Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 2/9/12
Up & Comer

To understand the type of player Kevin Connauton is, consider his role in the Chicago Wolves second goal in a recent 4-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs.

Connauton started with the puck at centre ice and burst into the offensive zone untouched before dropping  it back to Mark Mancari. Mancari’s quick shot was stopped by Carton Hutton but Anton Rodin popped home the rebound.

Kevin’s role in the goal was remarkably similar to what Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis and Coach Alain Vigneault envision for the blueliners on the big squad: fleet of foot, quick on the transition, and an important component of the offence.

Oh, and the goal came in the first game back from the AHL All-Star Weekend, where Connauton won the hardest shot competition with a blistering 99.4 MPH, and dominated the game itself where he scored the goal that sent the game to overtime and an eventual shootout win.

It all points to Connauton assuming the runner-up position to Chris Tanev on the Canucks’ defensive prospect depth chart.

The 21 year old 83rd pick of the 2009 draft has always been an offensive dynamo, a franchise record 72 points in his only year with the Vancouver Giants and 23 points in his rookie year in the AHL, but the knock has been always been his defensive game.

He’s not unlike a cross between Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff, a 6-2 200 lb scoring defenceman who is prone to getting lost in his own zone.

This year however Connauton has shown signs of taking his game to the next level under the watchful eye of Craig MacTavish, an AHL coach with a luxury of NHL experience.

At the AHL All Star Game Connauton won the hardest shot competition with a blistering 99.4 MPH

Connauton has essentially matched his points total of last year in under 50 games while blossoming under increased defensive duties.

Though he is -4 on the year, MacTavish has explained it away as being the victim of circumstances and who are we to argue with him?

None of MacTavish’s tricks would be useful if Connauton himself didn’t possess the drive for self-improvement necessary to utilize them, and growing up with brother, Sean, who played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and for Brown University has instilled that competitive drive since childhood.

Kevin even has a matched tattoo with Sean that reads “Brothers Forever”.

Here’s a taste of what MacTavish thought of Connauton when he first met him at training camp.

“You have a kid with that raw skill set, a highly intelligent and determined kid, I’d bet that. Ideally, he’s going to want to go in and compete for a job in Vancouver and that’s the next step for him. He’s right there at the end of the decision making for the Canucks coaches and managers and I think that’s the natural progression.”

In fact, MactTavish is basically doing the same thing for Connauton’s defensive game as he is for Chris Tanev’s offensive game, making both into more well-rounded defenders and professional major league hockey players as the top pairing on the team.

It means that Canuck fans should expect both to graduate to full-time duty within a couple of years, organizational depth that will help alleviate the impending retirement of Sami Salo and give the Canucks a chance to take advantage of home-grown talent on entry-level contracts they same way they do up front with Jannik Hansen and Cody Hodgson.

If you feel the need for some further research on the young blueliner, here’s some links to his hockeyfights bio, and his twitter account,

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS CLUBHOUSE TODAY ON NWSB!

© Richard Hodges for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

Follow NWSB on Twitter or join US on Facebook for real-time updates OR... | Share This on Twitter | Share NWSportsBeat.com on Facebook

Post tags: AHL, AHL All-Star, AHL All-Star Game, Alain Vigneault, Alberta Junior Hockey League, Anton Rodin, Brown University, Canucks Blog, Canucks Farm Team, Canucks news, Canucks prospects, Chicago, Chicago Wolves, Chicago Wolves Blog, Chris Tanev, Christian Ehrhoff, Cody Hodgson, Craig Mactavish, Hockey Fights, Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa, Kevin Connauton, Mark Mancari, Mike Gillis, Sami Salo, Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Giants, Wolves

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Tom Brady, NFL to appear before judge on August 12

Report: Bradford, Eagles hope to sign short-term extension

Aaron Rodgers: TV networks have ‘too much access’

Adrian Beltre completes cycle, gets mad when assaulted

Gruden had to convince Dan Snyder to bench RG3

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jim Mora turns P. Diddy fight into recruiting pitch for UCLA

Illinois releases results of women's basketball probe

Richie Incognito named starter by Rex Ryan

DeMarco Murray isn't thrilled Eagles limited reps in practice

Brandon Weeden: 'God forbid I am forced to play' for Dallas

Ben Roethlisberger: Markus Wheaton is ready to break out

Baseball season in New York has been better than expected

WATCH: Giants players fight during training camp

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger Woods on Twitter

Report: Rousey to star in film based on her autobiography

Porn star offers to cook meal for any sports champion

Why everyone is wrong about Cowboys Tony Romo, Part 1

Oregon was only team drug tested during CFB Playoff?

Five 2nd year NBA players ready to take the next step

John Daly wants to be US Ryder Cup captain

Rodgers appears in another Olivia Munn workout video

Matt Hasselbeck is still getting random drug tests

Five teams that won at the MLB trade deadline

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Adrian Beltre gets mad when assaulted after HR

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker