Connor McDavid has recently surpassed his career high for points in a season and has continued to climb, with over 140 points (60+ goals, 80+ assists) on the season. Many in the hockey world already regard the 26-year-old center as one of the best to ever play the game. He is explosive, deceptive with his shot, and is one of the fastest skaters in the league.
There’s also another Connor to keep an eye on.
The NHL’s 2023 draft class is headlined by young superstar Connor Bedard. He racked up 143 points in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He is only 17 years old, and has already broken international records like the point total record at the World Junior Championship (previously held by Peter Forsberg.) Bedard had 36 points for Team Canada, and his 16 goals surpassed countryman Jordan Eberle’s record of 14 goals at WJC. His name gets thrown around as someone who has the potential to be a generational talent just like McDavid.
What is it about Connors?
Connor was the 96th most popular boy name for babies born in 2021. Relatively common, but this might not be a coincidence. Two phenomenal hockey players, both named Connor.
There are a handful of players in the league that have the first or last name Connor or some spelling variation. If you are named Connor are you destined to be a talented hockey player? Is Connor the best name in the NHL?
In addition to McDavid, there are nine other Connors or Conors at the NHL level:
- Conor Sheary
- Connor Brown
- Conor Garland
- Connor Clifton
- Connor Dewar
- Connor Murphy
- Conor Timmins
- Connor Ingram
- Connor Hellebuyck
There is also Kyle Connor, who we are counting for our all-Connor lineup of current players even though it’s his last name.
Let’s break it down
Analyzing our starting five, we’ve got McDavid at center and Sheary and Garland on the left and right wing. Sheary is a two-time Stanley Cup champion whose gameplay is headlined by his physicality, willingness to fight for the puck, and to score when his team needs it the most. The left wing currently has over 30 points on the season.
Garland is a physical winger, much like Sheary, who creates separation between himself and his opponent. He had 27 assists through the first 73 games, proving his ability to create chances with the puck.
Now, Timmins could go here, but a veteran guy with tons of experience is the better choice to help bolster the blue line. In that case, Murphy has been consistent on defense for the Chicago Blackhawks. A defenseman whose play is characterized by his ability to match up and read the body well, he is reliable and can play a hefty amount of minutes.
We could put Timmins here too, but Kyle Connor is one of the best defensemen in the league right now. If we are trying to win, Kyle Connor needs to be on this first pairing. The blueliner currently notched 75 points through 75 games, and was coincidentally drafted in the same class as McDavid, albeit 16 spots later. He is the dictionary definition of an offensive defenseman. He can score, generate offense and he is fast, which comes in handy on the powerplay.
And lastly, Hellebuyck. The Winnipeg Jet netminder is in the conversation for the Vezina trophy again as one of the best goaltenders of the league. He won the award in the 2019-2020 season and has consistently been solid for the Jets. They have rallied their defense around him and in return, he gives them a chance to win every single night. He currently has a .918 save percentage and a 32-23 record.
The starting lineup
To recap; this is what we are looking like:
Conor Sheary - Connor McDavid - Conor Garland
Connor Murphy - Kyle Connor
The all-Connor line on paper seems pretty good.
Let’s put it to the test
To really test its effectiveness, let’s compare the Connor line to the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins.
Boston’s first line in their game against the Nashville Predators on Mar. 28 was:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake Debrusk
Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Starting in the faceoff circle, we have two very elite centers in Bergeron and McDavid. Through that matchup, Bergeron had won 60.6 percent of all faceoffs he has taken this season compared to McDavid’s 51.4 win percentage. McDavid has even said in the past that he studies Bergeron’s game because he is one of the best two-way centers in the game. This matchup feels very even, as McDavid excels offensively, but Bergeron will play great defense and help create plays.
The wings matchup looks to be as physical as it gets. Debrusk has better hands than Sheary, but Sheary has a bit better awareness. Marchand runs all over Garland though. Marchand is a pest, in all senses of the word. Physical, has a great shot, and loves to chirp and mess with the guys around him, and if he frustrates Garland enough to draw a penalty, Marchand is one of the best forwards in the league on the powerplay.
Boston’s defense is incredibly offensive-minded. This isn’t a problem as long as Hellebuyck is playing to the top of his ability, as he will see a lot of shots from the point and a lot of offense generated from the blue line. The all-Connor defense will play very well in their own zone and be really solid breaking out. The trick to winning this hypothetical game against Boston will come from taking care of the puck, finishing quality chances, and playing stay-at-home defense.
Connor (and its variations) is definitely the most skilled name in all of the sport, even if it isn’t the most common name. Adding Bedard to the Connor lineup could make it one of the most skilled once he enters the league. Maybe having the name Connor alone gives you an edge entirely. Either way, McDavid is the most exciting player in the league currently and Bedard will be the future’s most exciting player, and fans will get to experience the two of them in the NHL for the foreseeable future.