Flyers goal-scoring prospect Connor McClennon 'still on the hunt'

Flyers goal-scoring prospect Connor McClennon ‘still on the hunt’

No Flyers prospect has scored more goals this year than Connor McClennon, who is 5-foot-8, 160 pounds.

Although tiny, the right winger was prolific with a relentless and multifaceted shot.

He buried 43 scorers in 62 games to lead the WHL’s top Winnipeg ICE. He capped off his regular season with 81 points and he didn’t slow down in the playoffs.

The production built McClennon a solid case for an entry-level contract.

“I was really impressed with him,” Medicine Hat general manager and head coach Willie Desjardins said Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s always attacking, he’s got great speed, he’s always on the hunt. He’s not a guy who waits for something to happen, he’s always a player who tries to make things happen. Super competitive, really a guy you would like to have on your team.”

Of his 81 points, McClennon scored 14 for the Desjardins team. He recorded seven goals and seven assists in six regular season games against the Tigers. His best game of the season was a four-point performance (two goals, two assists) in a 7-2 win Nov. 27 over Medicine Hat.

Desjardins, 65, has been a head coach in the ranks of the NHL, AHL and junior hockey. He served as bench manager for the Canucks and Kings. He won the 2014 Calder Cup championship with the AHL’s Texas Stars and won two WHL titles with the Tigers (2004, 2007).

Does he think McClennon’s play can translate to the NHL despite the 19-year-old’s diminutive stature?

“There are more small players now playing in the NHL who are playing at a high level,” Desjardins said. “He’s got really good quickness, his quickness is good. You’ll have to have that at the next level. He’s got to step on a guy straight away, he’ll have to explode and attack straight away. But he does that , he jumps, he finds the holes well, so this part is really good.

“I love him, I really love him. Do I think that could translate? Yeah, I do. He’s too competitive. Some guys, they accept where they are. But he doesn’t doesn’t seem like that; he seems like a guy who always wants more, he’s going to want to find a way. I think with his skill level, he can find it.

There could be concerns about McClennon’s height and skating to the next level. After his 2019-20 season was cut short due to a collarbone injury, McClennon was selected by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. He must be signed by June 1 or the Flyers will lose. his rights, which would make McClennon an unrestricted free agent tied to the draft.

The Flyers’ decision to sign McClennon has yet to be made. It remains in the air for now. The organization has young right wingers in Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster and Zayde Wisdom, which could limit opportunities for McClennon. But the Flyers have time and McClennon is considered a child of character.

Right now, he’s humming through the WHL playoffs for ICE, which is coached by James Patrick, Nolan Patrick’s uncle. On Friday, McClennon had six goals and eight assists in nine postseason games. Winnipeg led the league 53-10-5 in the regular season and is looking to close its second-round streak.

When McClennon was drafted by the Flyers, he said he modeled his game on that of Alex DeBrincat. The 5-foot-7 Blackhawks right-winger already has two 41-goal seasons before the age of 25.

Desjardins was asked for a player he could perhaps compare to McClennon. He mentioned Habs 5-foot-9 right winger Brendan Gallagher, who is a two-time 30+ goal scorer and known for playing with an advantage.

“It’s a bit difficult because I haven’t seen him enough in every situation to say those kinds of things,” Desjardins said of a comparison to McClennon. “He reminds me a bit of Gallagher in Montreal. I never coached Gallagher. He might not be as fiery around the net and stuff like that, but he looks like me, because he’s very competitive. “

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