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Former Shelby Township resident, Connor, is now part of the University of Michigan hockey roster

By: Mark Vest | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 25, 2016

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It has been quite an eventful period in the life of former Shelby Township resident Kyle Connor, as aside from being in his freshman season with the University of Michigan hockey team, he was also selected 17th in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets.

While Connor — who moved to Youngstown, Ohio, after ninth grade — is going to have to wait for his opportunity to play in the NHL as he continues to develop his game, he does get to play for the school he grew up rooting for.

Connor, who played for the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League while living in Ohio, is now in the midst of living out what he acknowledged to be a dream come true, playing at Michigan.

“It was my No. 1 school I wanted to go to for hockey,” said Connor, who earned USHL Player of the Year honors during the 2014-15 season. “It’s been a lot of fun. Growing up, being from Michigan, I always rooted for maize and blue in every sport — basketball, football and, obviously, hockey, which is the sport I love. Coming here and getting a chance to put on a jersey is a pretty cool feeling.”

While there may still be many more good memories to come, the one that stands out so far is his first game as a Wolverine.

“I think my first game as a college player was at home,” said Connor, who is currently tied for second in the NCAA in scoring with 36 points, according to collegehockeynews.com. “I played some games as a younger player at Yost (Ice Arena). Being able to wear that jersey and play there — ended up scoring a goal in the first game. That was pretty special.”

While it is easy to focus on the athletics side of Connor’s journey, there is also the reality of a 19-year-old freshman student who finds himself at what could arguably be considered one of the most prestigious and academically challenging schools in the country.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Connor said of being a student at Michigan. “It’s definitely a learning experience coming from a small school in Ohio — big university here. School’s pretty tough, but you got academic help and people who can get you through it. It’s the best of both worlds. Great program of hockey, and you also get the great education.”

College is an option many people choose to help prepare them to enter the workforce. Connor’s preferred field of work happens to be professional hockey, and from his perspective, he is at a place that can help prepare him for the next stage of his journey.

“They have a long history of players who have made it to that next level,” said Connor, who is the highest drafted player in the history of the Phantoms. “I think it’s a testament to their coaching staff and all the supporting staff around to be able to develop players into professional hockey players. Hopefully, (I) get to play there someday.”

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