Hard work, especially in sport, tends to lead to well-deserved success. Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor has certainly seen the fruits of his labor come to fruition this season.
The NHL’s rookie goal-scoring leader (with 31 goals and 57 points), 21-year-old Connor has been nothing short of a superstar this season.
But it hasn’t been just this year, it’s been foretold every step and league along the way.
From Belle Tire to the three years with United States Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms, to the University of Michigan and finally the NHL, Connor said each year his game continued to develop not only in-season, but in the offseason months, too.
“Strength and skill training is a big part of summers,” Connor said. “It’s a big chunk of time where you can really improve your body and skill, and everything. During the season it’s more maintenance and that type of thing, keeping your strength up, because you don’t want to be fatigued or sore going into a game.
“The offseason is where most of the real work can get put in.”
And while Connor and the Jets are currently enjoying a prolonged season, facing the Minnesota Wild in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, he still offers up some tips for when that offseason does arrive – his preference not being until June, of course.
There’s a natural tendency to want to grab the biggest set of weights to gain the biggest amount of strength. Connor said that’s not the right approach, especially as a youth.
“I didn’t do a lot of weight training when I was young,” said the Clinton Township, Michigan, native. “There was a lot of single-weight exercises here and there, but nothing with a lot of weights.”
Once Connor reached Youngstown – where he amassed 82 goals and 195 points in 174 games – more emphasis was put on strength development and weight training the proper way.
Connor adds that weights should not be the sole focus in the offseason. Dryland training such as exercises listed here are also incredibly beneficial.
“It’s all about improvement, right?” Connor said. “That comes with a variety of elements. It’s not just about deadlifting the heaviest weight. That’s how you can end up getting hurt.”
I know, it sounds a little lame to say, but nutrition is key. You have to fuel the engine properly if you want it to run properly.
Eating right doesn’t mean dieting. Well-balanced meals with protein, greens and carbohydrates will allow you to train better, too.
Check here for nutrition tips from USA Hockey National Team Development Program strength and conditioning coach Darryl Nelson.
Connor said a lot of his offseason time as a youth was spent playing other sports. The value in not only taking a physical break from hockey, but a mental one as well, can not be overstated.
“Playing other sports helped a tremendous amount to just develop as an overall athlete,” Connor said. I think probably my favorite was football. I played basketball too, all of those are fun. I was a receiver in football, I was pretty quick out there, so I use that to my advantage in hockey, too."
Baseball, lacrosse, tennis, soccer, golf; the list goes on and on. Whatever sport appeals to you, give it a try. You can always work in some stickhandling afterward.