When Conor Timmins was still on the board at the end of the first night of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, you can bet there were a lot of teams that considered moving up to #32 to draft him. The Avalanche held on to the pick and drafted the right-shooting defender and he instantly became one of Colorado’s top .prospects
Ranked as high as 23rd, some thought Timmins should be a first-round pick. His performance with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds last season certainly warranted it, but there is something about his game that left some scouts unimpressed. “He doesn’t look ‘pretty’ out there”, one OHL scout told me. As silly as it sounds, that is something that will turn old-school thinking scouts off.
Timmins isn’t flashy or polished. He can look a little awkward out on the ice, and like it or not, that still matters to some scouts. Luckily for Avs fans, it didn’t matter to the front office, because along with Cale Makar, Timmins gives the team two first-round talents from this past draft class.
This year, eyes will be on U-Mass to see how Makar develops. On the other side of the border, Avs fans will get a chance to watch Conor Timmins dominate the best junior hockey league in the world.
This isn’t hyperbole. Last season as a draft-eligible 18-year old, Timmins led the league in offensive production at even strength - and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do this same this year. He won’t have the raw numbers because he’ll miss a month while he’s with Team Canada, but on a point-per-game basis Timmins should be at the top of the league again.
2016-17 5v5 Production for OHL Defensemen
While leading the OHL in even strength point production, Timmins was also a rock defensively for Sault Ste Marie. He was the foundation of the blueline and was able to play in every situation. Consistency was his calling card- so says Greyhounds head coach Drew Bannister.
“He’s been outstanding at times and very good at others. There have been very few nights when he hasn’t played well”
The greatest asset for Timmins is between his ears. He can see the play developing and shows tremendous control and patience with the puck. In junior hockey, this is a lot easier to do. The higher speed during summer camps made it obvious that Timmins was going to have to adapt – and he did. After a less than stellar showing at the World Junior Summer Showcase, Timmins looked better and more comfortable every time we saw him. By the time he got to NHL preseason, he fit in. Timmins didn’t look like a raw rookie that was out of place. It was to the point that people in The Soo were getting worried that the Avs were keeping him around so long.
What makes Timmins so valuable to his team is how he runs the breakout. His elite mind allows him to judge a play and decide whether to skate or use his great first pass. He’s the kind of defenseman that gets a lot of secondary assists, not because of luck, but because he’s the outlet that transitions his team from defense to offense.
Timmins is the type of two-way defender that is able to outsmart his opponents and dominate junior hockey. The next step in his development is to show that he can do it at higher levels. There is a very good chance that he will end up making Team Canada for the World Juniors in December, if that’s the case, Timmins can use that tournament against top competition to show how he has grown since the summer.
Dominating junior hockey does not mean that Timmins is going to be a star in the NHL. What it means is that he has the tools to have a very long and very productive professional career. He doesn’t have the high-end upside of a guy like Makar or Mikhail Sergachev, but what he does have is the brain to develop quicker than most defenders and make it to the NHL at a young age - I wouldn’t be surprised if he played in the NHL as a 20-year old.
For now, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the fact that every time the topic of best OHL prospects comes up, Conor Timmins will always be mentioned.