Dubuque head coach Evan Dixon discusses new LA Kings prospect Kenny Connors and his explosive offensive outburst last season.
After a quiet first day, the LA Kings made up for it on Day 2 of the 2022 NHL Draft. On Friday, the silver-and-black drafted seven players. One of those players was Kenny Connors from the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL.
Shortly after Connors was selected by the Kings, I had the opportunity to speak with Fighting Saints assistant coach Evan Dixon about the young centerman. We covered a few major topics, including the 19-year-old’s breakout season that saw him score 25 goals and 56 points in 61 games last season. This was a significant jump from the 2020-21 campaign where Connors registered just three goals and 18 points in 50 games.
“A few of the things that contributed to Kenny having such a large jump in offensive output are his mental resilience, his commitment to his craft, and increased confidence from year one to year two in the USHL,” Dixon explained. “Kenny does a lot of things well away from the puck, as well, which has put him in situations to be rewarded with the puck. He earned more opportunities in his second year to be in offensive situations, as well, which helped him to contribute more.”
Additionally, Connor’s performance in each of his last two seasons was indicative of his team’s overall play. In 2020-21, the Fighting Saints barely made the playoffs with a 24-23-4-1 record. Last season, en route to his offensive surge, Connors led Dubuque to a 40-16-3-3 record. That was good enough for second in the league’s Eastern Division.
Of course, while his single-season upturn was impressive in itself, Connors has more than enough tools to prove that he is more than a one-year wonder.
“Kenny is a 200-foot player,” Dixon noted. “He is relied on in all situations. His size, strength, and his skating ability are what allow him to be an asset in so many situations. He often plays against other teams’ top lines, which adds even more credibility to his offensive output this season.
“Kenny is a very well-rounded player. He can continue to fine-tune his game. As he moves up the ranks of hockey, he will continue to grow into his identity as a player. That will help make him an asset to his team.”
Connors also possesses an ideal attitude, to boot.
“Kenny has a calm, professional personality,” added Dixon. “He is coachable and always treats people with respect. Kenny is well-liked by his teammates. He is very competitive and wants to win.”
Coach Dixon also shared that the pros are attainable for his now-former center. Fortunately for Connors, time is on his side. He does, however, need to stay the course.
“I believe Kenny has a lot of tools to his game,” he said. “As he continues to put in the work, paired with the right mindset, he has a chance to make it to the highest level.”
After a successful 2021-22 campaign, the LA Kings are looking to get one step closer to becoming championship contenders. But while their present looks promising, the Kings’ future is no less exciting. You can bet that Kenny Connors will quickly become an integral reason for that excitement. That is assuming, of course, he isn’t already.