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Who will select Trevor Connelly? A look at the changing standards of the NHL’s top prospects

In late July, NHL scouts traveled to Central Europe for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, an under-18 international tournament, to watch some of the best young players eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft.
Over six days, scouts bounced between the FOSFA Arena in Břeclav, Czech Republic, and the Pavol Demitra Ice Hockey Stadium in Trenčín, Slovakia, as they watched likely first-round picks Berkly Catton and Sam Dickinson from Team Canada and highly rated Czechia defenseman Adam Jiricek. But few prospects caught their attention as much as Trevor Connelly, a 17-year-old forward from Tustin, Calif.
Over five games, he scored five goals and had five assists and led Team USA to its first medal at the event since 2016. He displayed dynamic skating, puck skills, and offensive creativity. In the bronze medal game, Connelly went end-to-end and chipped a shot over the shoulder of Finland’s goalie. One scout said of Connelly, “He looked like the best player here.”
His play was written about glowingly by several hockey publications, with The Hockey News calling his performance the “start of the hype train for him.” After playing well in the United States’ top junior league and shining in another international event in December, he moved up to No. 5 on one prominent list of North American prospects.
Connelly was known to scouts before the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but his play forced teams to consider him anew. He was no longer just a prospect; he was a potential impact NHL player. But that made the evaluation of him thornier because, as one scout said, “Some stuff I’m just not willing to look the other way on.”
Many NHL evaluators were already aware that, in 2022, when he was 16, Connelly posted to Snapchat a picture of a teammate sitting on the floor of the children’s area of a library with building blocks assembled in the shape of a swastika. Connelly added the caption “creations.” He was removed from his team, the Long Island Gulls, after that incident. Connelly apologized for the posting of the swastika and said he didn’t understand how hurtful it would be to others. Some NHL people were also aware he had been accused of directing a racial slur at an opponent…

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