When discussing any of the 16 OHL defensive prospects ranked on NHL CSS’s final list this year, the first name that I end up hearing from other people, more often than not, is Nic Hague’s. While Hague is definitely an appealing option in the mid-1st, there are other options that you should probably be aware of in the OHL. Beyond the top 30, you have the 6’7” giant Eemeli Rasanen, who is probably the biggest player I’ve come across in this draft class if that tickles your fancy. There’s also Brady Lyle, Markus Philips (a personal favourite of mine), Dmitri Samorukov, Noel Hoefenmayer, Adam Thilander, Fedor Gordeev, Jacob Paquette, Sean Durzi, Matt Brassard, Jacob Golden, Trenton Bourque, Cole Fraser (who I consider a possible steal, ranked only at 197th), and Brandon Crawley. But the player who I’d actually consider the best overall is the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds’ Conor Timmins, who I am going to be talking about today.
Timmins, much like Cody Glass, came pretty much out of nowhere this year. In fact, The Draft Analyst had him ranked at a paltry 266th in their rankings. Born just 3 days after the cutoff for the 2016 draft, he probably would have went undrafted last season. After registering only 13 points last season, he started off this season as a mid-pairing defenseman in the Soo. By the end of this season, he was their #1 defenseman, lighting the OHL up with 7 goals and 54 assists in 67 regular season games, and 1 goal and 7 assists in 11 playoff games. He has made an incredibly strong statement this year, and has risen more over the course of this season than almost any other prospect I can think of. To think that he went from someone that some sources doubted would even get drafted to being one of the best defensemen in the OHL, the highest ranked OHL defensive prospect on NHL CSS’s final rankings, and a shoe-in as a first round pick all in the span of one season is astounding. Timmins is someone that I would consider to be a very strong candidate to end up being a pick that everyone looks back at in hindsight and deems it a very savvy move. If the Red Wings were to trade back into the mid-1st, he’d be one of 5 defensemen (the others being Cal Foote, Nic Hague, Juuso Valimaki, and Erik Brännström) that I think would be very smart picks.
Name: Conor Timmins
Date of Birth: September 19th, 1998
Birthplace: Thorold, Ontario, Canada
Weight: 181 lbs
NHL Comparable: Ryan McDonagh
ISS Hockey: 28th
McKeen’s Hockey: 19th
Future Considerations: 36th
NHL CSS: 18th (North American Skaters)
Timmins is a very agile defenseman that can cover a lot of ice. His first step is very strong, and he goes from 0-60 quickly, showing very good acceleration. His speed is good in all directions, and he shows a great pivot and edges, which allows him to get around the ice very smoothly and do his job efficiently. He’s got great balance, which is an asset to have in puck battles along the corners and boards, and trying to establish real estate in front of his own net. One thing that I would say he has a serious advantage over fellow OHL defensive prospect Nic Hague is his East-West agility. Whereas Nic Hague needs to improve his East-West agility to be able to deal with smaller, shiftier opponents, Conor Timmins’ lateral agility is very solid, which he uses to his advantage on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck. On the defensive side of the puck, this means he’s able to stick with smaller, more agile players better. On the offensive side of the puck, this lets him create more time and space for himself, and open up lanes to pass the puck or shoot it.
Speaking of the offensive side of the puck, Timmins’ offensive game is excellent. Overall, I’d say he has one of the best offensive games of any defenseman in the draft. He has very deft puckhandling abilities, which allows him to fend off opponents that are pressuring him both in his defensive zone and his offensive zone. Combined with his skating abilities, he’s able to lead the rush very effectively, and shows a lot of confidence with the puck on his stick. He’s a good enough skater that when he pinches, he can still get back into his position defensively when things go awry. Let’s just say I’d be much more comfortable with having someone like him pinch than someone like Niklas Kronwall or Jonathan Ericsson doing it, where if something went wrong, they don’t have the quickness to cover for their mistake.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when discussing what he does offensively. Where Timmins shines in the offensive zone is his playmaking abilities. Timmins is an outstanding passer, and has some of the best vision I’ve seen for a defenseman in this draft class. Highly intelligent, he’s able to make reads on plays that he sees developing in the offensive zone, and sees opportunities to create offense that a lot of other players wouldn’t. His passing abilities allow him to find passing lanes through very tight spaces on the ice, and his saucer pass is very accurate, which hits his teammate’s stick right on the tape.
While he is not reputed to be as good of a goal scorer as he is a playmaker, he does possess a good, accurate shot from the point. He has a solid, accurate slap shot, and while it’s not as powerful as what you’d see with Nic Hague, Timmins is very effective at getting his shot on net through traffic, and he keeps his shot typically low enough that his teammates can successfully deflect it in front of the net. This works wonders when you pair him with a player who is good at screening the goalie and has the hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks, like Zach Senyshyn for the Greyhounds. He also sports a good wrist shot, which has a quick release on it. Overall, amongst all defensive prospects in the CHL and USHL with 30+ GP, Timmins is almost in a league of his own when it comes to producing offense in 5v5 situations. From an analytics perspective, he led his peers in the CHL and USHL in primary assists/60, with 1.11 A1/60. He also generated a lot of 2nd assists, generating 1 A2/60. While 2nd assists aren’t as useful for evaluating forwards, for a defenseman, this is still a good indicator that they are moving the puck very well. The following charts provide a graphic breakdown of how Timmins performs compared to his peers:
As can be seen from these scatterplots, Timmins not only led all 61 CHL & USHL defensemen ranked on NHL CSS’s final North American Rankings in A1/60, he also led the pack in P1/60 among all defensemen that played more than 30 games this season. In fact, he outproduced both Juuso Valimaki and Nic Hague at 5v5.
Timmins was also useful on the powerplay, where he scored 3 goals, and added 12 assists, which was 3rd behind only Eemeli Rasanen and Adam Thilander in the OHL for a first-time eligible defensive prospect. All-in-all, Timmins was a massive difference-maker on the offensive side of the puck, and I’d consider him one of the best offensive defensemen outside of Timothy Liljegren and Cale Makar.
On the defensive side of the puck, Timmins is also quite impressive. While he’s not the biggest defenseman, he makes great use of his body in the defensive zone, and can lay some very explosive hits. He plays very physically in the dirty areas of the defensive zone, in the corners and in front of the net. He maintains his gaps very smartly, and has good stickwork, with a great pokecheck. He’s able to transition the puck out of his own zone very quickly, with a crisp, hard, accurate first pass on the tape. While his positioning is good, this can stand some improvement, which should occur naturally as he gains more experience. He will also need to get stronger so he can continue to play the style that he plays against bigger competition.
Among all first-time eligible defensemen in the OHL, Timmins was 2nd in GF%Rel (15.47 GF%Rel), behind only Jakob Brahaney (who isn’t even ranked), and was 5th among all ranked defensemen in North America, behind only Kasper Kotkansalo, Ronald “Scooter” Brickey, Clayton Phillips, and David Farrance. This is very well reflected in his mammoth-sized +53 stat. When he was on the ice, his team controlled 66.67% of all goals at 5v5. With him off the ice? 51.2% of all goals. This led every single player on the Greyhounds. When we compare his usage to his peers, this fact becomes even more impressive:
The take-home from all of this is that Timmins is someone that should definitely be on everybody’s radar, especially if the Wings miss out on the big fish like Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, or Timothy Liljegren. If all three of those options are gone by 9th overall, and the Wings still desire to get a defenseman that can have a huge impact in a game, Conor Timmins is definitely a name you should know.
Video Credit: SEER VIDEO - YouTube
Missing out on Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Timothy Liljegren would seriously suck. However, as I have argued, and will continue to argue, it’s not the end of the world if the Wings are looking to acquire a defenseman in June. While it is a bit premature to project if he will ever become a true top-pairing defenseman, Timmins’ floor is on the 2nd pair, and he would be a very safe bet to be a player that ekes out a very solid NHL career. Timmins has the smarts, vision, and two-way abilities to become a staple on an NHL blueline for years to come, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Wings traded back into the first round and took a stab at him, especially if doing so helped them land another pick, or perhaps a very solid prospect. While I don’t think it’s as sexy of a pick as any of the top 3 defensemen in this draft, I think that would still be a pretty savvy decision, and it could pan out for the Wings in the long run.
If you’re still looking for that “sexy” first round defenseman, but want to entertain the worst case scenario in which Makar, Heiskanen, and Liljegren have all been snatched up before the Wings pick at 9th overall, when I’m back next time, I’m going to be discussing HV71 defenseman Erik Brännström. Until then, happy scouting!