SAVANNAH, Ga. – As the 2022-23 ECHL season winds down for the Savannah Ghost Pirates, we continue to look at the Vegas Golden Knights prospects Savannah has had on the ice this year in a bit more detail. We will also discuss what the future may hold for them.
Today, we are looking at the year Connor Corcoran has had thus far and what he brings to the ice with him, outside of one of the best mustaches in the ECHL.
Connor Corcoran’s Journey to the NHL
Before we talk about Corcoran’s season, I would like to take a look back at the journey that brought him to be one of Vegas’ draft picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Heading up to becoming the 154th overall pick, Corcoran had spent two years in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires.
Early on in Corcoran’s playing career, he had shifted back and forth from forward to defenseman. In Windsor, he switched fully toward the defensive aspect of his game. There he had made a name for himself by taking up a ton of ice time while maintaining a strong defensive-minded shutdown role.
According to Brock Otten of the OHL Prospects, Corcoran took a strong leadership role in his sophomore season, which helped propel Windsor to be a lot better than most expected that team to perform. However, Otten still had his questions about Corcoran’s offensive ability. In his top 50 OHL players for the upcoming 2018 draft, he asked:
“The question is, how much offensive potential does he have?” – Otten
At the time, it was a fair question. In the 2017-2018 season, Corcoran had only shot the puck on goal 96 times. Although he was still beneficial with assists from the blue line, his shooting percentage sat at 3.1 percent.
Vegas Makes a Bet
In 2018, Vegas decided to take the risk on Corcoran’s offensive abilities never blossoming further by selecting him in their second draft year. Which, for many, would not be considered a risk at all. With defensive prospects of that nature you can usually see them going one of two ways.
Firstly, as in Corcoran’s case, they can blossom offensively as they develop and gain further confidence in their role on the blue line. While the other option is they double down on the defensive shut down side of their game, and become a nuisance in the back end who no one wants to play against. Both options, once developed, translate into a prized defenseman in any hockey organization.
For Vegas, they did not have to wait long to see which route Corcoran was going to take. In his 2018-19 OHL season, he took almost 70 more shots from the blue line, while also doubling his shooting percentage to 6.1 percent. He furthered that growth in 2019-20 when he once again took a three percentile leap in his shooting percentage while contributing 54 total points in 62 games played for Windsor.
Corcoran’s final shot count for the 2019-20 season sat at 211, which was 115 more than his sophomore year. His shooting percentage in that final season had also blossomed to nine percent, representing a six percent growth from where he started. Then the unmeasurable stats came into play as well: his leadership. Corcoran’s final OHL year saw him donning the A on his sweater as he helped rally his team night in and night out.
Corcoran’s Career in the ECHL & AHL
Fast forward to now. This season marks Corcoran’s third professional year under the Vegas umbrella and the final year of his ELC. That means the organization will have to make a decision on him very soon.
Every year Corcoran has seen himself split time between the Henderson Silver Knights and their ECHL affiliate, which for the past two years had been the Fort Wayne Komets. In all three years Corcoran has maintained that offensive aspect to his game. Last year alone, with the Komets, he had a record year offensively. Corcoran saw himself scoring 20 goals that season while maintaining a shooting percentage that had astronomically improved to 13%.
In his professional tenure, Corcoran has become an effective power play piece for all of the teams he has been a part of, making an extreme impact for the units of Savannah, Henderson, and Fort Wayne.
Corcoran with his 8th power play goal of the season to put the Komets on the board! 1-0 K's!#LetsGoKomets pic.twitter.com/MpPoKNDFEa
— Fort Wayne Komets (@FWKomets) March 19, 2022
His game on the defensive side of the puck is very physical, and he has continued to be a premium shot blocker in the games I have seen him with down here in Savannah. There is no question that Corcoran brings grit and a high level of work ethic every minute he’s on the ice.
However, if we were to dissect his season this year strictly from an offensive production side we would notice what, on a surface level alone, seems like regression. His shooting percentage is down from the career year he had in Fort Wayne, currently sitting at 5.1 percent. This in turn has contributed to a lower points per game pace than the .9 that he enjoyed in Fort Wayne last season.
Currently, at this point in Savannah, Corcoran is at a .52 points per game pace. An interesting thing with Corcoran this year, however, is that those two previously mentioned statistics do not paint an accurate picture for how well he is still playing offensively for Savannah. In fact, when we dive deeper into Corcoran’s analytics this season, we begin to notice that he has pretty much played a similar game to what he did last year in his career year with Fort Wayne.
The first place to examine these consistencies is Corcoran’s shot count. In both the ECHL & AHL this year he has kept a very close pace to what he was able to do last season. For Savannah he has averaged right over 3 shots a game (3.14), while in Fort Wayne he had 3.75. Then with Henderson at the AHL level he has taken 1.88 shots per game this year, while last year he took 2.08. Both numbers are slightly lower this year, but not in any drastic or concerning ways.
On that note, his assist markers for both leagues are in same range at this point as they were in his previous year. Currently he is sitting at 20 assists between Henderson and Savannah in a combined 58 games played, which places him at a .34 assists per game pace. While last year in 53 games he had a combined 19 assists which translates to a .36 assists per game pace. Once again, the numbers work out to practically the same contribution in regards to his ability to create scoring plays from the blue line.
One of my final pieces of evidence that continue this trend is to look at his penalty minutes. For a defenseman, Corcoran takes a rather low amount of penalty minutes. This year he is sitting at 24 penalty minutes in the ECHL, and has averaged .48 penalty minutes per game. For context, there are 133 other defensemen in the league with more penalty minutes than Corcoran, and 57 of those players have played in at least 10 games less than Corcoran has this season.
So yes, if someone looked only at Corcoran’s goal scoring from last year and compared it to this year they might assume that his game has been off this year. However, looking at his analytics as a whole shows that Corcoran has played a very similar game this year to the career season he had last year. The only difference seemingly is that he has not had the same puck luck as the previous season.
My final summary on Corcoran’s year is that nothing has drastically changed from him. He has stayed a consistent skater on the ice, kept the same grit and defensive will with every match, and paced himself at similar offensive production levels as usual. The only major difference in this year and previous years is his shooting percentage. Therefore, we can surmise that regression occurs both ways; if he continues to shoot over three shots a game he will at some point start to get those bounces going his way once more. Whether that occurs within this year or in future years, his shooting percentage should regress back up towards the mean sooner or later. Which once again leaves the Vegas organization with an important decision to make as his ELC expires at the end of this season.
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