Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning takes wing Brett Connolly of WHL Prince George at No. 6 in draft

LOS ANGELES — The 2009-10 season was a serious setback for Brett Connolly.

When you play just 16 games because of flexor injuries to both hips, you lose a year of development. When it happens the season before the NHL draft, you are looked at by scouts with caution rather than anticipation.

In the end, though, Lightning player personnel director Jim Hammett said Connolly has "skill we just couldn't turn down," and Friday night at the Staples Center, Tampa Bay took the right wing with the No. 6 overall pick.

"I honestly think if this kid was healthy, he'd be challenging for No. 1 and 2 in this year's draft," Hammett said.

"I can't wait," Connolly said. "I'm so excited to get to Tampa and show what I've got. I feel like I've got a lot to prove."

It wasn't supposed to be this way for Connolly, 18.

In 2008-09, his first season for Prince George of the junior Western Hockey League, Connolly became the first WHL 16-year-old to score 30 goals since NHL-bound Patrick Marleau, now a three-time All-Star with the Sharks, in 1995-96. He also was rookie of the year.

But Connolly injured his right hip in August 2009 playing for Canada in an under-18 tournament. He played 12 games for Prince George before hurting his left hip because, he said, he was "overcompensating" for the right.

Rest was the remedy, and Connolly, 6 feet 2 and 181 pounds, played the season's last four games. He still managed 10 goals and 19 points and was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 3 North American skater.

"He has a very soft set of hands," Hammett said. "He has excellent vision and the ability to slow down the pace of the game and make things open up for him."

Hammett said Connolly likely will return to Prince George next season to continue his development, with a conditioning program that includes yoga and is designed to increase his overall flexibility.

"I've never been the most flexible guy … and it just caught up with me," Connolly said.

"When I'm going to the gym, I have to stretch before and after. I have to really look after myself. It's going to be part of my daily routine."

Hammett said Connolly's last checkup, early this month with an orthopedic specialist in Vancouver, produced a clean bill of health. Hammett said Tampa Bay's doctors also checked the data.

"We feel like we did our homework," Hammett said. "We're real confident this was just a blip on the screen for him and he will fully recover."

Still, you can never be too sure, and Connolly said general manager Steve Yzerman "grilled me pretty good" in Thursday's interview.

"He came across as a respectful teenager," Yzerman said. "He was himself."

As a result, Yzerman said, he turned down a couple of trade offers for the No. 6 pick. The team also bypassed defensemen Brandon Gormley and Cam Fowler, both believed to have been high on the team's list.

"I told them I'm a guy who is going to compete every night," Connolly said. "I want to learn and get better. I'm going to give it everything I've got and leave it on the table."

And start moving forward.

Tampa Bay Lightning takes wing Brett Connolly of WHL Prince George at No. 6 in draft 06/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 26, 2010 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    The Rays are looking to keep rolling when they make a quick turnaround after Friday's win over the Twins and are back on the field for a matinee today, 2:10 first pitch Tampa Bay time.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off a good but not great start against the Angels, though buoyed …

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule


    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]