Depth Perception: Conner Making a Case
Chris Conner is embracing his opportunity with the Red Wings. The 5-foot-7, 180 pound forward was recalled more than a week ago from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL after Patrick Eaves was sidelined due to a broken jaw. Since his promotion, the 27 year-old winger has notched a goal and three points through 6 games. Conner has played a limited role, mostly on the fourth line, for Detroit but his speed and tenacity have been assets to the veteran-laden Wings.
He’s played his role so effectively that he hasn’t allowed rookie forward Cory Emmerton to be inserted back into the line-up. The 6-foot, 190 pound Emmerton was scratched due a decline in play and a series of rookie mistakes thus providing Conner his shot at the line-up.
The Wings only recalled Conner after Fabian Brunnstrom became unavailable due to the birth of his first child. Brunnstrom, who made the team out of training camp, has spent most of his tikme in the press box seeing time in just 5 games for Detroit. The problem with the 6-foot-1, 206 pound Swede is that he needs to play on a scoring line to be effective and he hasn’t been able to establish himself as an NHL forward in a limited role. Now in Grand Rapids, the Wings are hoping he can find his form and provide solid depth later in the season.
With Conner exceeding expectations and Cory Emmerton itching to return to the line-up, the real competition begins once Jan Mursak returns from a fractured ankle injured during a preseason game. The 5-foot-11, 190 pound forward played 19 games for Detroit last season impressing the coaches with his speed, instincts and work ethic. Until the injury, he was a lock to make the roster out of training camp and his return in a few weeks will mean Detroit will have key decisions to make.
Though Mursak’s return will likely send Conner back to Grand Rapids, he isn’t making it easy on the coaching staff. The diminutive forward seems to get more comfortable and effective with each game meaning his AHL stay could be short lived. At the very least, Conner has established himself at the top of the promotion pecking order in the event Detroit needs an extra forward and he’s certainly more than just a veteran presence for the Griffins.