This past week on the NHL Network’s short segment of ‘NHL Tonight’, guest analyst Mike Kelly dropped three bold predictions for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Although speaking in regards to the entire NHL, one of Kelly’s predictions focused on a certain Winnipeg Jets forward and will certainly raise the eyebrows of NHL fans across North America.
When asked whom he believes will win next season’s Rocket Richard Trophy, Kelly opted not to pick one of the ‘classic’ selections, but rather a dominant, young sniper from Winnipeg.
“I’m going to go against Ovie, against Matthews, against Pastrnak, all of these top guys that you’re probably thinking of and I’m saying Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets,” Kelly said, matter-of-factly. “This one I think is kind of bold, so we will see how it plays out.”
Connor, 24, set career highs in goals, assists and points last season, upping his goal total in each of his three years in the league. He had 38 goals and 73 points in just 71 contests with Winnipeg in 2019-20, finishing just off the pace of the league leaders.
“There is a lot to like about Kyle Connor,” Kelly added. “Every year he has been in the league, he has scored more goals, and more goals, and more goals than the year before. He plays with elite players and distributors of the puck like Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, the Jets’ top-six the jets power play. There is so much talent there.”
According to the NHL Network, Connor finished first in expected goals for with 42, although only managing to find the twine 38 times. He also finished tied for first place with Toronto’s Auston Matthews with 174 shots from the slot.
“When you go back to last year you look at analytics,” Kelly said. “Kyle Connor had 38 goals, sixth overall, so he was definitely in the mix. His expected goals was based on shot quality, not just the location where he made the shot. So for me that’s where its not even that big of a reach. Of course you look at the field of so many gifted goal scorers, and probably not a lot of people are taking Kyle Connor, so I’m going to do it. Kyle Connor is someone whom I have always enjoyed his game; and I feel as though he is a little under-appreciated even when he was in college, and he’s been a really good goal scorer for the Winnipeg Jets. He is going to be in the mix.”
For some context, two of Kelly’s three bold predictions from the 2019-20 offseason came true, while one of the three fell just short. Kelly’s two other bold predictions for the 2020-21 season include: A.) Montreal placing first in the All-Canadian division, and B.) the New York Rangers will win the Stanley Cup by 2025. Only time will tell if this prediction comes true.