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NHL Rookie Watch: Cory Conacher – Tampa Bay Lightning

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CORY CONACHER Scouting Report

Date of birth: 12/14/1989
Age: 23
Pos: LW
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Acquired: College free agent

JOHN FONTANA of RAW CHARGE @RawCharge

When the 2011 Lightning training camp was announced, no one likely thought much of the undersized guy listed as a former Canisius College player on the roster who had been invited to camp. Who’d ever heard of Canisius College (a school near Buffalo, New York), let alone Cory Conacher? Yet from the moment he joined the Lightning’s rookie camp tournament in south Florida until the end of that 2011 training camp with the main club, Conacher grabbing people’s attention with his tenacious play and scoring ability.

Although he didn’t make the club out of camp (and was signed to an AHL contract, not a two-way deal with the Lightning), Conacher had both piqued the teams interest and inserted himself in the clubs plans for the future. His play with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in 2011-12 only cemented the fact. His prolific scoring with the Norfolk Admirals earned him a reputation among fans on Twitter that he was a certainty in life akin to death and taxes. “Death. Taxes. Conacher.” (Or the #DeathTaxesConacher hashtag on Twitter) was made popular by Chad Scharr of Boltprospects.com and has been a cult phrase since.

Cory Conacher was most definitely a certainty for the Admirals in 2011-12, scoring 39 goals and 41 assists during the AHL regular season, earning the AHL rookie of the year award, AHL regular-season MVP award and winning a Calder Cup with the club. His place on the Lightning’s NHL roster the next season was his to lose after that.

Conacher is both versatile and fearless; he’ll play deftly on the wing, using his speed against you, or work the boards and muck around, or perhaps plant himself in the crease and work for a deflection. His high-octane style has fit right into the Lightning lineup with nary a ripple now that he’s made the jump to the NHL; he’s been a mainstay so far on Tampa Bay’s top lines, playing on the wing on lines centered by team captain Vincent Lecavalier and reigning NHL Rocket Richard winner Steven Stamkos.

Conacher draws comparisons directly with veteran Martin St. Louis – another undersized, undrafted forward with scoring touch that the Bolts took a chance on and hit pay dirt. What separates the two forwards (besides 14 years of age) is Conacher’s feisty streak sometimes leading to unnecessary penalties, a part of his game he’s working on. While St. Louis is a perennial Lady Byng candidate, Conacher is more reactionary and emotional. He may get pushed around, but he’s more than willing to stand up for himself and his teammates.

COREY PRONMAN of HOCKEY PROSPECTUS @coreypronman

The Good: A relative unknown signed out of a lesser name hockey school, as a rookie pro all Conacher did was win the AHL MVP. He’s a high-end skater who simply jets up the ice and can make defensemen turn their hips regularly. He’s a complete offensive player with good if not high-end puck skills and good vision as well. He’s a tough player who loves to throw his body around who works hard in battles.

The Bad: Some scouts have said he’s “built like a truck” in regards to his strength level, but size will be Conacher’s main impediment to being a legit high-end prospect.

Projection: He could be a good second line winger.

ERIC DAOUST OF DOBBER HOCKEY @DH_EricDaoust

A year ago Cory Conacher was an unknown quantity to most poolies out there. That is no longer the case after the rookie burst onto the NHL scene with 12 points in his first seven games. He has since slowed down but is once again hot with four points in his last four games.

Last year’s AHL most valuable player has a bright future ahead of him in the NHL especially if he continues to flank Steven Stamkos or Vincent Lecavalier. He is more valuable than most prospects because he is already playing at the level that unproven youngsters hope to achieve. His 18 points in 22 games show that he has arrived and is here to stay.

GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG TOI/G
22 7 11 18 -2 12 38 15:24

VIDEO: Cory Conacher First NHL Goal, Jan 19, 2013

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Mark is the NHL editor for Sports City and myNHLtraderumors.com. Lives north of Toronto in the snow-belt, not a big fan of snow. Despises lockouts.

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