by Demitri Herrera | AHL On The Beat
If the calendar were flipped back to the beginning of the summer, the jury would still be out on 21-year-old Colorado Eagles defenseman Conor Timmins.
As an up-and-comer in the Colorado Avalanche system, Timmins was pinned as a mobile, right-shot blueliner with an offensive upside who would one day seamlessly complement the defensive depth the Avalanche had been diligently cultivating through a host of high-end picks at the NHL entry draft.
Amidst the likes of 2016 fourth-rounder Samuel Girard, 2018 fourth overall pick Bowen Byram, or Timmins’ 2017 draft classmate and fourth overall pick Cale Makar, Timmins – the 32nd overall choice in 2017 – was a shoo-in to take a seat at the table alongside the Avalanche’s brilliant and burgeoning blue-line prospect pool.
Yet, a large question mark loomed over the St. Catharines, Ontario, native’s future as a professional hockey player well before the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
The questions surrounding Timmins’ future in hockey had nothing to do with his ability to play the game at a high level, nor anything to do with potential issues involving the rookie’s character, work ethic, or ability to progress as a top-tier prospect. Instead, they had everything to do with an injury that halted his progress shortly after signing a three-year, entry-level contract with Colorado in May 2018.
Timmins sustained a head injury while playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League and spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season working through the injury.
As the 6-foot-2, 185-pound defenseman recalled, the time he spent away from the game was difficult.
“It was really tough, obviously,” Timmins said. “When you’re away from the game it’s tough and I missed being around my teammates and being able to contribute on the ice.”
The patience and persistence in Timmins’ recovery would pay off as the 2019-20 season approached. He made the Avalanche roster out of training camp and would go on to get his first crack at the NHL, logging 21 minutes over the course of two games before being assigned to the Eagles.
“That was obviously really cool,” Timmins said of his early stint with the Avalanche. “That was a goal of mine going into training camp. I didn’t want it to look like I missed any time, so I felt really comfortable.”
Since his reassignment to the AHL, Timmins has begun to find his groove. In 22 games with the Eagles, he has recorded three goals and 10 assists for 13 points.
While Timmins admitted that it took some level of adjustment at the beginning of the season to get used to the advanced degree of speed and physicality that are standard at the AHL and NHL level, he also emphasized how the Eagles defense “coming together” helped catalyze his production at the back end.
With a strong 2019-20 showing so far, it is safe to make the argument that Timmins, despite suffering a career-altering injury, is no longer a question mark on the blue line for Colorado, but an asset.
For the kid who remembers sharing a special moment on draft day with 30 of his family members in attendance, Timmins is cementing his future as a professional hockey player with each tally on the scoresheet and every game he takes the ice, knowing what great lengths of adversity it took for him to get there.
While Timmins, like the rest of his teammates on the Eagles, aspires to take up a leading role on the Avalanche in the not-so-distant future, he made it clear where his focus lies at present.
“Everyone here wants to be up with the (Avalanche) and we’re all just trying to work our hardest everyday with the Eagles to accomplish that goal,” Timmins said.
“At the same time, you just want to focus on the task at hand and when I’m here with the Eagles, I want to be trying to win with the Eagles.”