It's a quote that still makes the rounds amongst staffers at The Hockey News. Back in 2015, when left winger Kyle Connor was wrecking the USHL as a member of the Youngstown Phantoms, one NHL scout described him to me as having "jersey-flapping speed." It was a fantastic image and an apt one for anyone who saw Connor scream across the ice, something he would continue to do at the University of Michigan and, one year after that, the pro game.
Currently leading the Winnipeg Jets in scoring by a country mile, Connor has been one of the franchise's top offensive producers the past few seasons and it's interesting to see how he has matured over the years.
"It's a combination of hard work, putting in the time and learning what I need to work on to be successful, whether that's protecting the puck or corner battles," Connor said. "As a group too, we're pretty motivated so we push each other. We spend a lot of time working on little things in practice and at morning skates."
But of course, Connor's calling card is his skating. Lucky for the Jets, he has come into his own during a super-fast era where speed is incredibly important in the NHL.
"You gotta have speed," Connor said. "Every team is trying to break the puck out and spend as little time as they can in their own zone and you do that by stretching the game out, using your speed to back off defenders and make them respect that speed - maybe give them a little scare and push them back early. That's something we've done really well on."
Connor also sees the big picture when it comes to the discipline. That is, that fans love to see guys bombing down the ice and making high-skill plays with the puck.
"Everybody can skate now, even on the back end - which makes it tough, but it also makes the game way better. That's what everybody loves about hockey, how fast-paced it is."
Winning is great too, however and right now the Jets need to do as much of it as possible. They've lost ground to the fifth-place Dallas Stars in the past 10 games in what is a murderous Central Division. With Dallas losing integral defenseman Miro Heiskanen to mononucleosis this week, the Jets have to make the most of every opportunity in front of them. And in-house expectations remain high.
"Our goal is the Stanley Cup every year," Connor said. "We keep building and every point is crucial here but we're in the race and we're going to put our best foot forward and try to make the playoffs."
Will it be enough? The Jets have 25 games to figure it out and even if they pass Dallas, they'll need to fend off Edmonton in the wild card race as well. But the talent is certainly there and Winnipeg knows what they have in Connor.
"He's extremely important," said coach Dave Lowry. "He's been a very dynamic player for us and contributes to most of our special teams. He has a huge impact in games."
With that great speed, Connor can put teams on their heels and create a lot of offense. The Michigan native is in a great position to break his previous season-high for goals, when he had 38 back in 2019-20. Already at 34 right now, he could very well break the 40-goal mark and hey, if he gets red-hot, maybe he even shoots for 50. No doubt Jets fans would love to see that, but either way Connor plays a very entertaining style of hockey.