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OHL 20 in 20 Summer Spotlight: Timmins takes his game to the next level

 

After seeing his offensive production level jump by 48 points in his sophomore season, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Conor Timmins is eager to get back to work after what’s been an eventful offseason.

In an effort to re-stock their blue line with mobile young talent, the Colorado Avalanche called Timmins’ name in the second round (32nd overall), making him the first OHL defenceman off the board in the 2017 NHL Draft.

The son of a former junior B team owner and head coach in his hometown of Thorold, Ont., Timmins’ sophomore surge saw him finish tied for fourth in scoring among OHL defenders with 61 points (7-54–61) in 67 games. He became the first Greyhounds defenceman to record 50 assists in a single season since current day Los Angeles Kings rearguard Jake Muzzin did so in 2009-10.

“We saw a lot of growth in Conor’s game this past season. He earned more opportunities and certainly made the most of them,” said Hounds head coach Drew Bannister. “Coming into the season he had put a lot of hard work into his summer and I think that contributed to the success he had down the stretch.”

A former Hounds blueliner (1990-94) who was a second round NHL pick himself, Bannister sees loads of potential in Timmins’ game.

“These kids are far beyond where I was at this point,” Bannister said with a laugh. “Conor has put himself in a great position moving forward to be a very good pro. He has developed his game on both sides of the puck and that resulted in him being one of our top defencemen by the end of last season.”

For the Avs, who also took high profile defender Cale Makar with the fourth overall pick of the first round, it seems Timmins will be just the right fit.

“[Timmins] is a puck-moving, puck management guy. He can control the game. He’s ultra-smart, he thinks the game very well,” Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple told NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski.

“He’s maybe not the biggest, most physical guy, but he’s always in the right place. He’s a guy with offensive ability. He can play on the power play, he can kill penalties because he is smart enough to get himself between the puck and the net.”

Timmins joined Morgan Frost (27th overall, Philadelphia) and goaltender Matthew Villalta (72nd overall, Los Angeles) as one of three Greyhounds chosen in Chicago and took the opportunity to recognize the team that has helped him flourish.

“The Soo organization as a whole is great for developing prospects,” he said. “Just going through this process with older guys being there and having gone through it already is helpful. Everyone from the staff to the management to the coaches have all been helpful and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Timmins has plenty on the horizon as he returns to Sault Ste. Marie for a third season, one that will see him slot in as an experienced member of the defence corps. In addition to contributing to a Greyhounds squad that will also feature other NHL prospects in Frost (Philadelphia), Boris Katchouk (Tampa Bay), Jack Kopacka (Anaheim) and Tim Gettinger (NY Rangers) among others, he’ll be hoping to make an impression on Hockey Canada. Timmins recently donned the red and white at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich. last week.

“One more year should be good for me,” he told Sadowski. “I’ll try and take a leadership role with my team, continue to develop as a player and put the team on my back. Hopefully, in another year, I’ll be able to take the next step in the NHL or [American Hockey League]. I want to play a solid two-way game and replicate the year I had before, show that it wasn’t a fluke.”

An organization steered by former blueliners in general manager Kyle Raftis, head coach Drew Bannister and associate coach Joe Cirella, Timmins is in the right environment to hone his craft on the back end with the Greyhounds.

Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs.  See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.

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