Photo Credit – Allen Douglas / Kamloops Blazers
D.O.B – September 25, 2001
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Zary’s Style Of Play
If Saskatoon native Connor Zary had been born just 10 days earlier he would have been eligible for the 2019 draft. And if this alternate timeline was reality? The Kamloops Blazers pivot would still have certainly gone top 20 or so in that draft thanks to putting up 67 points in 63 games as a 17-year-old.
Naturally, therefore, Zary came into the 2019-20 season pencilled in as a top ten pick. Yet, more than a year on and it is no guarantee that Zary goes top 20 despite another year of development. So why is this? It is certainly not due to a lack of production. In 57 games he posted 38 goals and 86 points. Over 1.5 P/GP in the WHL, not an easy feat for a draft eligible. It is also not due to character, either on or off ice. Not only is Zary, by all accounts, loved by coaches and team-mates, but when you watch him you see the effort he gives in all three zones. Furthermore, ask virtually any scout or prospect watcher about Zary and there won’t be any “haters”, no-one who does not think that he can be a good NHL player.
Certainly, at least part of the reason for his slide down draft boards is due to the underestimation of the European draft crop coming into 2019-20. Players like Tim Stützle, Lukas Reichel, John-Jason Peterka and William Wallinder “came out of no-where”, while Marco Rossi, Anton Lundell, Jan Myšák, Helge Grans and Emil Andrae improved their stock heavily over the course of the season. But this is not the only reason – or the biggest reason – the man from the “Paris of the Prairies” seems like a mid-first-rounder who may well be available after 20th overall.
The biggest reason? Zary – while very “well-rounded” – does not do that many things at a high-end level. He is solid, or even, good, in almost every area, but not too much stands out in terms of skills or tools that present themselves to you as those of a future first line guy.
Offensively he can be dangerous on the cycle and the rush, and he uses a strong offensive IQ to get to danger areas, having no issue hanging out around the net, and generally finding a way to get clean air in-close. In terms of shooting he has a quick release and good accuracy, and can stun goalies with either a wrist or snap-shot. However, he does not have great power on his shot at this venture.
The pick of his offensive skills though are arguably his hands. He can make skilled plays in stride, deke past opponents, and make goalies freeze in close. Zary also protects the puck very well in the cycle game and keeps plays alive as a result. Combine this with good vision and he has the ability to create dangerous chances for team-mates. Though given his hands and offensive IQ you would expect him to produce more high danger chances for line-mates as a pivot, and he misses passes at times.
While a solid 200-ft player, who can penalty-kill, don’t expect Zary to ever be a Selke candidate. He works hard inside his own blue-line, but does not seem to possess high defensive hockey IQ. Also, at times he does not keep his feet moving and in turn loses the play.
If anything can be considered a real “flaw” with Zary it is his skating. He is not a slow, or bad, skater. However, he has a slightly choppy stride where he does not extend as much as he should, and hunches over in stride, which limits his acceleration. Additionally, he struggles to get free from pressing opposition in the cycle game due to his edge-work allowing little room for elusiveness, even if he manages to keep the puck due to his strength on his skates. For Zary to fulfil his potential and become a legitimate top six NHL player this needs to improve.
If Zary can tidy up his skating and continue to develop he will 100% be an NHL player. As for upside? It is hard to envision him as more than a solid 2C down the line. But also hard to see him not becoming a decent third liner at worst.
Brayden Schenn, Center, St. Louis Blues
Zary does not quite have the shot that Schenn does, and is not as good a passer either. However, both are well-rounded players who have great hands, are strong on the puck, and get to danger areas to produce goals for their team. Like Schenn, Zary is an average skater and solid – if not great – defensively. Naturally, Zary is not as talented, and don’t expect any 70-point seasons from him. But a ~50 point version of Brayden Schenn would be a solid pick-up in the mid-late first round.
Stats from EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alexander on Twitter, his handle is @Avappleyard.
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