Connor Hurley, Center
Edina HS/Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
6'2" 175 Pounds 9/15/1995
Arguably the cream of the crop in terms of Minnesota High School Hockey. It's been a hell of a year for Hurley; he started the season playing in the Elite League (16 points in 11 games) before playing with the USNTDP for some exhibition games against NCAA teams and a gold medal effort at the Four Nations Tournament (3 points in 9 games). He played with Muskegon before and after his High School season (9 points in 14 games). He finished his State Tournament winning season with 52 points in 31 games.
Plain and simple, he played a lot of hockey this year, and based off reports I heard, he basically started to wear down toward the end of the USHL regular season. That shouldn't take away from the notable improvements he made in his game from last year, which was a breakout season for him. He showed a more rounded two-way game, and really displayed a physical, agitating edge to him when he suited up for the U18's, filling a role he needed to play. There's no denying his skill though; he's got tremendous vision and passing ability, setting up teammates with pinpoint passing. He's got some goal scoring ability, including having the patience to wait out a defender before shooting.
He still is a bit lanky, so strength can be an issue, but its not the worst thing in the world for NHL teams to see that someone hasn't topped out physically at 17; especially Hurley, who will be the youngest player in the entire 2013 Draft Class. One concern I had about him is he struggles to beat defenders one on one; if he couldn't be a defender wide with speed, he could be forced into turning the puck over at the offensive blueline- or in a worst case example, get blown up by a defenseman, which Seth Helgeson did when the U18's played Minnesota in October.
His skating will only improve; his mechanics and fundamentals are sound and suits his high-tempo game; he loves to push the pace and make plays off of the rush, but there is still another gear to be had when he gains more strength. Something worth mentioning is his agility and fast-twitch responses, as he's able to quickly evade or side step an oncoming defender.
Maybe the most impressive part about Hurley, and one that leads me to believe he is on Minnesota's radar (I saw Brent Flahr at a couple Edina games this year) is who he is as a person- he's got tremendous character. A true team guy- scouts I talked to who interviewed him were impressed at how he conducted himself and his honest assessment of who he is as a player. He works at his craft away from the rink, taking skating lessons and is a devotee of watching video to improve his game. He is aware of the work it takes to make it to the higher levels, and is willing to do it- heading to Muskegon immediately after his season ended at Edina shows that. He showed he was willing to play a role that was required of him, and even when he had the chance to, he wouldn't sewer teammates for their mistakes; he embraced the role of captain and tried to make everyone better.
He should be the first High School/Prep kid off of the board this year, it is just a matter of where; maybe in any other year he would be a surefire First Rounder (I've had him at a first round grade all year) but this year is abnormally deep, so he may fall right into someone's lap; possibly Minnesota's. I see him as the slot guy, a "tweener" that Minnesota's been hoarding for the last few years- that sort of interchangeable middle-6 type player who can bit moved up and down the line chart.
And considering Minnesota's recent trend of taking local kids with Brent Flahr running the table, Connor Hurley probably isn't the only one they've got their eyes on.