Cory Conacher has been a name prospect the last year or so, but I can't say I've caught enough Tampa, Norfolk or Syracuse games to give an informed take on his game. So I turned to John Fontana (@Johnny_Fonts) who writes at SBN's Tampa Bay Lighting blog Raw Charge to answer a few questions fans in Ottawa may have. Oh and if you're looking for a more in-depth and detailed scouting report, John has one of those too right here.
1. How surprised were you to see Conacher in the trade Wednesday?
"Gobsmacked" is the way I described how I felt, speaking to friends and publicly on Twitter, regarding the whole deal. "Surprised" just doesn't cut it. Most (if not all) Tampa Bay Lightning fans never saw this coming, no one expected it. No one thought Conacher would be dangled as a trade chip, let alone moved. That goes doubly for me.
2. What kind of player is Ottawa getting?
Besides short? A spark plug. Think of Tampa Bay's Martin St Louis, subtract 14 years, add a little more willingness to jump into a scrum or stick up for himself and you have an idea of what Ottawa is getting. Conacher has the wheels and ability to go places in this league, though the Lightning have been trying to round-out his game in recent weeks (I'll explain that in question 3 and 4).
3. Which part of his game needs the most work?
At times, I think Conacher can be a little careless when speeding into the opponent's zone – and that leads to losing control of the puck or a general turnover. So puck possession could use some strengthening. At the same time. The Lightning were specifically working with him on improving his defensive game. That took him off the Bolts top line combos (next to Steven Stamkos or Vincent Lecavalier) and saw him on the lower lines.
4. Has he been playing noticeably different as the points have slowed, or is it just a matter of the bounces not going his way anymore?
I think there's been a general lack of opportunity for Cory lately with thanks to being demoted to the lower lines (to work on this defensive game). That's also lead to a drop in ice time. Those are both key contributing factors in his production trailing off. If he's turned loose, I think you'll see the points (and goals) come.
5. From what you saw this season, what kind of potential do you think he has?
Let's not just use one season to judge Cory. I watched him in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals in 2011/12, I watched him with the 2012/13 Syracuse Crunch, I've watched him with the 2013 Lightning as well. He's got a fearlessness and ability to go places in this league and be a force. It wasn't a fluke he draws comparisons to the aforementioned St. Louis.