It hasn’t been an easy journey for the young Conor Timmins.
By now, we all know his story. From the highly-regarded 32nd-overall pick in the 2017 draft, to his heart-breaking, harrowing 18-month recovery from a concussion that knocked him out of the 2018 OHL Finals and held him out all the way through the 2018-19 season.
Avs head coach Jared Bednar has said that Conor Timmins was very close to making the Avalanche roster in his first season of training camp back in ‘17 because “that’s how good he was.” A lot has changed since then.
The now-22-year-old defenseman was projected to be a top-four D-man on the Avs future blueline. He still might be, but his development—delayed by his recovery, among other injuries—has been slowed.
Since signing his entry-level contract in January of 2018, Timmins has appeared in just 46 AHL games with the Colorado Eagles, and 27 NHL games with the Avalanche. That’s a grand total of 73 pro hockey games in the span of three-and-a-half years, or just around 20 games per season, on average.
It’s hard to develop under those circumstances.
Lately, however, it seems Timmins is hitting his stride, and he’s finally starting to look like a legitimate option on the Avs backend, rather than just a stand-in call-up from the Eagles. Guys like Timmins gives the Avs the kind of depth that continues to make them a favorite to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks such as BetMGM.
“He’s been good; he’s been moving well out there and moving the puck and defending well,” Patrik Nemeth told Colorado Hockey Now. “He’s been playing well and it’s been good for us. We need him out there.”
Conor Timmins says confidence is the key to his recent string of improved performance.
“I’ve just been more sure of myself on the ice,” he said. “I’ve been simplifying my game and trying to make clean exits, and that’s led to my offense and everything’s stemmed from that. It’s just a matter of simplifying for me.”
At times, Timmins has lacked that confidence on the ice. Whether it’s mishandling pucks, forcing or missing passes, or shying away from the physical play, it was clear that Timmins was a little unsure of himself. Those instances are fewer and farther between these days, however.
“He’s been putting in the work,” Bednar said. “He had a good last stint with the Eagles, got healthy and has been playing with confidence…We just felt like he was doing the right things, he was more sure with the puck, he was executing more plays in the breakout, neutral zone, O-zone than his last stint.”
Now, with the Avalanche blueline depleted, Conor Timmins is earning a chance to play more minutes than he usually might. During his first call-up from January to early March, Timmins was averaging right around 13 minutes per night. Lately, the budding D-man has been averaging roughly 18 per game.
“We felt confidence with him, and he’s a right shot, he shoots the puck well, he passes it hard,” Bednar said. “He has that type of ability. We haven’t seen a lot of flashes of it in his first few call-ups. Right now, he just looks like a more confident player.”
During the May 1 game at home against the San Jose Sharks, Timmins totaled 27 shifts, the most of his young NHL career, and earned his first multi-point game with two assists, one of which was a beautiful one-touch, back-door pass to a streaking Nathan MacKinnon.
Those are the kind of plays that reek confidence and show the growth in Timmins’ game. These types of plays are happening more and more often. Whether it’s strong passes and confident plays like the one he made to MacKinnon on Saturday, or the noticeable difference in how much more willing he is to hold on to the puck, carry it up ice, through the neutral zone and try to make a play, it’s clear Conor Timmins is more “sure of himself” these days.
And with all of the defenseman on the injury report lately, Conor Timmins couldn’t have picked a better time to step up.
“He’s been around us enough and he knows that we need him to play well with some of these guys that are out with injury,” Bednar finished. “So good for him for making the most of this opportunity. We’re going to need him to play well, especially with these guys that are out.”