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Player Grades 2017: Kevin Connauton

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A victim of injuries, and the youth movement. What do the Coyotes have in Kevin Connauton?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries may have messed with Kevin Connauton's Arizona Coyotes season before it ever started. After a strong showing last year as a January waiver wire pick up, the Coyotes signed Kevin Connauton to a two year deal, presumably to compete for a bottom-four role. But with an injury leading into training camp and the quick ascension of Jakob Chychrun, Coyotes fans didn't see a lot of Kevin Connauton in the '16-'17 season. And what little time he did play (Only 24 games with 13:08 average ice time, lowest among Coyotes defenders) wasn't particularly memorable (only 1 assist tallied in those 24 games).

On one level, Connauton's season was frustrating, but also about what you would expect for a team's seventh defenseman. And with all six of the defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart returning next season, it's hard to see where Connauton fits in going forward. But with another year in a Coyotes sweater and a pending expansion draft, it's important to diagnose what exactly the Coyotes have in Connauton. Is he more than just a depth defenseman?

What do the numbers say?

As previously stated, examining Connauton's '16-'17 season might be an exercise in folly. He didn't play enough games, and didn't get enough ice time in the games he did play to give him a true evaluation. As more or less a direct result of that, Connauton only notched a single point. So counting numbers aren't going to be the way to gauge Connauton.

But when we look at rate and pace statistics, it paints an interesting picture of Connauton (courtesy www.corsica.hockey):

Games played Avg TOI/G CorsiFor% CorsiFor60 CorsiAgainst60 FenwickFor% Goals For Goals Against PDO
24 13.08 45.65 55.11 65.62 41.98 10 11 100.72

Now, most of those numbers aren't great. But, relative to the rest of the Coyotes defenseman, Connauton actually generates a good bit of offense. His Corsi For% was the second best tally on the team last year, behind Anthony DeAngelo and Connor Murphy. That meshes well with what we know of Connauton as a player from his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the end of his '15-'16 campaign in a Coyotes sweater -- he can generate offense. His HERO Chart (from Dom Galamini at Own the Puck) says as much:

Kevin Connauton HERO Chart

It's worth noting that this includes Connauton's stellar statistical '14-'15 season, in which he scored 9 goals in just over 60 games between Dallas and Columbus, and the '15-'16 season, where Connauton played quite well in the 38 games he was with the Coyotes. A lot of Connauton's value in this chart is propelled by the unsustainable rate he produced goals in those two situations.

But, outside of that, what to make of this? Over the last few seasons, Connauton looks the part of a top 4 puck moving defenseman, with the bottom falling out defensively (this maybe suggests Connauton should consider a position change; he has dressed as a winger for the Coyotes before back in January).

On the flip side, as also evidenced in his HERO Chart, Connauton isn't particularly good at suppressing shots. His Corsi Against per 60 is third worst on the team, behind DeAngelo and Luke Schenn (who actually blocks a good number of shots, which Corsi doesn't take into account).

A lot of that can also be explained by the situation. The Coyotes weren't very good as a unit, and Connauton didn't transcend that. It also doesn't help that he wasn't placed in situations that best suited his strengths. A look at his zone start stats (courtesy stats.hockeyanalysis.com):

Offensive Zone Starts (%, Team Rank) 75 (28.1%, 5th highest of 7)
Defensive Zone Starts (%, Team Rank) 99 (37.1%, 5th)
Neutral Zone Starts (%, Team Rank) 93 (34.8%, 3rd)


In his two most productive stretches, '14-'15 with Columbus, Connauton was deployed in the offensive zone in excess of 33.2% of the time. Which is high, but not abnormally high. For instance, two of the players who were deployed abnormally high in the offensive zone were Anthony DeAngelo - a young gun with a notably offensively-leaning game - and Jakob Chychrun, a rookie.

But Coyotes defenders as a whole faced a high amount of defensive zone starts, and Connauton's zone starts reflect that team-wide trend. So while it's fair to say Connauton's lack of production might be tied to his lack of playing time, it's also reasonable to look at how he was deployed.

This isn't to say Dave Tippett misused him; it's more accurate to say that in his limited time, Connauton couldn't make an impact. Small sample size and the Coyotes situation at large are bigger factors, especially since Connauton, as a relative veteran, doesn't need the same kind of sheltering DeAngelo and Chychrun theoretically need.

All things considered, however, there's enough evidence here to suggest that maybe Connauton can make an impact, if given the proper role.

But the left-handed defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart can do that as well, and have much better track records. The only who doesn't definitively have a better track record, Chychrun, was a rookie and damn good one at that. So it's not a given that such a role exists in the current construction of the Coyotes, but great teams have depth, and Connauton is valuable as that depth.

What's the grade?

I think given the injuries, and scarcity of playing time, it's most fair to give Connauton an incomplete grade this season. In my eyes, he neither increased nor decreased his stock, but in terms of what he actually did in his limited time, it's hard to give Connauton higher than a D. There's nothing to suggest he supplant any of the guys ahead of him, based on this past year alone.

Moving forward, the Coyotes still have Connauton under contract for another year. If he survives the expansion draft, he would be wonderful to have around as a depth defenseman, but that's a big if. Of the Coyotes' exposable assets, it seems likely Connauton won't make the cut. Connauton's health notwithstanding, he's an excellent depth piece to have as the Coyotes head into 2017.

What grade would you give Kevin Connauton?

The grades of all the other Coyotes players can be found on our master post here.