Wow, what a night. Things went to plan for three picks and then everything descended into slow moving chaos. The Blue Jackets took the guy I, personally, thought the Lightning would end up with at the fourth pick, the Islanders took the guy half the internet thought was going to the Lightning with the fifth pick, and then the Lightning decided not to take the guy everyone thought they would take with the sixth pick, as Brandon Gormley and Cam Fowler spiraled down the draft board in the mild hockey equivalent of an Aaron Rodgers/Brady Quinn draft free fall.
What to make of Brett Connolly, though? There's absolutely no doubt his athleticism and skill are world class, or at least they were prior to his injuries. Connolly's agent wouldn't allow teams to perform an MRI on prior to the draft to verify its soundness, so one wonders how the Lightning made an informed decision about it. Between his hips and some talk of structural weakness in his hand, I seriously wonder if the Lightning have drafted a guy who will end up being a part time player like Buffalo's Tim Connolly. Adding to my fears was a post-draft interview on TSN that did nothing to disspell whispers I've heard about Connolly's attitude. He looked annoyed and bored, all at the same time, and I'm wondering what is going on in his head. Is he going to carry a chip on his shoulder into the rest of the offseason and training camp to show the world that not only are his hips healthy, but that he was indeed the best player in this draft class? Or is Connolly already a little burned out by the scrutiny that comes with being a premiere prospect? Seriously, after watching the interview and after my making a big deal of how badly Connolly came across, the BoltProspects staff reviewed several pieces of interview footage, and we've come to the unnerving conclusion Connolly may be incapable of emoting genuine happiness.
Smile, man. You just were selected in the top ten of the NHL draft.
Name: Brett Connolly
Position: Right Wing
Born: 5/2/92, Prince George, BC
Last Team: Prince George (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 3 (NA Skaters), ISS 11 (Skaters), RLR 13 (Overall), THN 4 (Overall)
Prince George (WHL), 16 GP, 10-9-19, -3, 8 PIM
Canada (U18 WJC), 4 GP, 1-0-1, E, 10 PIM
"(Connolly) makes an impact on the game without looking like he's even breaking a sweat." - Red Line Report
Prior to his hips injuries, Connolly was a blend of great top end speed, agility, and world class hockey sense. He finds seams in the offensive zone and buries his chances with ruthless efficiency. He's also an underrated penalty killer.
Injuries. Connolly has had serious hip flexor problems in both of his hips which cost him much of his draft season, and there's some question if his skating ability will ever recover. He's also slight of build and needs to get bigger to win one-on-one puck battles. He's not terrible defensively, but his game in the defensive third does need refinement.
If he's healthy, the Lightning have a first line scoring winger for the next ten years. Red Line compares Connolly to Sharks star Patrick Marleau in terms of his skills package. But, it's also a possibility that Connolly's injury problems never go away and he's a part time player a la Buffalo's Tim Connolly. High risk. High reward.