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Kevin Connauton Fighting for NHL Job

Tuesday, 09.24.2013 / 8:35 AM CT / News
By Mark Stepneski
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Kevin Connauton Fighting for NHL Job

There’s been a lot of talk of a fresh start this season for the Dallas Stars with a new GM, new coach, new players and new uniforms. For defenseman Kevin Connauton almost every one of the last six seasons must have seemed like a fresh start.

Connauton has played for six different teams over the past six seasons, and he’s hoping to make it seven teams in seven seasons with the Dallas Stars being that team.

“Everyone is really excited with all the changes,” Connauton said. “It’s kind of a fresh start, especially for me. It’s a new team, a new group of guys and I am doing everything I can to make sure I am a part of it.”

Dallas acquired Connauton from Vancouver last season in the deal that sent center Derek Roy to the Canucks. The 23-year-old Connauton immediately joined the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he had six points (two goals, four assists) in nine games. He led Texas in playoff scoring with five points (two goals, three assists) in nine games.

“Kevin’s game grew in a short period of time. It’s a difficult transition for any player to come in late, but I thought he seized the minutes that he got well in Texas,” said Scott White, Stars Director of Hockey Operations and Texas Stars GM. “He showed he had the ability to move the puck, get to pucks quick and move it out and play like we thought he could play. He put himself in a good position for this year.”

The Dallas Stars made it apparent that Connauton put himself in a good position when they signed him to a three-year contract over the summer. The first year was a two-way deal and the final two-years were one-way.

“I take that as a huge confidence booster, but you can’t get too comfortable. It is all the more reason to work even harder,” Connauton said. “I am very fortunate to get the deal that I did. I was really happy that things worked out the way they did. It makes me even hungrier and motivates me even more. I am coming in here fighting for a job. That is my number one mindset.”

Connauton, Vancouver’s third round pick (83rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft, was thought to be close to NHL ready last season just before the trade to Dallas. Coming into this year’s training camp with the Stars, he was considered a strong possibility to grab a roster spot.

“It’s up to me to prove that I belong here,” said Connauton. “There are obviously a lot of good defensemen here, but that is something I am used to, going into training camp with a heavy depth chart. That just makes things more competitive and that’s what you need. You need to be fighting every day for a spot.”

Connauton, listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, leans towards the offensive side of the game from the blue line. He’s an excellent skater, moves the puck well and has a great shot. At the AHL’s 2012 All-Star Classic, he won the hardest shot contest with a blast that clocked in at 99.4 miles per hour. If there’s work to be done, it’s on the defensive side of the game.

“He skates really well, mobility is really good,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think the offensive side will take care of itself. I think it is the defending with any young defenseman that is most important. I think he has a good read on the game, he makes good reads and I think that puts your head in the game.”

“It’s been a process the last three years and it’s been making my game more all-around,” said Connauton. “I’ve got to make sure that I play to my strengths, which is the offensive side. I’ve got to be steady in my own zone, and I feel night and day more comfortable than when I first started playing in the AHL. I think I’ve made good progress, and it’s just a matter of learning new things every day and coming to the rink with a purpose.”

And if Connauton has his way, he’ll have another new team and another new city to call home after playing in Spruce Grove, Alberta (AJHL), Kalamazoo, Michigan (Western Michigan University), Vancouver (Western Hockey League), Manitoba (AHL), Chicago (AHL) and Cedar Park, Texas (AHL) over the past six seasons. Go back another season and you can add Edmonton, his hometown, and Fort Saskatchewan to the list.

“I’ve been traveling around North America,” Connauton said. “I think I’ve had eight coaches in the last seven seasons. Hopefully, I’ll make it nine this year.”

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
6 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
7 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
8 NSH 55 25 21 9 142 148 59
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
11 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 55 28 34 16 62
T. Seguin 55 28 32 11 60
J. Klingberg 55 10 36 14 46
J. Spezza 52 18 22 5 40
P. Sharp 55 16 24 -2 40
A. Goligoski 55 4 20 16 24
C. Eakin 55 10 13 0 23
M. Janmark 55 10 10 14 20
J. Demers 48 7 12 16 19
V. Nichushkin 52 6 13 7 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 20 10 5 .908 2.52
K. Lehtonen 15 5 0 .912 2.79
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