The Dallas Stars added another promising defenseman to the organization on Tuesday, trading Derek Roy to the Vancouver Canucks for a second round pick and Kevin Connauton.
Drafted out of Western Michigan of the NCAA in 2009 in the third round by the Vancouver Canucks, Connauton was drafted as a defenseman with good size and great skating ability and a tremendous shot, not unlike new prospect Joe Morrow. While Morrow's development is just now underway, however, Connauton is a bit further along and hasn't exactly made the jump as quick as expected.
Connauton put up 24 goals and 72 points with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL after being drafted and has now spent the past three seasons in the AHL -- first with the Manitoba Moose and most recently with the Chicago Wolves. After scoring 12 goals and 33 points last season, as well as being named to the AHL All-Star game, Connauton has struggled a bit this season while losing a big of offensive confidence after working on his defense.
Here's a few scouting reports, mostly from last summer:
The Good: Connauton took several steps forward last year, from a talented project into a quality prospect. He's a plus skater who one NHL source describes as "tremendous". He is very good at leading the rush and jumping up when he senses a chance to create an odd-man chance. He has skill, too, as he can move the puck at a solid level and has a cannon from the point that is accurate. An AHL All-Star this year, Connauton wasn't sheltered and played at a top level while facing off versus top players.
The Bad: Connauton's defense showed significant strides last season, and while he doesn't project as a quality defensive player, he's made enough improvement in that area where he may not have to be sheltered by his coach in the NHL.
Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman.
Connauton's bread and butter is on the power play. Connauton uses his hard shot with great effectiveness. Of some concern is the fact that this total accounts for almost 70 percent of his overall production.
He is not an overly physical player but can still play the body when needed. His best assets are his ability to make plays from the blue line and his patience and poise while in possession of the puck. Connauton has a smooth stride and good foot speed.
What we're hearing a lot is that Connauton has had to take some time to work on his defensive game and that he's struggled at times this season without his favorite defensive partner, although there are conflicting reports on how he's rebounded from what seems to have been a bit of a shaken confidence when the puck is on his stick.
From Jeff Angus, who has played close attention to Connauton:
Essentially, his development has stagnated a bit without Chris Tanev as his d partner in the AHL. He is a dynamic offensive defenseman - looks like Ed Jovanovski at times when he rushes the puck up the ice. Big, strong, great skater, and a cannon of a shot. He struggles with defensive reads and positioning, both off the rush and in zone coverage. Getting better, but not as quickly as hoped. If the Stars are patient with him, I could see him becoming a solid 4/5 PP specialist in a few years. He is physical, too.
Connauton has played a lot of minutes in the AHL and while his offensive game is what everyone talks about, it's how he plays on defense that will ultimately decide his path to the NHL. This is a good "high reward" defenseman that could pan out to be a good middle pairing blueliner, but likely not the bluechip talent the Stars are still desperately needing.