By Steven Pratas

The United States Hockey League (USHL) has been producing elite talent for several decades, but Trevor Connelly is near the top of that list when it comes to overall NHL potential.

Connelly’s rookie season with the Tri-City Storm last year was very successful. The 16-year-old finished second on the roster with 24 goals and 47 points in just 57 games, which ultimately led him to be named to the USHL’s All-Rookie Second Team. He continued to be impressive throughout the 2022-2023 season as he broke the franchise record with the longest point streak, tallying at a remarkable 18 games. With his exceptional play, it was no surprise he would be on the Americans Hlinka Gretzky Cup roster, which is the only best-on-best competition at the U18 level. He asserted his dominance throughout the tournament, guiding the US team to secure the bronze medal. Additionally, he shared the top spot as the points leader with 10 points. The Hlinka Gretzky competition made Trevor’s draft stock increase dramatically with his incredible play, and made scouts follow him more closely going into his draft year.

So far in the current 2023-2024 season, Connelly has continued to be the best player among the Storm as well as being a key standout player across the league. Racking up almost 1.5 points per game so far, he is projected to hit the 80-point mark which would contend to be the point leader in the league. Being left off USA’s 2024 World Junior preliminary roster was a hit for the young American forward but gave Connelly time to polish his game in the USHL.

The omission might have been a blessing as well since there is much publicized talk of past questionable company the talented forward kept due to a social media post that was made a couple years ago which Connelly has since apologized for and said he has learnt from. At DraftPro we tend to give these youngsters the benefit of the doubt, as we were all young and made stupid mistakes that we wish we could go back and correct.

Here at DraftPro Hockey, we have Connelly ranked as a mid-first round selection. But what makes him so highly coveted as a prospect in this year’s draft? Let’s deconstruct his game and see how impactful and valuable he can be to whatever team selects him in the first round, and whether there’s room for an earlier draft selection then projected.

Playing as a forward, Connelly spends most of his ice-time on the left wing but plays the occasional center position when called upon. Wearing number 16 for the Tri-City Storm, he will be hard to miss in the video clips.

Skating Ability

It’s clear when watching Trevor play that skating is a major strength of his. If he isn’t already the best skater off the rush in the draft, he sure is at the top of the list. His remarkable capability to achieve maximum speed within a few strides is truly impressive, and his acceleration is nothing short of explosive. Getting the puck along the boards or in tough situations and being able to create distance between him and the opposition is what really excites me about his play. Defenders have headaches trying to contain him toward the outside as his edgework and crossover speed is terrifying to compete against. His success rate when carrying the puck through the middle of the ice is extremely high. Watching him play you’ll quickly notice that his pace far outshines his peers, demanding the puck and constantly taking on defenders toward the net. He tends to hold onto the puck longer than the typical forward would as he wants to be a difference maker on the scoresheet each and every shift. This quicker pace is a highly coveted attribute Connelly is gifted with, which showcases his skating maturity. Connelly possesses an attack mentality when handling the puck as he excels at driving the net and beating defenders on both the inside and outside of the puck. Connelly exhibits elusiveness through the use of multiple head fakes and deceptive maneuvers, enabling him to navigate through open ice and consistently generate scoring opportunities. His high-end gas tank mixed with his confident skating talent is a deadly combo.

In this clip, Trevor displays his north to south skating ability along with his attack mentality. He makes it look incredibly easy by going coast-to-coast against the Des Moines Buccaneers and scoring a highlight reel goal, as he recognizes where he can exploit open ice paths and drives toward the net.

This shift against the Green Bay Gamblers helps showcase his ability to draw in defenders with his blazing speed through the neutral zone at top speed. The Gamblers miscalculated the gap control giving Connelly open ice to enter on the right side, which he used to draw in three opponents allowing him to dish the puck to his teammate. The second clip is at the tail end of the same shift, giving you a glimpse of his motor along with his anticipation in transition. He is quickly able to accelerate and gain positioning up the center of the ice where he magically gets past the defensemen to get a terrific scoring look. A constant threat from the start to the end of his shifts, his skating is very consistent.

Plays like this Cedar Rapids RoughRiders are a common occurrence, grabbing the puck whether it’s on the powerplay or even strength and exploding down the ice. You’ll see how effective and deceptive his shoulder fake is as soon as he enters the far blueline to confuse the defender for a split second until getting a key scoring chance. He is constantly doing some sort of deception technique to make the opposition react when he’s at full speed, it’s proven extremely effective for him.

We can’t look at Trevor’s skating ability without highlighting a clip or two from his Hlinka Gretzky tournament where he really made a name for himself. You can see that Trevor eats up a lot of puck possession time especially on the powerplay as he isn’t afraid to cut back to create another skating or passing lane for himself. As he cuts back at the blueline he realizes how deep the penalty killers are toward the net, so he decides to do what he’s best at, which is attacking the net resulting in a fabulous goal. He’s constantly looking for skating lanes in high danger areas and doesn’t always have the generic passing idea in mind which can’t be easily deciphered and covered by opponents.

Against Finland in the bronze medal game, Connelly attacks the defender, beating him to get outside with his dynamic speed. He’s just so hard to contain in 1-on-1 situations if the defender isn’t fully committed to taking the body before the puck as he will just dance around you as shown in this highlight reel goal. His puck skills are phenomenal, he’s able to stick handles at full speed and make defenders hesitate when he’s darting straight at you.

Watching his stickhandle like that at full speed is just special, that quick inside to outside maneuverer with the lighting quick toe drag is what helps showcase his speed and skill. The puck seems to stick on his blade like glue as his puck control at top speed is exceptional.

Shooting & Scoring Ability

Connelly definitely has a healthy obsession of shooting the puck as he nearly hits double digits with shots on goal per game. His release is lethal and isn’t afraid to let off shots in tough situations. It’s evident that Trevor is the main difference maker on the Tri-City Storm and makes it his mission to produce on a nightly basis on the scoresheet. His linemates are constantly looking to dish him the puck as his finishing ability is excellent. Constantly gliding into those danger areas around the crease trying to generate offensive chances, Connelly’s scoring ability is easily visible on the man advantage and odd man rushes as he is usually the main trigger man. His shot is heavy, accurate and exhibits a large shooting selection. He’s a power play specialist, extremely deadly with his scoring instincts and overall passing ability as well. When taking on defenders 1-on-1 he is able to push the puck to the inside with a quick cutback turn and release a rocket through traffic or use the defender as a screen. Also noticeable is Connelly’s backhand, showing great effectiveness at raising the puck down low after cutting toward the net, it’s an underrated weapon of his.

When I said Connelly’s backhand was a weapon of his I wasn’t kidding. You’ll notice in this clip that Trevor beats his opponent to the outside and is cutting toward the goal, his head up gives him the ability to see if the passing option was available but decides to take the goalie on himself. You’ll notice Trevor doesn’t stickhandle once after his initial move on the defender, it sort of gives the impression that he is corralling the puck to bring it onto his forehand to tuck it on the far post but doesn’t.

Here, you’ll see Trevor receive the puck along the wall with open ice to work with and immediately has his eyes on the goal. He notices the traffic being built up near the crease and his linemate screening the goaltender. Trevor is able to pick the top corner with ease before the goalie is able to see or read the release. The quick lateral fake he delivered helped keep the defender flat footed and gave him valuable real estate on the left side to enter for a split second before shooting.

Connelly displays a shoot first mentality and scoring confidence in odd man rushes. He doesn’t even consider passing the puck in this short-lived 3-on-1 and has his eyes strictly on the net to where he will place his shot. Look at the power he produces with his back heel on his release, as he fully leans onto his stick with his follow through.

His quick release in unorthodox shooting situations helps him score impressive goals like this one. You’ll notice the numerous passing options that are presented to him after entering the zone but instead he decides to shoot the puck as his linemate is crashing the net with a screen.

Once he enters that high danger area around the slot with the puck on his stick, it’s gone in a flash.

Offensive Vision & Playmaking Ability

The game seems to slow down for Connelly whenever he has the puck. His brain is able to process and anticipate plays that are being developed and make instant opportunities for his team. Trevor controls the play of the game and can create constant pressure in the o-zone. His execution of passes may not be a strong element of his playmaking, but he has the right idea in mind when it comes to dishing the puck in tight and tough situations. As noted, he’s a constant threat to shoot the puck, making him even more deadly when he decides to pass in instances where you least expect it. Trevor makes key in-game reads to be able to get into the correct offensive positioning to gain the puck. He’s creative down low, wanting to produce the unexpected as compared to the generic passing plays most forwards would execute. His understanding of the game helps him to read and predict where the puck and his teammates will likely be in certain plays. Connelly can identify weaknesses in the opposing defense and exploit gaps in coverage. His overall decision-making skills are still a work in progress as he looks to move with a quicker intent.

There’s a lot to take in from this play. Early on in this play, he recognizes his teammate rushing behind him with an open lane toward the net. Later in this shift, he attempts a pass to a teammate (#9) in a high scoring position on the face off dot, followed by a final play making chance with a backdoor pass to his rushing defenseman on the back post. While this clip showcases Connelly’s great vision and sense of awareness, his passing execution was lacking.

In this clip, Connelly sets his teammate up with an instant cross-seam pass on the man advantage. It’s important he executed his pass quickly and without hesitation, as getting pucks through traffic is difficult.

As soon as he corralled the puck against the boards his head was up looking for passing options before circling behind the goal and delivering a tremendous scoring opportunity to his teammate. Like I said, he’s creative and tries to avoid the most generic passing option, in this case it would’ve been back to the point

Areas of Improvement

Although Trevor is offensively gifted, there’s other aspects of his game that need work. Connelly lacks defensive responsibilities in his own zone, continuously puck watching at times and not keeping proper position as a winger should. His work ethic is very inconsistent, his skating off the puck is worrying near the end of his shifts. He tends to consume most of his energy for when he receives the puck rather than staying defensively sound. Connelly’s heavy puck possession game sometimes gives the impression that he is selfish, holding onto the puck too long often causing preventable turnovers. His over skating with the puck tends to position teammates in open areas, but he needs to trust his teammates more and dish them the puck. He’s light on his feet but will need to improve his frame to be competitive in puck battles against heavier opposition as he makes his way out of junior hockey. I wouldn’t say that weighing 161 pounds is a negative, I’m just saying there’s always room to add muscle to his game. Trevor is durable but a bigger physique would improve his puck battle percentage and puck protection skills which is a major facet of his game. His persona has been a topic of debate since last year as he has had on and off-ice incidents to deal with. His character has been called into questionable, but everyone makes mistakes, he is constantly learning to become a professional adult and hockey player.


Overall, it’s apparent Trevor is an offensive force, using his dynamic skating ability mixed with his lightning quick hands, Connelly is a constant threat to his opponents. He excels at attacking the net aggressively, has an excellent motor and work ethic to match more often than none. His skillset is hard to come by, making him a very intriguing prospect in this year’s draft. His speed is what sets him apart from his peers, playing a step ahead of his competition. Without proper gap control or body positioning, he’ll make sure to exploit your weaknesses to his advantage. Talented at holding on the puck to create additional passing or shooting options for himself, a dual threat to shoot and score. A powerplay wizard, the extra open ice gives him the chance to display his explosive end to end rushes. His shot is high quality, able to easily pick the corners and can release the puck in unexpected locations. Trevor doesn’t back down from physicality, he makes sure to dish back the punishment he receives. His confidence with the puck is unparalleled, truly keeping you wanting to see more. Trevor’s passing game is constantly growing as he realizes he can’t do it himself every shift. His upside is through the roof, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls off the board sooner than projected at the draft if his game continues to impress.


If you are looking for a mid-season rundown on the 2024 draft class as a whole be sure to pick up your copy of the Draft Prospects Hockey 2024 Preview Magazine available for instant download or print through Amazon.