Prospect of the Week (1.10.12)

This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques, but we did have a medal in mind for this one since we’re late with the announcement.

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, Team Canada.

Connolly was loaned to Canada for the World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. He was quickly in the media spotlight when, as it turns out, he was sulking a bit because the NHLer was not on the first power play or penalty kill units. Canadian coach Don Hay said publically he wanted more out of Connolly in terms of effort, physicality, and defense. Connolly drew the ire of the media and some teammates when he plastered Florida Panthers prospect Quinton Howden against the boards with a late hit in an intra-squad game.

By the time the tournament began Connolly was on the fourth line and only an injury to fellow NHLer Devante Smith-Pelly (Ducks) got him promoted to the third line – the team’s main checking line. It seemed an odd placement for a player who was playing a top-6 roll at times with the Lightning and who was coming off a WHL season where he just missed 50 goals despite missing several weeks of games.

Nevertheless, Connolly and a new attitude came out hitting and scored in Canada’s first five games despite limited opportunities. He had a chance to tie the semifinal game against Russia in the closing minutes, but his rebound attempt was stopped. In the Bronze Medal game he created multiple scoring chances and finally got some power play time due to injuries and suspensions.

Connolly wins this award not only because he produced five goals in six games (he also added an assist), but because of his effort, leadership (he was an alternate captain), and positive attitude.

We were going to mail him a medal we had made for him, but we learned he already had at least two shinier medals (he won silver for Canada last year) and no one likes to get presents at this time of year that they’ve already received.

*Note: Connolly's WHL rights were traded this week by Prince George to the first place Tri-City Americans. While it is unlikely Connolly will be sent back to juniors any time soon, if the Lightning are out of the playoff race late in the season don't be surprised if Connolly joins the Americans for a playoff run. He is not permitted to join AHL Norfolk until his junior team - now Tri-City - is finished their season and Lightning General Manager prefers his prospects playing. Like World Juniors, it would be another learning experience for young Connolly.

Previous BP Prospects of the Week:

*Due to the Christmas break when few games below the NHL level were played, no POTW awards were given.
Mark Barberio, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 19, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - December 12, 2011
Tyler Johnson, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 5, 2011
Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - November 28, 2011
Nikita Kucherov, Team Russia/CSKA Jr. (MHL) - November 21, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - November 14, 2011
Dustin Tokarski, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - November 6, 2011
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - October 30, 2011
Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac Bobcats - October 23, 2011
Radko Gudas, Norfolk Admirals - October 16, 2011
Carter Ashton, Norfolk Admirals - October 9, 2011
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning - October 2, 2011
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning - September 25, 2011