(Week ending October 2)
This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award. The award is (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques or chocolate coins involved, but weâ€™re fairly certain this will carry heavy weight among players in the global hockey community (we were able to find a picture of him with a trophy, however. Pretend it's from us.). Quite simply, we wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
This weekâ€™s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to â€¦ Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lightning looking strong for the start of the season, but still room for improvement.
Dwayne Roloson stopped all 24 shots he faced. He looks sharp. Ready to go.
TB 9:15 Stamkos, (Gervais)
TB 11:51 Stamkos, (St. Louis, Gilroy)
TB 16:43 Connolly, (St. Louis, Kubina)
TB 18:49, Connolly, (Malone)
The game could've been a 6-0 final. Vincent Lecavalier had a soft goal by Peter Budaj taken off the board by a quick whistle and another play by Tom Pyatt that was likely a goal wasn't counted. Overall, it was a very strong effort by the forwards and goaltenders, but there's room for improvement on the backline. They looked a little sloppy in their own end turning the puck over on breakouts and there was a 10 minute period at the end of the first period they were living dangerously within the first 10 feet of their blueline in the Lightning zone. That's got to get cleaned up. The Canadiens hit a few posts tonight and Roloson was sharp. That won't always be the case, though. Boucher has things to harp about on this game tape.
The question of what to do with Brett Connolly is an interesting one. Bob McKenzie is saying he's likely to start the season with the Lightning and at least get a regular season audition, and it's hard to argue with that because he keeps scoring. That said, he doesn't pass the eyeball test, to me, when it comes to having NHL strength on the puck. I will say this, though, if he doesn't stick in Tampa this year he'll probably the Calder Trophy favorite going into next season.
The rest of the bubble forwards had a tougher time of it, in my opinion. Pyatt got a goal waved off so he was probably the best of the rest. Dana Tyrell skated really well but had some turnovers and stubbed his toe in some situations where he could've been more dangerous offensively. Blair Jones' slow first step really stood out in this game where there was a lot of flow. He hits everything that moves, and he's an honest player, but he looked like a SUV on a street full of sports cars tonight.
Mattias Ritola looks to be in and Connolly may get his NHL regular season audition and Pyatt is probably going to make it. Tyrell and Jones may not make it to the finish line, though.
Box score from NHL.com.
God even hates Panthers fans in preseason.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 31 of 33 for the win. Hide the children and the silverware, old man Roli is back in town.
08:06 TB Ritola, (Kubina, Connolly)(PP)
06:31 TB Shannon, (Kubina, Bergeron)(PP)
12:55 TB Shannon, (Stamkos, Clark)
00:23 TB Ashton, (Brewer)
04:20 FLA Skille, (Robak)(PP)
16:20 FLA Repik, (Robak, Derlyuk)
18:46 TB Lecavalier, (Purcell, Hedman)
As the Lightning move a little closer to icing their opening night lineup, now reading the tea leaves gets more interesting.
Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly each got over 14 minutes of ice time, while Cory Conacher, Dana Tyrell, and Blair Jones got less, especially Jones. Connolly and Conacher remain decisive underdogs, but the battle between Ashton, Tyrell, and Jones for positioning is fascinating. Boucher knows what he has in Tyrell, and to a lesser extent Jones. For Ashton to get himself a goal and play 14+ quality minutes is a key step for him in trying to establish a comfort level with Boucher.
And, then there's the matter of Mattias Ritola, who is a different player now than when Boucher had him in the lineup the first half of last season. He got over 14 minutes and quite a bit of PK ice time. Like Ashton, for him to get a goal and play 14+ quality minutes helps establish a comfort level with the coaching staff. I'd say he was probably the big winner on the night.
Box score from NHL.com.
TAMPA BAY â€“ The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed right wing Brett Connolly to a standard three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Connolly, 6-foot-2, 181 pounds, spent last season with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, recording 46 goals, 27 assists and 73 points in 59 games played. He set WHL career-highs for goals and points while also ranking third among all WHL goal-scorers. His 15 power-play goals ranked 12th.
A native of Campbell River, British Colombia, Connolly has spent each of the past four seasons with Prince George of the WHL. Throughout his career he has amassed 86 goals and 152 points in 144 WHL games. He has also appeared in five career postseason games, registering two points.
Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News, one of the WHL and junior hockeyâ€™s most respected writers, reports Lightning 2010 first round draft pick Brett Connolly has been signed by the Bolts to a standard three-year entry level contract.
The Lightning have not announced the signing, and may not until July, according to Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) of the St. Pete Times.
Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssontrib) of the Tampa Tribune tweeted that Connolly confirmed he has agreed to a deal.
Connolly, a native of Prince George, B.C. and captain of the WHLâ€™s Prince George Cougars, is currently in Toronto involved in an intense training program in preparation for next season.
He was drafted sixth overall by the Lightning last summer, the first draft pick of the Jeff Vinik-Steve Yzerman era in Tampa Bay. The pick was scrutinized because Connolly had missed most of the previous season due to two hip injuries.
The winger played in 59 games this year for the Cougars, missing time only due to his participation for Canada at the World Junior championships, a minor knee injury, and a late shoulder separation sustained in the playoffs.
Al Murray, former head scout for Hockey Canada and current director of amateur scouting for the Lightning, told NHL.com last week the hip injuries were ancient history.
After Connollyâ€™s 2010-2011 season was finished Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman said the 46-goal scorer needed to get stronger to help prevent injuries.
Connolly is in Toronto to work on just that.
"He'll stay [in Toronto] for the summer; he's made a significant commitment to put himself in every position to try and make the [Lightning] and to try and do as well as he can, so with added strength and confidence, we're anxious to see what he looks like in the fall training camp, but there will be no urgency to push Brett into a roster spot," Murray told NHL.com.
Because Connolly won't be 20 until May 2012, his options are to play for the Lightning or return to the WHL in the fall. He cannot play in the American Hockey League.
Connolly, who had 73 points in his 59 games last season, retained his spot as the Lightningâ€™s top prospect in our recently released 2010-2011 Final Rankings.