Tampa Bay Lightning selects Brett Connolly with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft
The Tampa Bay Lightning selected right wing Brett Connolly with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
The 6-foot-2, 181-pound 18-year-old played only 16 games last season for Prince George of the Western Hockey league because of flexor injuries to both hips. He still managed 10 goals and 19 points, and is ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 3 overall North American skater.
"I can't wait," Connolly said. "I'm so excited to get to Tampa and show them what I've got. With me missing most of last year, I feel like I've got a lot to prove."
And Tampa Bay's director of player personnel Jim Hammett said Connolly is so good that "if this kid was healthy, he'd be challenging for 1 and 2 in this year's draft."
But don't expect Connolly to be with the big club right away. Given his lost season, Hammett said the best thing for him will be to go back to junior next season and continue to develop. That said, Hammett said of the draft pick, "It's just skill we couldn't turn down. That's how strong I feel about his skill set. He has a very, very soft set of hands. he has excellent vision with the puck and the ability to slow down the pace of the game and make things open up for him. I'm excited down the road to see him paired with some of our other guys."
More on Connolly:
He represented Canada at the 2010 Under-18 world championships.
In 2008-09, he became the first 16-year-old WHL rookie to score 30 goals in a season since Patrick Marleau in 1995-96. he finished with a team-high 60 points and was named the WHL and Canadian Hockey League's rookie of the year.
He said he models his game after Columbus' Rick Nash.
"Brett is a very gifted player, and it's too bad we haven't been able to see more of him this season because of injury," Prince George coach Dean Clark said. "Brett can take over a game with his skill and puck control, and he's also a very intelligent player. he has always been a dependable player at both ends of the ice, whether it be five-on-five or on special teams, and he's a real competitive kid. When the game is on the line, he wants to be out there to make a difference."