Bulldogs at 3: Connor Roberts
The Hamilton Bulldogs have selected centre Connor Roberts, captain of the Grey-Bruce Highlanders (SCTAMM) with the third overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. Roberts is a 6’2″, 204 lbs, power forward who should be able to fit perfectly in the Bulldogs top six once he settles into the OHL.
By selecting Roberts, Hamilton is committing to a model of skilled skaters with considerable size that they have established in the last three OHL drafts, in the form of Strome, Saigeon and Lemcke. Roberts has been compared to Canadian World Junior standout Lawson Crouse. He has already has established a relationship with Hockey Canada by participating in the 2016 Youth Olympics for Canada, winning a silver medal. Roberts scored a critical goal in the gold medal game, but went home with silver at the end of the day. Fans should be drooling imagining a 2018/19 roster that will feature bulked up versions of Strome, Roberts and Entwistle crushing the opposition.
Saturday fun facts: Roberts personally compares his game to that of LA Kings’ center and Canadian all-star Jeff Carter. With the Highlanders, Roberts wore number 10, which is available to be worn by a Bulldogs player next year in the OHL.
OHL Central Scouting – “Connor came into the season as a top prospect and has not disappointed. A 6’2″, 205 lbs. centreman, he is the type of player that every coach wants on his team. He is powerful in every aspect of his game, skating, battling and competing. He shoots the puck like a pro already and can shoot it in stride which is something most kids his age can’t do. Connor is a powerful skater with a long, explosive stride, enabling him to gain ground on the opposition very quickly. He’s shown the ability to dominate the game physically at the Minor Midget level. Connor represented Canada at the Youth Olympic Winter Games in Norway“. (Source)
Brendan Ross, TheScout.ca – “High upside pivot with Top 5 potential stood out mainly due to his physical tools, strong hockey sense and industrious work ethic. A powerful skater, Roberts generates covers ice quickly with massive thrusts with each stride. He elects to play the puck over the body, which is fine, but adding more physicality (given his size) to his game would make him an imposing center…Unless he’s gliding in motion, he can get caught flat footed in the neutral zone and doesn’t possess the foot speed to explode into his top speed from a stand still. In open ice and in possession, Roberts operates with a puck placement attack more than a “carrier approach” using quick touch passes to advance the puck. However, his length and strength on the puck is an asset during board battles and cycles as he shields off pressure. A smart attacker, Roberts anticipates well on both sides of the puck arriving in scoring areas at ideal times and is also a proficient faceoff man”.(Source)
HockeyProspect.com – “Connor was one of the top ranked prospects for the 2015 OHL Priority Selection Draft from the very start of the season. The first thing that jumps out at you is his size; the next thing is his powerful snapshot. He has one of the hardest, if not the hardest snapshot in this draft and he looks to use it as much as possible. In many of our viewings Roberts would look to shoot as soon as he walked over the blue line. This resulted is a few goals but more often than not he struggled to hit the net. Consistency was also a big concern in our viewings, at times Roberts looked bored or disinterested in the games and other times he would be competing hard and helping his teammates generate offence. He has excellent size and is built like a prototypical power forward. However his game doesn’t always relate to his physical stature. We would like to see Roberts play with more aggression and physicality at the next level; this will make him tougher to play against as well as create space for his line mates. Although he played centre all year, we see him more suitable on the wing. This will allow him to get in on the forecheck quicker, use his shot more effectively coming down the wing and have less responsibility in the defensive zone. Roberts will be a high pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection Draft and will be given the opportunity to produce early in his OHL career.” (Source)
The Scouting News – “is a physical player who wins his puck battles all across the sheet (his frame is built for OHL – NHL hockey), so, we asked one of our Ontario scouts to break down Connor’s game and explain to us why he’s a legitimate candidate to be a player right on track to hearing his name called eventually in a NHL Draft”. (Source)
— Mark Edwards (@MarkEdwardsHP) January 16, 2016
5. Connor Roberts, Grey-Bruce: Powerful pivot with heady 2way awareness. Smart vision, adapts as an attacker. Strong on puck, excellent shot
— Andrew Sykes (@ASykes_7) April 5, 2016
— Zach Fraleigh (@ZachFraleigh) April 9, 2016
4. Connor Roberts – smart pivot who blends size, strength and two-way impact very well; room to grow offensively; Coaches type of player
— TheScout.ca (@TheScoutDotCa) March 9, 2016
I think that last tweet by @TheScoutDotCa was a little mixed up when they say “small pivot”, but you have to like the fact that there is evidence he’s coach-able.
Bulldogs GM Steve Staios met with the media minutes after the selection and provided a glowing summary on the newest addition to the Bulldogs.
“He’s a big young man with high character and great potential so our scouts did a terrific job of getting. This player is going to be a corner piece of our organization for many years to come.”
He spoke at length about the character, work ethic and leadership ability that Roberts possesses.
“He’s your prototypical power forward, he’s going to be able to bring a lot of energy and speed to our lineup. He’s got a big body and can protect pucks well and add to our offense eventually”.
Scott Radley asked if he sees Roberts playing as a center early in his career, and Staios provided some interesting insight on Robert’s Hockey Canada experience. “At the World Youth Olympic he played on the wing. He has the ability to do both, that will be up to the coaches to find the right fit for him. The international experience from Hockey Canada; all the reports were glowing about the player, his ability to come into a team environment and contribute in any way that the coaches had asked of him so that was another thing that led us to making the selection”.
Feature Image Laura Godenzi/IOC Young Reporters