Prospect Need to Know: Connor Zary and the best of the all-star games

The Kamloops Blazers star was part of a potent line at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton. Learn more about him and other faves from that game, the CJHL Top Prospects Game and the All-American Prospects Game in our weekly round-up
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It’s been a busy week in the world of prospects, with three big events taking place in the Great Lakes region. Hamilton, Ont. held the CJHL and CHL top prospects games, while Plymouth, Mich. just hosted the All-American Prospects Game in a new format (USHL vs. NTDP, as opposed to the mixed teams of the past).

There were a lot of stand-out performances to take in, but one of the notables for me was Connor Zary. The WHL Kamloops star had three points at the CHL shindig on a great line with Barrie’s Tyson Foerster and Brandon’s Ridly Greig. Zary also got a chance to show his stuff last month at Canada’s world junior camp and although the 17-year-old didn’t make the final cut, the coaches gave him positive feedback to take away with him.

“I’ve been getting my name out there and elevating my play every time I go to an event like the CHL-Russia series or the WJC camp,” Zary said. “So they said ‘keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get another shot next year.’ ”

What Zary does in Kamloops is produce. The top-line center has excellent vision and he processes the game at a high level. Since returning from Hamilton, Zary has posted six points in two games as the Blazers have been destroying opponents.

“He wants to be the best, he wants to be a difference-maker,” said Kamloops GM Matt Bardsley. “He’s very aware of what’s going on and he’s a student of the game. He’s really dialled in.”

The only knock on Zary is his skating, but even that’s not bad. He kept up just fine in Hamilton and with a little more strength in his lower body, it won’t even be mentioned. With Kamloops in first place, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blazers make a long playoff run this spring. And getting a crack at the Memorial Cup would be sweet, since archrival Kelowna is hosting.

“We put in a pretty strong bid for it, too,” Zary said. “When your rival gets it, it’s not too fun but we’re going to still push for it. We love playing against Kelowna, it’s a heated rivalry.”

Expect Zary to go in the first round of the draft this summer.

Here are 10 more draft prospects who had good weeks:

Jake Neighbours, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): I liked Neighbours’ two-way play and physicality at the CHL Top Prospects Game and obviously his offensive potential is pretty good too. He has 47 points in 46 games for the Oil Kings.

Jack Quinn, LW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): The buzz around Quinn continues to grow. Athletic and talented, he has great patience with the puck and has 10 points in his past four games with the 67’s.

Dylan Garand, G, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): It’s not easy being a goalie at a top prospects game, but Garand gave up just one goal in his period-and-a-half. Technically solid and very driven, he’s been great for the Blazers with a .921 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average.

Lukas Cormier, D, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL): Cormier was very noticeable in Hamilton thanks to his great passing and overall offensive skills from the blueline. A Samuel Girard type of D-man, he has 21 points in 26 games this year after coming back from a broken ankle.

Will Cuylle, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Cuylle made his presence felt in Hamilton with a cracking fight against Kitchener’s Donovan Sebrango. Otherwise, Cuylle brings great size and skating.

Ethan Edwards, D, Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL): An eye-opener for me (and a fave of scouts) at the CJHL game, Edwards is a sublime skater with a ton of potential. He’s committed to the University of Michigan and has 24 points in 38 games for the Saints.

Jake Sanderson, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL): It feels like Sanderson’s draft stock is going through the roof lately. He showed off his physical side at the All-American game, but Sanderson also tallied two assists in a 6-1 win to earn MVP honors. He’s a North Dakota commit.

Tyler Kleven, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL): The other standout defenseman on the NTDP, Kleven is also a North Dakota commit who brings great size and a booming shot to the table. He had a goal and two points in the All-American Game.

Blake Biondi, C, Hermantown Hawks (Minn. HS): One of the best players available from the high school set, Biondi is a scoring machine who protects the puck very well. The University of Minnesota-Duluth commit has 46 points in 15 games for the Hawks.

Jan Mysak, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL): Heading from the world juniors to the Bulldogs, Mysak is a fast, talented player who had been in the Czech League for the first half. He just scored his first OHL goal in his second game.

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