The latest in a series on some of the top prospects of the Dallas Stars looks at defenseman Kevin Connauton, who is expected to be in the mix for a roster spot this season.
The Stars acquired Connauton just prior to last season’s NHL trade deadline in the deal that sent center Derek Roy to the Vancouver Canucks. Connauton, who had been playing with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Chicago, was assigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he picked up 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 9 regular season games. He then led Texas in postseason scoring with 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 9 playoff games.
“He can skate, he’s got good speed. He’s got a good shot and he likes to jump in the situations,” said Texas assistant coach Doug Lidster. “Like most young defensemen, he needs to continue to work on his play without the puck. That’s what makes the position so difficult.”
The 23-year-old Connauton, who played forward until his Junior A days, is an offensive defenseman. He put up big offensive numbers in juniors, registering 72 points (24 goals, 48 assists) in 69 games with Vancouver of the WHL in 2009-10. He’s tallied 87 points (33 goals, 54 assists) in 215 AHL games.
He won the hardest shot contest at the 2012 AHL All-Star Game with a blast that clocked in at 99.4 miles per hour. One of his best assets is his ability to move the puck quickly out of his own end.
“You’ve got to get pucks up quick,” said Connauton. “The longer you have it the more time you are letting the other team set up and letting them close in on you, and you never want to find yourself stranded with it. Getting the pucks up and letting the play stay in front of you is important.”
Connauton, Vancouver’s third round pick (83rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft, has had an interesting development path. He played one season at Western Michigan University, moved to the Western Hockey League for one season after being drafted by the Canucks and has spent the past three seasons in the AHL.
He was thought to be close to the NHL when he was in the Canucks organization and the Stars believe he’ll be in the mix for a roster spot in 2013-14.
“I hope so,” said Connauton. “I’m confident in myself and that’s my goal – I want to play in that league. I’ve had a couple years pro to develop and I think that plays to my advantage.”
“He’ll have a real good chance at our team. We’ll give him every opportunity to make the big club,” said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “He’s had a good first few years at the American Hockey League level. He’s big, he has some attributes that are NHL material. Like any young kid, he still has an adjustment to the next level but we’ll definitely give him a chance to play with the big club this year.”
The Stars showed a lot of confidence in Connauton earlier this summer, signing him to a three year contract. The first year of the deal is two-way, and the final two years are one-way.
“We have to sit down with every player – whether it’s a veteran, a draft pick or whatever – you have to project what they are going to be next year to three years down the road,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “He needs waivers (to go from the NHL to the AHL) and we project him to be an NHL player next season. It’s a big training camp for him to come in and grab one of those seven or eight spots on defense.”
-Connauton progressing well with Stars (5/6/13)
Kevin Connauton 2012-13 statistics