Needless to say, rookie forward Cory Conacher is loving every minute of his first taste of NHL action. The high-energy 23-year-old has piled up 12 points during the first nine games of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though he may be small in stature (5’8″, 180 pounds), Conacher has been making a giant impact for his club.
Naturally, one question has begun to creep into the minds of Lightning fans: Is Cory Conacher a star in the making?
If you spent even a few minutes watching this guy skate, you’d never guess he was a rookie. He flies around the ice with a fearless demeanor and always seems to sneak into the right spot at the right time. Conacher possesses a high hockey IQ that helps him get a nice feel for the game and what’s about to happen.
But, with such little experience in the National Hockey League, it’s not supposed to come so quickly.
Well-rounded players like Conacher don’t just pop out of nowhere, but that’s sort of what he did. The youngster wasn’t even drafted after spending four years at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. But he caught the eye of the Lightning at their preseason camp prior to the 2011-12 season and turned in a marvelous campaign playing for the Norfolk Admirals, then the team’s AHL affiliate.
General Manager Steve Yzerman must’ve realized he had something in Conacher after seeing the gritty winger post 39 goals and 80 points in 75 games at the AHL level and immediately began feeding him ice time this year.
It’s paying dividends, that’s for sure. After helping lead the Admirals to a Calder Cup one year ago, he’s been a huge boost for Tampa during its 6-3 start in 2013. The Lightning lead the league in goals per game (4.4) and Conacher is third on the team in scoring, just behind lamp-lighters Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
Granted, he’s skating with guys who excel offensively, but Conacher is creating a lot of these opportunities on his own. Simply put, players capable of doing that generally hang around in the NHL for awhile. If Conacher can prove he’s not just a flash in the pan, you better believe he’ll become a household name sooner than later.