MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – Conner Graham spent three seasons with the Metro Jets, buying in to the program’s philosophy of getting better every day and developing his game on a daily basis.
That marked improvement has the 2000-born Lake Orion, Mich., native moving on to college hockey as the talented forward recently committed to play next season at Adrian College.
There, Graham will join former Jets captain Brodie Thornton and former Jets defenseman DeVon Fields with the Bulldogs.
“I started talking to the coaches after the first weekend showcase and stayed in touch throughout the season,” said Graham. “From the beginning of the year, Adrian was a top school for me, so it made the decision easy for me. I am excited to see the guys from last year’s team and get to play with them again.”
Jets GM Justin Quenneville is elated to see Graham advance to college hockey and called him “one of the smartest players” he ever coached in junior hockey.
“Conner has grown so much here and received a lot of attention during his time as a Jet,” said Quenneville. “I remember his call up in the NCDC and the multiple college coaches throughout asking about his plans. He had several NCAA options, but felt that Adrian was the best fit for him. Not only is he going to a top program, but they are receiving a top player. He was a go-to so many times for us.
“His vision on the ice was impressive, his skill set was special, but his drive to be a better hockey player every day is a big reason for his success on and off the ice. Congrats to him and we wish him the best of luck at college level."
Graham, who collected 45 goals and 118 points in 128 USPHL regular-season games with another 12 points in 15 playoff games, said getting the two points more times than not was overshadowed by only one other thing.
“From the first day here to the last, it was all about player development and preparing for the next level of hockey,” said Graham, an alternate captain in 2020-21 with the Jets. “Sure, we wanted to win and have a good season, but the coaches focused heavily on player development and moving kids on to the next level, whether that be college hockey or a higher junior level.
“This season was definitely not the ending we wanted but overall, it was a good season. To win the regular season, our division, and be first in the league with the difficulty of COVID and other things going on this year was impressive, and I’m happy with the way we handled it.”
Next season, Graham wants to do all he can to fit in with the Bulldogs.
“It’s always a new challenge with being a new guy on a new team and mixing in school on top of that, but I’m excited and ready to play,” said Graham.
In the classroom, Graham plans on majoring in Exercise Science.
When making a life-changing decision such as this one, Graham realizes it was more than his talent that is taking him to Adrian.
“Definitely a big thank you to my mom and dad for helping and supporting me throughout my hockey career so far,” Graham said. “I’d also like to thank my coaches Jamie (Lovell), Q, Dan (Pszenyczny), Tina (Ciraulo) and Randy (Wilson) as well as the whole Jets organization for the past three years and helping me to get where I am today. I’d like to thank my coaches, trainers, friends and teammates that have helped me along the way.”
This offseason, Graham said he plans on working all summer and skating at the MAT during the week.
“Mainly going to focus on my strength and off-ice training throughout the summer,” said Graham.