2020 NHL Draft Profile: Connor Zary

As the Stanley Cup Final nears completion, it becomes time to look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft. The first round of the 2020 draft is on Tuesday, Oct. 6, giving teams a limited amount of time to be ready for what will undoubtedly be a crazy event filled with trades helping teams get cap compliant.

The Chicago Blackhawks have the 17th overall selection. In the coming days we will preview a number of players the Hawks might consider when they’re on the clock.

Connor Zary

Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
6-0, 181 pounds

Ranked #15 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #11 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #18 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #15 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #22 by TSN/McKenzie

From Corey Pronman (The Athletic):

Overall: #10 prospect
Skating: 50
Puck Skills: 65
Physical Game: 50
Hockey Sense: 60

Zary was one of the top players in the WHL in his third season in the league and the major reason why Kamloops led the WHL in scoring. Zary is a very entertaining player, as he’s one of the most skilled players in the draft. His touches with the puck are very quick, he’s extremely creative and he can beat defenders clean consistently. He had numerous moments this past season where he pulled off a highlight real-caliber play. Zary is a very smart offensive player. He can make the seam passes and find teammates very well, but also makes plays happen through unconventional ways. He scored a lot of bad angle goals this season, and he finds teammates in situations where there doesn’t seem to be a play. Zary is a highly competitive player. He doesn’t just dangle on the perimeter, he attacks the net, he pressures defenders and he is in the face of his opponents constantly. He can kill penalties and run your power play. The major knock on Zary is his skating. Some scouts think it’ll be pro average, some think below-average. I lean to the former camp. It’s not great, and the stride breaks down at times, but I think the stride is good enough that he’ll be able to skate at the NHL pace.

NHL scout on Zary: “He’s full of skill, hockey sense and competitiveness. You can use him in any situation and he won’t disappoint you. The skating will need to come, but it will get there with strength.”

From LastWordOnHockey.com:

Zary is a good skater, if somewhat unconventional. His stride can be a bit short and choppy at times, but this doesn’t seem to take away from his speed. He is still above average in terms of his top-end speed and he reaches that quickly with good acceleration. Zary also has very good agility and edgework. This helps him to get around defenders, both with and without the puck. Strong backwards skating also helps him to play a 200-foot game. Zary has a strong stride, that helps him to fight through checks and get to the dirty areas of the ice. It also helps him to work along the boards. If he can improve his lower body strength, this will improve even more going forward.

Offensive Game
Zary is at his best working in the dirty areas of the ice. He gets to the front of the net both with and without the puck. From there he can bang in a rebound, deflect a teammate’s shot into the net, or one-time a quick pass on goal. He can produce points in the dirty areas of the ice. Zary is willing to battle for loose pucks along the boards. He is also good at creating pressure on the forecheck, forcing opposing defenders to make quick decisions and capitalizing on their mistakes if they don’t. Zary’s stick-handling is strong and he protects the puck well on the cycle and makes plays in the slot. He has good vision and passing skills allowing him to set up teammates for scoring chances.

Zary can also score with a good wrist shot or snapshot. His shots are hard and accurate They also feature a quick release. Zary is a smart player who anticipates the movements of his teammates. He gets open without the puck and sets himself up to take that pass, fire that puck on net, or quickly keep it moving and get it to a teammate. He often makes the smart play with the puck on his stick.

Defensive Game
Zary plays a two-hundred-foot game, as he is not afraid to be involved in his own end. He brings good back-pressure and helps his team’s defencemen down low. He supports his teammates against the cycle game. Zary also uses his high-end hockey IQ in his own end. His positioning is solid, he reads opponents well and he has the anticipation and an active stick necessary to create turnovers. He is also willing to play physically along the boards or in front of the net. Zary does the little things right and helps his team to win games. He is willing to put his body on the line to block a shot. He is also strong in the faceoff circle. Zary is a natural leader and his teammates follow his on-ice example. He can also play against opponent’s top lines and on the penalty kill.

Projection and Comparison
Zary is the type of player who will be loved by his coaches, no matter where he is playing. His solid all-around game means that he can be used in any situation, from the power-play to the penalty kill. If Zary reaches his potential he can be a top-six centre at the NHL level. He will likely find himself back in the WHL next year, continuing to work on his skating and mature physically. He could also be part of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Following that, as a late birthdate, he will be eligible for the AHL in 2021-22. He will likely need those two years before he is NHL ready. Zary’s game is reminiscent of Bo Horvat. This is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skills and ability.

Mock Drafts

Pronman: #19
Peters: #19

10 thoughts on “2020 NHL Draft Profile: Connor Zary

  • September 28, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Should be a great choice if taken, may have to work on his skating but that can be improved, rest of his game seems pretty solid. Blackhawks seem like Whl players in recent years.

  • September 28, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Yay draft! Just excited to be here; talking Hawks hockey, my favorite distraction.
    Like Ian said, WHL kids have worked out for the club lately.
    I think he could be a good fit.

  • September 28, 2020 at 11:11 am

    My prospect evaluation acumen get’s laid bare every year … course, that doesn’t stop me from bumbling into the conversation – I’m nothing if not opinionated. :)

    So with that disclaimer dispensed with – Zary is about 5th or 6th in the list of prospects that may realistically be there at #17. I would put Lapierre, Holloway, Khusnutdinov and a couple other guys before Zary.

  • September 28, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I like the Horvat comparison – we could use a guy who plays that style and who projects as a possible future #2 so it’s potentially a nice fit. As for the skating, that was the knock on 77 last year and that didn’t turn out to be true.

    Honestly, as long as we don’t a) pick another smurf or b) go off the board for some reach I’ll be okay with it. As for smurfs, it was interesting watching Canucks in playoffs because Pettersson is just as light as Boqvist, but he battles like a Viking. That’s how Boqvist needs to play.

  • September 28, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Dylan Sikura traded to Vegas for Brandon Pirri.

    I suppose the best I can say about that is we now know Stan is awake.

  • September 28, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    omg Stan, WHAT IS THE OBSESSION WITH *another* recycle. this time Pirri.
    here we go again….

  • September 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Even though the Hawks never had two elite centermen during their 3 cup runs, they always had some nice pieces down the middle..whether it was Toews, Sharp, Bolland in 2010-Toews, Handzus, Bolland in 2013 or-Toews, Richards, Vermette, Kruger in 2015..and then add in the fact that players like Shaw, Desjardins, etc could take draws too and you can see that the Hawks attacked center with some nice volume..I’d like to get back to that point..add Zary to the mix and maybe in a couple years you’ve got Toews, Dach, Suter, Zary, Kampf with Barratt and Kurashev on the roster and able to take draws as well..that’s looking pretty good to me down the middle..I left out Strome since I don’t know what the future holds but I’m still a fan..

  • September 29, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Bowman read how much people here do not like acquiring players from before so he does it just because.

  • September 29, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    Slayer, yea we had a few guys like Shawzer and Sharpy who could do 50% and having two off the charts centers in Tazer and Krugs. Got to have two crazy good centers and a few who can do around 50% seems to be the way.

  • October 2, 2020 at 5:41 am

    Even before I read this write-up I have read great things about Zary. If available at 17 that would be a guy I would STRONGLY consider and happy if he fell that far.
    Like jordythawk said, there was talk about Dach’s skating last June, but I am ok with who 77 is.
    Love the comparison with Horvat, that would be great.
    Hope there is creative discussion about trading up for the Russian Goalie, that would be my #1 option
    And as always thanks to Tab for supplying all this draft Intel for all us hungry Hawk fans.

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