North American Juniors

Report: Lightning Close to Signing Top Ranked Bolt Prospect

Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News, one of the WHL and junior hockey’s most respected writers, reports Lightning 2010 first round draft pick Brett Connolly has been signed by the Bolts to a standard three-year entry level contract.

The Lightning have not announced the signing, and may not until July, according to Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) of the St. Pete Times.

Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssontrib) of the Tampa Tribune tweeted that Connolly confirmed he has agreed to a deal.

Connolly, a native of Prince George, B.C. and captain of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, is currently in Toronto involved in an intense training program in preparation for next season.

He was drafted sixth overall by the Lightning last summer, the first draft pick of the Jeff Vinik-Steve Yzerman era in Tampa Bay. The pick was scrutinized because Connolly had missed most of the previous season due to two hip injuries.

The winger played in 59 games this year for the Cougars, missing time only due to his participation for Canada at the World Junior championships, a minor knee injury, and a late shoulder separation sustained in the playoffs.

Al Murray, former head scout for Hockey Canada and current director of amateur scouting for the Lightning, told NHL.com last week the hip injuries were ancient history.

After Connolly’s 2010-2011 season was finished Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman said the 46-goal scorer needed to get stronger to help prevent injuries.

Connolly is in Toronto to work on just that.

"He'll stay [in Toronto] for the summer; he's made a significant commitment to put himself in every position to try and make the [Lightning] and to try and do as well as he can, so with added strength and confidence, we're anxious to see what he looks like in the fall training camp, but there will be no urgency to push Brett into a roster spot," Murray told NHL.com.

Because Connolly won't be 20 until May 2012, his options are to play for the Lightning or return to the WHL in the fall. He cannot play in the American Hockey League.

Connolly, who had 73 points in his 59 games last season, retained his spot as the Lightning’s top prospect in our recently released 2010-2011 Final Rankings.

Lightning Pass on Zador

Yesterday's deadline for signing 2009 major junior draftees came and went with no contract announcement for Owen Sound goaltender Michael Zador by Tampa Bay. The Tampa Tribune briefly had a report up stating the Lightning informed Zador they would not be signing him.

Zador was chosen in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, 148th overall. At the time he was coming off an impressive showing for Canada at the U-18 world championships and had the size (6-2) the team was looking for in a netminder. In fact, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton traded a 2010 fifth round pick to Nashville to move up to get Zador, a former first rounder in the OHL draft. Zador was property of OHL Oshawa at the time, having just been added from London in the John Tavares deal.

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/26/11

2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup

Owen Sound Attack 3 vs. Kootenay Ice 7

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 20 GP, 1-10-11, +5, 2 PIM
Memorial Cup Totals: 4 GP, 0-2-2, -1, 0 PIM

G Michael Zador, OS: Did not dress.
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 4-0-0, 1.80 GAA, .940 sv%, 1 SO

OHL champion Owen Sound was eliminated from the Memorial Cup tonight after losing a tiebreaker game vs. WHL champion Kootenay, 7-3. The Attack beat the Ice 5-0 in their first game of the tournament, but with stars Joey Hishon (Avalanche) and Garret Wilson (Panthers) both out with concussions, they didn’t have a lot to offer. They certainly tried, holding a 2-0 lead after the first period, but Kootenay exploded for three goals in the second period and four in the third to advance to the semifinals vs. tournament host Mississauga.

This marked the final game of the season for Lightning prospects Geoffrey Schemitsch and Michael Zador. After missing several weeks at the end of the regular season due to a broken arm, Schemitsch was finding his groove late in the playoffs. He is all but set to return to Owen Sound next season. Zador, who didn’t dress again Thursday, likely played his last game as a Lightning prospect. The 2009 draft choice must be signed by June 1 and all indications are he’ll be allowed to re-enter the draft. Zador has great size and superb raw skills, and was drafted in front of Jaroslav Janus by the Bolts, but he just struggles to stop the puck consistently. The signing of NCAA free agent Pat Nagle by the Lightning earlier this spring probably sealed Zador’s fate with the Bolts.

Speaking of deadlines, we learned from the Lightning today that overager Teigan Zahn of Saskatoon does not have to be signed by June 1 to retain his rights. Zahn, like all of the 2010 draftees, must be given a "bona fide offer" to maintain his rights for another year, but he is not in danger of being lost. The rugged character defenseman is out of junior eligibility so he could be signed by the Lightning's AHL affiliate to a one year contract.

Today the Norfolk Admirals announced the signing of Adam Janosik's teammate, Philip-Michael Devos of Gatineau, to a two-year AHL contract. Devos was the Q's leading scorer this year with 47 goals and 114 points in 68 games.

Schemitsch and Zador were the last two Lightning prospects playing this season, so the 2010-2011 prospect season has come to a close. Thank you for your faithful readership and keep up with us for Lightning analysis and pre-draft coverage.

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/25/11

2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup

Owen Sound Attack 1 vs. Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 3

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 20 GP, 1-10-11, +5, 2 PIM
Memorial Cup Totals: 3 GP, 0-2-2, +2, 0 PIM

G Michael Zador, OS: Did not dress.
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 4-0-0, 1.80 GAA, .940 sv%, 1 SO

Mississauga won Game 8 vs. Owen Sound this post season and as a result earned a trip to the Memorial Cup semifinals. The Attack, who beat the Majors in seven games to win the OHL championship a week ago, now must win a tie-breaker game with Kootenay for the right to play the Majors again. St. John has a bye to the finals. In Wednesday’s game, Lightning prospect Geoffrey Schemitsch had his two game point streak snapped. He had his head driven into the boards on a hit that was originally penalized, then rescinded after the refs deemed it legal. Michael Zador took a seat in the bleachers rather than on the bench as recent Rangers signee Scott Stajcer, who played the majority of the playoffs for the Attack, sat backup to 2011 prospect Jordan Binnington (25/27). Owen Sound and Kootenay play Thursday night. The Attack won the first meeting between the clubs at the Memorial Cup, 5-0.

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/23/11

2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup

Owen Sound Attack 2 vs. St. John Sea Dogs 3 (OT)

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 20 GP, 1-10-11, +5, 2 PIM
Memorial Cup Totals: 2 GP, 0-2-2, +2, 0 PIM

G Michael Zador, OS: Did not play (backup)
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 4-0-0, 1.80 GAA, .940 sv%, 1 SO

Owen Sound was four minutes away from going 2-0 in the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup when St. John’s Tomas Jurco (2011) scored to send the game to overtime. In the extra session likely top-5 pick Jonathan Huberdeau scored for the Sea Dogs to give them the victory. St. John moves to 2-0 in the tournament, Owen Sound is 1-1. The Attack will play tournament host Mississauga (1-1) next. Kootenay is 0-2. Lightning prospect Geoffrey Schemitsch notched an assist for the second straight tournament game. Michael Zador was backup to Jordan Binnington, who made 41 stops for the Attack.

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