Prospect of the Week (10.2.11)

(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 we’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 prospect’s achievement on the ice.

This week’s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to … Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Connolly wasn’t supposed to make the Lightning, but reports state he survived cuts and will start the season with the Bolts. Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman’s philosophy, which was echoed to Bolt Prospects by Norfolk Admirals Coach Jon Cooper, is the best level for a player to develop is the level in which he will play the most. Connolly wasn’t expected to make this big of a jump this soon because it wasn’t thought he could earn enough minutes to develop as a scoring forward. As of now he’s earned the right to play in a top six or nine role to start the season. He can play nine games before his entry level contract kicks in, so the Lightning have up to nine games to decide. When Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund comes off of injured reserve, which could be within a week, Connolly could still be sent packing.

As of now, he’s done the near impossible of making a Steve Yzerman team as a junior-aged player, and not only that, he scored twice last week in a preseason game in Montreal before a continental television audience. Add in the fact his goals were scored 1) the result of extra effort and 2) with a sick toe drag and wrister around a defender, and Connolly earns our Prospect of the Week award.

Honorable mention goes to Tyler Johnson of the Norfolk Admirals, who had at least a point in all three of Norfolk's preseason games, and Brendan O'Donnell, who had two assists in his first collegiate game for the University of North Dakota (exhibition).

Previous winners:

September 25 – Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning