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2023 FlamesNation prospect rankings: #5 (tie) Connor Zary

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Photo credit:Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers
Jeff Middleton
7 months ago
The Calgary Flames are going to continue to try and make their forward core younger with efforts to insert Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Coronato into the NHL lineup. And after his second season in the American Hockey League, Zary is looking to do the same thing. Although he moved down in FlamesNation’s prospect rankings by one spot, he’s still a prospect that could end up providing some value in the NHL at some point in the near future if he continues to develop in the right direction.
Connor Zary
Left-handed centre
Born September 25, 2001 (Age 21) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
6’0″, 185 pounds
Selected in the first round (24th overall) by Calgary in the 2020 NHL Draft
Zary began to make his mark when he started his career with the Kamloops Blazers in 2017-18. He played 68 games and scored 11 goals, tallied 18 assists for a total of 29 points. That’s decently solid production for a 16 and 17-year-old kid. And it only got better from there for the forward, as the next season, he hit the point-per-game mark with 67 points in 63 games. He also made an appearance on Team Canada’s U-18 World Junior team, where he was also a point per game with seven points (four goals and three assists) in seven games.
Zary doesn’t play an aggressive style of game by any means. His shot is the best part of his toolbox, but he also thinks the game well, finding space to open himself up and release that shot. He showed how dangerous that piece of his game could be in his draft year when he scored almost 40 goals (38, to be exact) and also tallied 48 assists for an astounding 86 points in only 57 games, which helped him get drafted in the first round. Then, in 2020-21, he produced well despite all of the Covid-19 issues that plagued the sports world back then. He played 15 games in the WHL with the Blazers, which would be his final stint with them of his career, and then he moved on to the AHL with the then-Stockton Heat and scored seven points in nine games. He was on Canada’s silver medal-winning World Junior Championship roster that year as well, playing in seven games but only registering two assists and no goals.
The next season, Zary took his talents to the AHL full-time and played 53 total games with the Heat. He sat just below a half point-per-game with 25 points in 53 games, which isn’t as exciting as one might think it should be considering what he did in the AHL, albeit with the caveat that it was a small sample size. He played 13 playoff games as well but only scored 2 points.
Last season, though, Zary did progress well with the Wranglers, breaching the 20-goal plateau and hitting 58 points in 72 games, a solid per-game rate of 0.80 points per appearance. He also took a step forward in his two-way game, which at this stage, is an important development. He also scored four points in the AHL playoffs in nine games

Expectations for 2023-24

Zary was, at one point, the team’s best prospect, and even though he isn’t that anymore (whether it be to the influx of new, better players through the draft or a drastic improvement from players already in the pool), he can still be a very important piece of the puzzle this upcoming season and in the future. He is one of the Wranglers’ most consistent players at just 21 years old. His two-way game has developed, and if he can take charge in that area, it will serve him well because we already know the kind of talent he brings on the offensive side of the ice, whether it be at even strength or on the power play, which is another area where he is a threat (and the Flames could use some help in). The expectation is that he will take another jump in scoring, ideally over the point per game mark, as well as keep improving his two-way game and, hopefully, find his way onto the Flames roster at one point or another, even if it’s just for a very short stint.

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