Connor Zary showing promise centering Jonathan Huberdeau

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Wilson
1 month ago
Connor Zary’s rookie campaign has been a nice little surprise. His insertion into the Calgary Flames lineup had an immediate impact that has carried through the entire year.
The translation of Zary’s skill to the NHL combined with his strong impact in all three zones this season has been somewhat of a revelation.
He has been a stalwart on Nazem Kadri’s flank for the lion’s share of the 2023-24 campaign and has certainly boosted Kadri’s on-ice play (and vice versa). The line of Kadri, Zary, and Martin Pospisil has been the Flames’ most dangerous goal-scoring trio throughout most of the season.
Given the organizational lack of young centres, it’s natural that many were curious to get a look at the 22-year-old in the position he played throughout his junior years with the Kamloops Blazers.
Following a night in the press box against the Winnipeg Jets head coach Ryan Huska was also curious to see Zary slot down the middle inserting him back into the lineup against the Edmonton Oilers between Dryden Hunt and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Despite a loss in the battle of Alberta, the new-look Zary line had a strong game. The Huberdeau and Zary connection was impactful instantly. They dominated possession in the first period and concluded the night having created four high-danger scoring chances while surrendering zero.
A solid outing in San Jose from the Huberdeau and Zary duo, this time skating with Andrew Mangiapane, was sandwiched by a tougher night against the tight-checking Los Angeles Kings.
It was against the Anaheim Ducks where Zary and Huberdeau were rewarded for their strong play as they connected on a great rush goal. Zary out-muscles and alludes Alex Killorn and he and Huberdeau work a nifty give-and-go featuring the patented Huberdeau spin pass.
The Flames with Huberdeau and Zary on the ice together at 5v5 over the last four games:
Shot Attempts ForShot Attempts AgainstHigh Danger Chances ForHigh Danger Chances AgainstxGoals %
(Data from Natural Stat Trick)
Finding a centre with the ability and complementary skillset to play with Huberdeau has been challenging for the Flames coaching staff. There have been flashes of strong play with Yegor Sharangovich as his middle man but Zary is proving to be an even better fit. Again, it’s a small sample but there does seem to be something positive brewing in the chemistry department.
Zary looks comfortable down the middle and the adjustment has been mostly seamless thus far. He does not look like a player who has only played four NHL games in the position. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise given his strong defensive play and robust underlying numbers this season.
(via HockeyStatCards.com)
Zary emerging as a legitimate NHL centre while also clicking with Huberdeau would be an extremely promising development.
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