a very motivated player, looking to do whatever he can to make an impact on each shift. Zary’s work ethic makes him a natural leader and his passion for the game is evident.
Arguably the only knock on Zary is his skating, which many would describe to be average at best. While his mobility has not hindered him to this point, it will certainly be something to keep an eye on as he continues to develop. If Zary can improve in this area, he could become a dangerous two-way threat.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Unlike some of the other prospects covered thus far, saying Zary would be available at 17 is not a stretch. While he certainly could be selected sooner if a team likes him, the likelihood of him still being on the board is a lot greater than some of the other forwards highlighted. Though some would say he is worthy of being picked in the top 15, most would say he is likely to go somewhere around 20 give or take a few picks, so should the Blackhawks want him, he will likely be there for the taking.
Zary will need to improve his skating before contributing at the NHL level, so expect for him to return to the WHL this upcoming season. If he makes progress, he could be able to turn pro in 2021–22, as the other areas of his game would certainly be ready to go at that point. But, his team could take the slower route to ensure he is absolutely ready to make the jump, which could see his debut delayed to 2022–23.
Zary’s offensive tools do give him legitimate upside, but whether or not he will reach that potential remains to be seen. He can likely be expected to develop into a middle-six option that could take on a more prominent role as a scorer if his skating improves, but if not, he can likely become a decent third-line player capable of contributing at both ends of the ice. Either way, Zary is the type of player every team wants to have on its roster. Zary is listed as a center, but could end up playing on the wing in the NHL if his skating is not up to par.
What others are saying
“A top-notch competitor with a nose for the net, Zary was the heart and soul of an improved Kamloops team that improved significantly from last season. 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. Strong and well-balanced, Zary displays deceptive quickness and requires only two or three strides to accelerate to top speed and become an open-ice threat.”
“Connor Zary is one of the older players in the draft class, but has led the WHL in scoring at times. He is a player who does everything well, but nothing really great. The complete game allows him to be a difference-maker for his team in all three zones.”