GM Yzerman explains Connolly, Drouin decisions
The Lightning on Sunday set its 23-player roster with two interesting cuts: sending forward Brett Connolly, who tied for the team's preseason lead with four goals, to AHL Syracuse, and Jonathan Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, back to Halifax of the junior Quebec league.
GM Steve Yzerman explained his decisions to the Tampa Bay Times.
On Drouin: Well, we think he’s an incredible talent, a very intelligent hockey player, great hockey sense, great vision. We just feel he’s better served by playing another year of junior hockey. I don’t want him being in and out of the lineup. I don’t want him playing limited minutes. Our assessment was he’s better off playing another year of junior hockey, hopefully playing for Canada at the world junior championships and developing there.
On what Drouin needs to improve: Getting adjusted to the NHL pace, playing the game at an NHL speed. For him, it's going to happen in time. Our biggest concern was ice time. Where is he going to play? Who is he going to play with? The way we’re set up up front, he's not going to get the minutes we want him to play, so it's best he goes back to junior.
On Connolly: I feel he played extremely well throughout camp, well enough to earn a spot on this team. I want him playing in the top nine. We decided to keep (Ondrej) Palat, (Richard) Panik and (Tyler) Johnson together. I want Brett playing a lot of minutes. I don’t want him playing on the fourth line.
More on Connolly: I think he had a gret camp and he will play for us. He can be back at any moment whenever we need him. He’s going to start there (AHL Syracuse) and play a lot of minutes. Much like Palat, Panik and Johnson last year were kind of the leaders and the top line of the American Hockey League, Brett’s in that role. He’s got to go down there and be our top guy, be a leader and carry the team if need be. That's another step forward for him. There’s no plan to leave him there for any period of time, whether it be one game or the entire season. If our situation changes, whether through injury or poor performance, then he’s a phone call away. He’s going to get his chance and he’s going to be a very good player for us.
On his message to Connolly: When you speak with the players, they’re generally very quiet, just explain what you're thinking, reinforce the fact that we’re very very happy with his development and extremely pleased with the way he played in training camp; walked through our structure, where we are, our lineup, all these things that come into play, players that need waivers, where players are going to play, what role he’s going to play, walked through all that. He understands; disappointed, kids work hard, in Brett’s case, played so well. It's obvious they would be disappointed.