UM loses freshman star Connor to Jets

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Kyle Connor

Michigan freshman forward Kyle Connor has signed with the Winnipeg Jets, giving up his final three years of college eligibility.

Connor, 19, who is from Shelby Township, was taken as the No. 17 overall pick by the Jets in the 2015 draft.

“Excited to sign my first NHL contract,” Connor wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to the next chapter of my hockey career.”

Connor led the nation in scoring this past season with 71 points, including 35 goals, and was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Michigan coach Red Berenson hoped Connor would return to try to break his UM goal-scoring record (43) set in the early 1960s.

Michigan has now lost two members of its prolific “CCM” line. Tyler Motte signed with the Blackhawks last week; he had one year of eligibility remaining. JT Compher, whose rights are owned by the Avalanche, has not yet announced his decision.

Compher had 63 points this past season, ranking second in the nation, and Motte had 57, ranking fourth.

Connor is the fourth player this offseason to leave Michigan with college eligibility remaining. Late last month, defensemen Zach Werenski (Blue Jackets) and Michael Downing (Panthers) announced they were turning pro.

Berenson will return for his 33rd season after guiding the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 after they won their first Big Ten tournament. They defeated Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional opener before losing to eventual national champion North Dakota in the regional final.

Last week, Berenson said it’s tough to lose players early to the pros and then not have enough recruited players for a complete roster the following season.

“You’re not going to get a player of that value or experience or that level -- you just have to bite the bullet,” Berenson said. “That’s the dilemma every year. We’re not allowed to offer more scholarships than we have or know that we’re going to have.”

Notable players to leave Michigan early

2016

Defenseman Zach Werenski (Columbus)

Defenseman Michael Downing (Florida)

Forward Tyler Motte (Chicago)

Forward Kyle Connor (Winnipeg)

2015

Forward Dylan Larkin (Detroit)

Forward Andrew Copp (Winnipeg)

2014

Forward Alex Guptill (Dallas)

Forward Phil Di Giuseppe (Carolina)

2013

Defenseman Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg)

Defenseman Jon Merrill (New Jersey)

2012

Forward Chris Brown (Phoenix)

2011

Defenseman Brandon Burlon (New Jersey)