Make us your home page
Instagram

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

Loading...
  1. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  2. Bucs do their best to stiff-arm the expectations

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you want to see a team giving the Heisman trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    As always, the key to the Bucs success will be Jameis Winston. He still is only 23, but a charismatic leader that this team and this town believes deeply in. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations

    Bucs

    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.

    2008

    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Get the latest Tampa Bay Buccaneers news delivered daily to your email inbox

    Bucs

    They narrowly missed the playoffs by this much.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after they connected for a touchdown during a win over the Seattle Seahawks in November in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Yankees, in a pretty big series

    Blogs

    The Rays open a challenging road trip tonight in New York, the first of four games against the wild-card leading Yankees.

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.