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The Montreal Canadiens have the 16th overall pick in the first round of the NHL entry draft, which will be held Oct. 6-7. This is the second of five profiles of players who could be on the Canadiens’ radar .
Team: Kamloops Blazers
Height/weight: 6 feet, 179 pounds
NHL Central Scouting: 15th among North American skaters
Connor Zary is an intriguing prospect. He has improved in each of his three seasons in the Western Hockey League and his offensive numbers have gone up each year despite playing fewer games.
His work ethic and hockey sense have scouts convinced that he will play in the NHL, but there is a debate over whether he projects as a top-six forward. The biggest concern is that he is rated as an average skater.
He’s strong on his skates and it’s difficult to knock him off the puck, but he’s not a speedster despite a quick first step. That might be a concern for the Canadiens, who put a premium on quickness.
But there are a lot of other things to like about Zary and scouts feel he could have been rated in the top 10 if this year’s draft wasn’t top-heavy with talent.
For starters, Zary is a shoot-first, two-way centre. He has scored 62 goals in the past two seasons and that’s the most among the draft-eligible prospects. Zary is effective at both ends of the ice and, as the Canadiens have discovered with Max Domi, that’s not something you can teach. Fifteen of his 38 goals last season were scored on the power play with Kamloops taking advantage of his one-timer from the left faceoff circle. But he also scored three short-handed goals.
He was used extensively as a penalty-killer with Canada’s under-18 team and he is among the players invited to the Team Canada virtual training camp for the world junior championship.
He also had 48 assists and quite a few of them were the result of teammates feasting on the rebounds from Zary’s heavy, accurate shot. Zary is effective in the defensive zone because he reads the play well and is seldom caught out of position. He is a Blazers’ go-to guy when it comes to taking crucial faceoffs in the defensive zone. This is a player who does a little of everything well, but there is no area where he jumps into the outstanding category.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020