Conner Roulette puts "first-round potential" on display at U18 World Championship ahead of NHL Draft
WINNIPEG -- Take one look at a Conner Roulette’s highlight reel and it’s clear he’s an exceptional player with a gift for creating offence and scoring goals.
The Winnipeg product, with ties to Misipawistik Cree Nation and Sandy Bay First Nation, was identified as a player with “first round potential” at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft after amassing 19 goals and 20 assists through 54 games in his rookie season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. He has averaged more than a point per game through 11 contests inside the WHL’s US division bubble this year.
While there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding his offensive prowess, the Thunderbirds coaching staff said it’s not all he brings to the table.
“His defensive game is sneaky good, actually. All of his metrics check out on the defensive side and he’s got an overall love of playing hockey, his passion to play hockey is evident every day,” said Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette.
“He’s always having a good time with his teammates out on the ice.”
As Roulette continues to climb the proverbial ladder, his appreciation for what the game gives him is much of the same as it was when he was growing up playing with friends in Winnipeg’s North End—connecting with others.
“When you have 20-25 guys going to the rink and you’re really looking forward to seeing them every day, it kind of adds so much more to playing the game.” Roulette said.
“For me, it’s not just the hockey part, it’s not just going out there to have fun, it’s also going out there to meet new people.”
Playing with Team Canada at this year’s U18 World Championship, Roulette finds himself in unfamiliar territory playing on a stacked roster full of prolific goal scorers.
“I’m just finding ways to adapt to a different role.” Roulette said, after referring to his more prominent role in Seattle.
“When there are other guys who can create offence, you’ve got to kind of adapt to a new role and help the team win in other ways.”
While he has yet to play a full regular season with Seattle because of the pandemic, Roulette’s coach has high expectations for him as the Thunderbirds look to build around the young left-winger.
“I see Conner as a guy who can potentially lead the league in scoring, he’s that talented,” O’Dette said. “We’re a young team, but we’re poised to do some big things in the next couple of years and he’d be the guy leading the way.”
And it’s an interesting time to be “the guy” in Seattle, as the excitement for hockey is on the rise in the Pacific Northwest, with the Seattle Kraken joining the NHL, O’Dette said.
“Having an NHL team now in town just brings more hockey traffic coming through. Big names, big people in the game in town, they’ll be able to catch more of our games, and (our) guys can go down the road and watch an (NHL) game live and that will be great for them.”
The Kraken won't drop the puck on the inaugural season until the fall, but its presence is already being felt.
“There were a couple of times where we had Kraken scouts at the game and obviously it’s pretty cool when you see that,” Roulette said. “For Seattle, it’s such a sports city. They love their sports there and when they get an (NHL) hockey team I think it will open a lot more eyes to the game of hockey down there.”
While Roulette hopes to be playing in front of new hockey fans when it’s safe to do so, he’s quick to show gratitude for those who’ve been along for the ride since his journey began, as it’s helped him stay grounded as he approaches a career milestone.