In the leading months the NHL regular season, the Bruins have been positioning themselves into becoming a dominant force in 2018. And to become a contender, you have to not only look at your current roster, but also develop your AHL prospects. In a league where every player is competing for a spot in the big leagues, how do you make a big enough impact for the NHL to take notice? For New Jersey native Connor Clifton, making that impact has been an improving steady climb.
The 23-year-old defenseman recently played for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. Drafted in 2013 by the Arizona Coyotes, Clifton wasn’t able to make much of an impact and ultimately parted ways with the team. The Bruins quickly signed him in 2017, and he’s played in Providence since then. He continues to improve steadily, so much so that the Bruins recently signed him to a two-year NHL deal worth $725,000 per year.
Prior to signing with the Bruins, he joined the U.S. National Development Team in 2011. He was later invited back to the team where he played alongside Frank Vatrano and Anders Bjork. He was also teammates with a young Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin.
In 2013, Clifton attended Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where he played alongside his brother, Tim. During his freshman year, he posted five goals with four assists in 36 games. The 43rd captain in Bobcats history played in 43 games and potted seven goals and 21 assists. During Quinnipiac’s run in the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four playoffs, Clifton nicely showed his defensive presence as he laid out North Dakota forward Austin Pogorski in a clean shoulder to shoulder hit:
That year was he received ECAC Hockey All-Tournament Team honors and was awarded Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He was also named to the 2016 NCAA East All-Frozen Four Team and named Quinnipiac’s Male Athlete of the Month. He ended his college career totaling 19 goals, 37 assists and 56 points in 156 NCAA games. Bobcats’ head coach Rand Pecknold had this to say about Clifton:
“Connor was the heart and soul of our team. His character and commitment to excellence is outstanding. We wish him all the best as he moves forward with his professional career.”
In his first year with Providence, Clifton played in 54 games with four goals and nine assists and had a +11 plus/minus rating. On Dec 9th, 2017 the young defenseman scored his first professional NHL goal:
— Providence Bruins (@AHLBruins) December 10, 2017
Clifton ended the last 26 games left in the season with ten points and a +11 rating. Could he make an appearance in the NHL this season? There’s lots of competition with the likes of recently signed Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon. For someone like Connor, he’ll have to continue to make a name for himself down in Providence. With his rugged defensive playing skills, Clifton will no doubt be a player to watch out for.