Former NY Islanders F Cory Conacher attempting courageous NHL comeback

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The 2014-15 New York Islanders season is remembered fondly as Jack Capuano's team finished with 101 points and returned to the playoffs in the scheduled final season of the Nassau Coliseum. Yet, by now, many fans may have already forgotten that when the year started, forward Cory Conacher was expected to play a big role on that team.

At 24 years old, he started the season on the left side of a line with Kyle Okposo and John Tavares. After some early success in October, his performance tapered off, and Conacher ended up playing just 15 games (1G, 2A) on Long Island before he was waived and assigned to Bridgeport. The following day, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks and sent to their AHL affiliate in Utica.

Adversity was nothing new for Conacher. He had battled two serious health conditions, diabetes and bladder exstrophy, requiring him to undergo 10 hours of surgery days after birth. His parents were told he'd never walk, let alone skate or play in the National Hockey League.

That type of determination and beating the odds has Conacher once again striving to return to the NHL despite not being in the league since the 2019-20 season. On Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes signed the 33-year-old to a PTO (Professional Try Out) after he played 17 AHL games with Charlotte and Belleville last season. Prior to that, he skated in Switzerland for two seasons.

He's a long shot, a very long shot, to make the roster, but this challenge is just the latest in a life full of them for Conacher. During last season, after just two games with Belleville in November, he had to undergo a procedure following complications with his kidneys. That ended his time with the B-Sens and prevented him from doing much else. After being mostly bedridden for three-months, he got healthy and ended up signing with the Checkers in March, playing 15 games.

"What Cory brings, and if you look at his story, it's a pretty awesome story of where he came from and how he won the Calder Cup with Norfolk and got to the NHL being a smaller guy from a smaller college and, you know, couldn't be happier to have a guy like that on our team," Checkers' head coach Geordie Kinnear said of Conacher in InsideAHLhockey.

Whether Conacher makes it back to the NHL or not, his journey has been inspiring as he continues to persevere through the challenges that have confronted him since his earlier days and have stayed with him throughout his hockey career.