Edina High School(Minnesota) forward Connor Hurley is one of the top draft eligible prospects coming out of Minnesota High School hockey in this year's draft, despite being the youngest player in the draft, born exactly on the September 15th, cut-off date
Hurley has developed a reputation as a bit of a hockey nomad. As an eighth grader, he attended Shattuck-St. Mary's, where he was a member of the ultra-talented Tier I Bantam team that also feature future draft picks such as Taylor Cammarata, Ian McCoshen, and Nathan MacKinnon. The following year, he moved to the Academy of Holy Angels, a private high school just outside of Minneapolis. The year after that, he transferred to Edina High School, where he had a breakout sophomore season which put him on the radar of NHL teams as a potential top round draft pick. Last year, he had the opportunity to leave again to join the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL, but he chose to stay at Edina, where he had an outstanding year, helping lead Edina to a state high school championship. With little left to prove at the high school level, Hurley will spend his senior season of high school next year playing with Muskegon in the USHL, before heading off to play college hockey at the University of Notre Dame.
Hurley's best assets are that he's an explosive skater, with incredible vision and passing ability. He's got pretty decent size, and a frame that could still fill out a little more, and he can play the center position, which is always valuable in the NHL. If there's a downside, it's that Hurley can be a bit too passive with his play. On a very deep and talented Edina team, there were times where he seemed content to just be one of the guys, rather than the type of standout you'd expect a late first/early second round NHL draft pick to be at the high school level. I wrote this about him after a game in late December:
The night was a little light on college coaches, which meant most of the scouts in the building were of the NHL variety, there to see Edina junior standout Connor Hurley. There's no doubt Hurley is a dynamic skater. He created Edina's first goal while on the penalty kill, when he outraced an Eden Prairie D down the ice to a cleared puck, and passed it over to a teammate for an easy goal. One of the concerns about Hurley is his lack of strength and ability to handle physical play, but that hasn't been as big an issue for me so far this season. Granted, he's playing high schoolers in a league known for its lack of hitting, but I think he's handled what physical play he's seen fairly well. The big concern for me is that at times, he seems almost afraid to shoot the puck. He's a phenomenal passer, but there were definitely times that he was almost dared to shoot, and didn't, or only would as a last resort. The few times he did shoot, his shot wasn't great. That's a concern, but does seem like something he could improve with time. Overall, I didn't move him much one direction or the other[from the early 2nd round. -ed.] on my draft list after this game.
There's also bound to be a few questions about the level of competition Hurley has played against. Edina plays one of the toughest schedules in Minnesota high school hockey, but the type of competition is still no where near the speed of a junior league. Hurley did get into 11 games with Muskegon this year before and after the high school season, where he registered a goal and seven assists in 11 games with the Lumberjacks. He also played 10 games with the NTDP, mostly against NCAA D1 competition, where he scored a goal and an assist.
Overall, Hurley has flirted with the bottom part of the first round in various draft rankings for most of the year, but I don't think a team will see him as the type of potential top-line center worthy of a pick in the top 30 of the draft. More likely, he tops out as a very good playmaking second-line center that isn't a star on his team, but is a regular offensive contributor.