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Dallas Stars 2014-15 Impact Player Rankings #21 – Kevin Connauton

To get Dallas Stars fans ready for the 2014-15 season, the Defending Big D staff will be taking an individual look at each probable player on the opening day roster in reverse order of their likely “impact” on the team’s success this season. The way we chose to interpret that was this is a ranking in order of the individual’s importance to the Stars this season and this season alone. Thus, players who have high potential but are not being counted on to reach it this season are further down the list. We also limited it to the players who are most likely to be on the opening night roster at this point, which means a few Texas Stars candidates won’t show up.

We continue the series with one of the team’s young defensemen, Kevin Connauton.

Kevin Connauton had an up and down season last year. After earning himself a one-way contract, it was obvious that the organization felt that he was no longer a minor league defender, and that they wanted him to step up and grab a spot on the NHL roster.

Connauton, 24, however, had a tough time getting into the lineup on a regular basis. With the addition of Sergei Gonchar, the Stars seemed to fill the need for a purely offensive minded d-man who could run a power play. Connauton isn’t an awful defender, but he wasn’t going to get into the lineup based on defensive prowess.

Even when Sergei Gonchar started making mistakes which led to goals against, Lindy Ruff seemed hesitant to throw Connauton into the lineup. It was clear that the coach didn’t fully trust the young defenseman and was more willing to stick with a veteran’s mistakes than have Connauton’s rookie mistakes hurt an already weak defensive corps.

When Ruff was looking for ways to stir the pot, or for the team to rebound after tough games, he would sometimes put Connauton in just to get a different look on the back end. Then Connauton got the bulk of his ice time in the middle of the season when the Stars were without both Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas for extended periods of time. He finished the season with 36 games played, 8 points, a minus-6 rating, and 56 shots. He also got into four of the Stars’ six playoff games and held his own, finishing with an even plus-minus.

While some would tell you he’s not an NHL defenseman and others would tell you he’s just a rookie who wasn’t given enough of a chance to solidify his position in the lineup, the fact remains that he’s a promising young player if – and it’s a big if – he can drive the offense more than he did in his broken up stints with the big club.

One thing which would point to his ability to do this is his shot totals. He took 56 shots in just 36 games. That’s more than a shot per game. For a rookie who was usually given 10-15 shifts and 5-13 minutes of ice time per game, including almost no power play time, that’s very good. If he works on his defensive game and continues to take a lot of shots and create chances in the offensive zone, we might look back at this season and wonder why we ranked him so low. Think of Jordie Benn last year.

At the moment, Kevin Connauton is on the fringe of the Dallas Stars’ defensive corps. He still has promise, and obviously did some things right in his limited ice time last season. If he can turn more of his shots into prime scoring chances in the early days of the 2014-15 season, he could force Lindy Ruff to keep him in the lineup. For now, however, he’s the seventh man in with a whole slew of highly-touted prospects getting ready to knock at the door.