Scouting report: O’Connor has size, smarts, shot


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On Tuesday the Penguins officially announced the signing of undrafted free agent forward Drew O'Connor out of Dartmouth to a two-year, entry-level contract.

With the lack of high picks in some recent and upcoming drafts, it's not surprising to see the Penguins dip into the college free agent pool again.

What kind of a player did the Penguins get in O'Connor? Let's take a look.

21 (Sophomore)


O'Connor is a native of Chatham, N.J., and attended the prep school Delbarton School in nearby Morristown, N.J. He also played U18 for a local team in New Jersey and junior hockey for the Boston Jr. Bruins before attending Dartmouth in 2018-19.

As a freshman, O'Connor was named to the All-Ivy Second Team, the only freshman on either the First Team or Second Team. His 17 goals led the ECAC, and was the second-most in the NCAA of any rookie player. After his freshman season, O'Connor attended the Bruins development camp.

This season O'Connor was named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Year and was a Hobey Baker nominee.

Dartmouth's 2019-20 season ended on Saturday after being swept by Princeton in the best-of-three first round.


As a freshman in 2018-19, he finished No. 2 on Dartmouth with 17 goals and nine assists in 34 games.

This year, O’Connor lead Dartmouth in scoring with 21 goals and 12 assists in 31 games. He had an impressive shooting percentage of 16 percent. O'Connor recorded his first career collegiate hat trick on Feb. 28 in a 5-3 win over Union.

In his combined 64 games over the last two seasons, his 38 goals are the third most in all of NCAA hockey.


A big one here is obviously his size. Seravalli recently called O’Connor a “legitimate NHL power forward” in his preview of the top available college free agents.

O'Connor also has the versatility of being able to play both center and wing. He played exclusively wing as a freshman, and moved to center during this season, where his size comes in handy.

“Center is totally different geography on the ice, but he jumped in with no problem,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet told Valley News. “He’s got an incredibly long reach, and he surprises people by poke-checking the puck or stealing a pass.”

O'Connor's coach has also praised his vision and IQ on the ice.

“The thing that always jumped out about (O’Connor) was that he had a great vision of the ice,” Gaudet told last season. “He’s a really smart hockey player, and hockey sense is a huge part of the game.”

O'Connor showed good patience on this breakaway goal last season:

While there's usually a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the skating of players with size, O'Connor's linemate from his freshman year praised his skating.

O’Connor’s linemate last season, senior Carl Hesler, praised other aspects of O’Connor’s game.

“He can move extremely well for his size and is very skilled,” Hesler told “He has excellent hands and a great shot. I love playing with him because he has confidence in his game and makes plays."

His powerful stride was on display in this clip from last season. O'Connor dives to block a shot, then chases the puck down in an attempt to put it into the empty net in the final seconds:

That shot Hesler described can be seen with this bomb last week:

O'Connor played on both the power play and penalty kill for Dartmouth.


For a college player to have their choice of team in free agency, they have to have already been draft eligible for at least two years and go unclaimed. With some of these highly-touted free agents, some people ask how it's possible they went unclaimed in their draft years.

With O'Connor, there's a pretty good answer. While one of his big assets right now is his size, he didn't have that until recently. In his first year of draft eligibility at age 18, he was undersized at just 5-foot-8. At 6-foot-3 now, he's added seven inches in just three years. According to the Valley News, before a Dartmouth coach discovered O'Connor in juniors, he didn't have an offer from a single Division I school and was hoping to be a walk on for Division III Hobart College, or play for their club team.

“I worked out a ton and skated all the time,” O’Connor told Valley News. “I was always very skinny, and I had to prove I could play at a higher level.”


O'Connor will join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an amateur tryout contract to finish the season, and have his NHL contract kick in next year. Because he signed after the trade deadline as a free agent, he isn't eligible to play in the NHL postseason this year.

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