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's expectations increasing for rookie Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly, 2010’s No. 6 overall draft pick, plays his 10th NHL game tonight, which means his three-year contract begins.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Brett Connolly, 2010’s No. 6 overall draft pick, plays his 10th NHL game tonight, which means his three-year contract begins.

NASHVILLE — It was difficult for Brett Connolly to describe exactly what had changed for him during Wednesday's practice.

The pace of the workout seemed quicker, the Lightning rookie said, the scrutiny from coach Guy Boucher harsher.

"I think for me being 19, they had let me off the hook a little," Connolly said. "It's not going to happen anymore."

That is because Connolly is officially in the NHL.

He played what essentially was a nine-game tryout, and rather than send him back to Prince George of the junior Western league — which would have delayed the start of his three-year, $2.7 million contract until next season — Tampa Bay determined Connolly's long-term development, and the team, were better served with him sticking with the big boys.

Connolly can still be sent back to Prince George, but with tonight's game against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, he gets paid, and that turns what had been a nice little story about a player's unexpected rise in the ranks into one of increased expectations and required achievement.

"I told him (Wednesday)," Boucher said, " 'Congratulations. You've done the easy part. Now you're an NHL player. This is a performance league. It's not a development league. We make decisions in terms of performance; therefore, you have to be accountable like everybody else. You can't be just a new kid.' "

"You have to perform every night," Connolly said. "Even (Wednesday) in practice I could tell they were like, 'Okay, you've had your treatment like a 19-year-old.' They're going to treat you like a veteran. Obviously, Guy is going to be hard on me, so you have to adapt again."

Connolly, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 draft, has adapted well. Playing on a top-six line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, the right wing has two assists, is averaging 13:54 of ice time and entered Wednesday tied for the league lead among rookies at plus-5.

He skates well, puts himself in the right positions, gets to the net and is responsible defensively. He also is getting time on the power play.

"He deserves to be here," Lecavalier said.

Added general manager Steve Yzerman: "We're a better team with him in the lineup."

About the only thing Connolly, 6 feet 2, 181 pounds, hasn't done is score. But Boucher doesn't want him worrying about points.

"He's going to have points eventually, for sure, but when?" Boucher said. "That's why we don't want to put pressure on him. That's where I've seen failure before."

Boucher said he wants Connolly concentrating on getting to the net, back-checking, playing defense, things that make a complete player. The emphasis might have been different with struggling Prince George, which would have needed Connolly to produce points.

"This is the best place right now to continue his development to get better," Yzerman said.

Said Connolly: "I've accomplished everything I wanted going into the summer. I have to take it a step further to be a contributor and a good NHLer."

.Tonight

Lightning at Predators

When/where: 8; Bridge­stone Arena, Nashville.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: G Mathieu Garon has won three straight starts with a 1.33 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. … The Predators are 0-2-1 at home and have been outscored 11-5. … Nashville's power play is on a 0-for-15 streak and is 1-for-21 in its past six games.

Tampa Bay Lightning's expectations increasing for rookie Brett Connolly 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Deadliest Catch' captain talks reality TV, Snoop Dogg and Tampa Bay

    Outdoors

    Keith Colburn is best known as captain of the Wizard on the Discovery Network series Deadliest Catch. Colburn and crew go to battle in the Bering Sea working one of the deadliest jobs in America. A seasoned veteran, Keith has filmed 11 seasons of the show and is still going strong with his relief captain …

    Captain Keith Colburn is seen in this undated photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel. Courtesy of the Discovery Channel
  2. HomeTeam 100: Players 51-60

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton will help lead the Wildcats into the 2017 season. Taken 7-6-17 by Scott Purks
  3. Rays series preview: Who are the Rangers?

    Blogs

    The road trip is done, but the Rays will still face a western team, as they tasks on the Rangers in a three-game series at Tropicana Field. Here's the information you need to know about Texas before the action kicks off.

    Record: 45-50, fourth in AL West

    Starter Tyson Ross, left, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, right, have struggled immensely this season.
  4. Checklist to help Bucs swagger into the postseason

    Bucs

    To boost their playoff prospects, the Bucs need to beat Atlanta at least once, as they did last year. Twice would be even nicer. (Loren Elliott, Times)
  5. Baddest of them all? Steelers LB James Harrison, hands down

    Bucs

    "No badass list is complete - or should begin anywhere else other than with - James Harrison," says Eric Edholm, an NFL writer who has worked at Yahoo Sports. (Associated Press)