“Five For…” is a Q&A feature with NHL Draft eligibles that touches on their lives and careers leading into the 2020 NHL Draft. This edition features forward Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers.
Though the season ended early, Connor Zary has plenty to positively reflect on.
Few skaters eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft had as productive a campaign as the 18-year-old.
With the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, the 18-year-old amassed 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games prior to the cancellation of the schedule, following up his sophomore season of 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) in 63 games played in 2018-19.
“I think all the work I’ve put in in the offseason and how I came into the season prepared, I think that really helped me,” said Zary, No. 13 in Future Considerations’ Spring ranking for the 2020 draft. “I wanted to be the best I could be. No matter who I lined up against, I wanted to win that battle. I wanted to do everything I could to help the team win. Things clicked with my linemates. We kept putting the puck in the net and things were clicking. It worked quite well.
“In the back of your head, you’re not trying to think about your draft status, but I think that’s always a motivator to be your best, too.”
Future Considerations recently caught up with Zary:
How much did it help it being your third year in the WHL?
CZ: “I think obviously it was quite helpful. I felt comfortable coming in. I’m in a leadership role wearing a letter this season. That makes it easier when you’re put in that situation. There is more pressure being an older guy but are still in your draft year, but I think it was a lot of fun and being able to feel comfortable coming in was huge, being my third year. That helps a lot, being able to know what to expect.”
FC: These are unprecedented times. How are you feeling all things considered?
CZ: “Obviously I think just the way the hockey season ended, that sucks. I know you can’t really be too upset about it because it’s a tough time in the world and a lot of people are struggling right now. You just want to stay home and do your part and make sure everyone stays safe and keep yourself healthy, but in another way it does suck. I think personally we had the team to make a long playoff run and then, myself personally, gearing up for the NHL Draft after the playoff run was something I was looking forward to. There’s a lot of uncertainty with what’s going to happen with all that. It’s a waiting game. You just keep working out and staying in shape. It’s all you can do.”
FC: From your perspective, how did the timeline of events feel?
CZ: “It was pretty crazy. We just came off five games in seven days kind of road trip. It was our day off and we were chilling upstairs at my billet house…there’s three of us in the billet house. We were about to eat supper. We’re watching TV and all the stuff came up about the NBA being cancelled and the guy testing positive. We heard rumours about the NHL and the next morning we got a text to not come in and we had a phone conference. Five hours later the league’s on pause and then two days later we get another phone call to say to go home and from there, got home and five days later the playoffs are cancelled. Pretty short time period but there’s not much you can do. There’s no cure for what’s going on right now.”
FC: Does this put things into perspective a bit?
CZ: “I think it’s a lot different of a situation. It’s not like you got it ripped away from you for no reason. You put it into perspective. There’s a major problem going on right now. You just try to do your part and manage the curve on the pandemic.”
FC: What are your expectations around the draft?
CZ: “I think it’s kind of just a waiting game. They don’t really know what’s going to go on yet. You can’t have the NHL Scouting Combine, because you still have to bring everyone from Europe and over here and gather them into one building. That’s not possible right now. Whether that’s cancelled or postponed is still a waiting game. The draft, same kind of thing. It’s obviously postponed right now. It’s a waiting game. You hear a lot of rumors if it’s going to happen or if it’s going to be online…a virtual draft. It’s a crazy situation no matter what happens.”