Brett Connolly was drafted sixth pick overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, he was a highly rated player who only played in 6 games in juniors as a hip injury cut his year short. Early scouting reports that year had Connolly was rated as the number one player in his draft class, but those injuries made him a risky selection. Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman took a calculated gamble on Connolly with his first selection as a GM for his new team. He felt the reward was worth the risk; the minor league talent in the Lightning system was depleted compared to other teams in the NHL.
So it was a surprise that Connolly is being given a chance to prove himself. It’s a case where perseverance and hard work pay off for the young player that was not expected to make the roster. It was fully expected that he would spend one more year in juniors.
Last season he came to camp with the NHL club but was badly out of shape and looked out of place with NHL talent and Yzerman was very frank with the young player and challenged him directly. The young Lightning player was also told that he needed to learn to play harder and, even more importantly, work harder.
All of his hard work has paid off, as Yzerman has decided to keep Connolly around for what amounts to a nine-game look at the start of the new season, before his entry level contract kicks in (if he is still not ready to make the leap to the big club). He looks to start the season on a line with Dominic Moore and Ryan Shannon, which could be a line that is fun to watch for Bolts fans, as all three guys are able to fly.
That was the only surprise coming out of training camp as the Lightning finalized their roster at the start of the season. To make room for Connolly the team sent Dana Tyrell down the AHL Norfolk. He did not lose his opposition on the roster he was the only one the team wouldn’t risk losing through the waiver wire.
If Yzerman were honest, I would have to imagine that he would tell you that Connolly has the talent to be a top six forward where Tyrell is a bottom-six energy guy. If you were going to compare the two players Tyrell upside is Kris Draper and Connolly upside is Simon Gagne a guy who can score 40 goals in the league. So as the team put together the roster to start the season it was another calculated gamble that Yzerman is making on Connolly and let’s see if the young player is going to make his GM look good.