NHL draft prospect seeks to shed off-ice concerns through diversity training, volunteer work

Trevor Connelly says he has done his best through volunteer work and diversity training to address behavioral concerns that could affect his NHL draft standing this weekend.

“I just kind of told them I’ve put in a lot of work in myself and done a lot of things in the community and volunteered a lot,” the 18-year-old Connelly said, referring to what he told NHL executives at the pre-draft combine earlier this month.

At issue was an image he posted on Snapchat and then hastily removed two years ago that showed a friend posing in front of a collection of building blocks formed in the shape of a swastika

“I just want to kind of not hang myself on the past and keep moving forward,” Connelly said. “And that’s all I can do just to be the best person I can be every day.”

Connelly was also accused of making a racial slur during a game in 2021. An initial suspension, however, was lifted after an investigation by the California Amateur Hockey Association was unable to corroborate what happened. Connelly has apologized for posting the picture and disputed the slur allegation.

While the picture has essentially been scrubbed from the internet, the issue lingers.

“He’s a player we talked about a lot, on-ice and off-ice profile,” Buffalo Sabres assistant GM Jerry Forton said. “We have a pretty thorough due diligence process that will include him. But we’re never going to share that publicly.”

From Tustin, California, Connelly is ranked sixth by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters. And while he said he interviewed with 22 of 32 NHL teams at the combine, it’s unclear where those teams have him listed — if at all — on their draft boards.

“Trevor has had a season where he’s been scrutinized and had to play under adversity,” Central Scouting chief Dan Marr saidl

“He’s grown as a person. He’s had to adapt some life skills here,” he added. “When we make one mistake in life, it’s certainly not a life sentence. And he’s done, I think, everything that anybody could have asked him to do to show that he’s a good person and wants to be a good person.”

Aside from taking diversity training, Connelly joined his father to coach at the Under-14 Amerigol LATAM Cup, an international tournament that highlights inclusivity and diversity in featuring teams from non-traditional hockey markets such as the Caribbean and Brazil.

Connelly is coming off a season with the Tri-City Storm in which he finished second in the USHL with 78 points (31 goals, 47 assists) in 52 games. He is committed to playing at Providence, under respected coach Nate Leaman. He has also represented the U.S., most recently winning a silver medal at the 2024 Under-18 world championships.

“Trevor has worked very hard to accomplish his dream of playing in the NHL,” Connelly’s agent, John Osei-Tutu, said. “We hope teams recognize the maturity and growth and dedication he has shown to making a positive impact both on and off the ice.”

Trade talk

Newly hired Blue Jackets general manager Don Waddell isn’t ruling out trading the No. 4 pick in the draft to spur a turnaround for a team that’s finished no better than sixth in the eight-team Metropolitan Division over the past four years.

“We’re open,” Waddell said last week. “If we keep the pick, we’re going to get a great player. And if we trade a pick, it’s going to have to be a great deal for us.”

Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has made no secret that he’s shopping the No. 11 pick in a bid to add established talent to a team in the midst of an NHL-record 13-season playoff drought.

“I’ve told every team in the league that we are wide open to considering moving Pick 11,” Adams said last week. “We’re wide open to consider anything, to be honest with you — prospects, if we think it’s going to help our team.”

Entering the Sphere

Step aside, Deadheads, the NHL is taking center stage at Sphere.

The newly opened Las Vegas globe-shaped live entertainment center, with LED screens wrapping both the inside and outside of its structure, will serve host to the two-day draft Friday and Saturday. The facility, which opened in September, has redefined Las Vegas’ already vivid skyline and entertainment scene.

Sphere served as home to the rock band U2, during a 40-show residency ending in March. The Dead and Company, which features former Grateful Dead members, is currently in the midst of a 30-show residency running through August.

The draft will be 20,000 seat venue’s first live TV and sporting event. Sphere is also scheduled to host UFC 306 in September.


AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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