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.
The 2010 NHL Entry Draft starts Friday night with round one and BoltProspects has decided to throw its hat into the ring with our own first round mock draft, including a carefully placed page break to force readers to hit the "Read More" button! Just a reminder, BoltProspects will be holding its annual draft chats on Friday and Saturday during the draft on the BoltProspects message board chat room. To access the chat room you have to register for the message board, which is free. In addition, don't forget to follow BoltProspects' Twitter page for the best single sentence Lightning draft news around. Now that the shameless advertising is aside, here's the mock draft. Enjoy!
1. Edmonton Oilers: LW Taylor Hall, Windsor (OHL)
There will be very little suspense when Edmonton takes the podium Friday night. Hall gives the Oilers a winger with explosive, world-class speed and great finishing ability.
2. Boston Bruins: C Tyler Seguin, Plymouth (OHL)
It's disgusting a team with as much talent as Boston does gets to add a Joe Sakic-type centerman into the mix. Brian Burke should be kicking himself for trading this pick.
3. Florida Panthers: RW Brett Connolly, Prince George (WHL)
We suspected Florida needed a scorer at this pick even before the Horton trade. Now? They roll the dice Connolly's hips will hold up and they get a Patrick Marleau-type talent.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets: D Cam Fowler, Windsor (OHL)
This pick just as easily could be Gormley, considering the Blue Jackets like QMJHL prospects and his pairing partner was a Blue Jackets property, but Fowler's power play mastery is the deciding factor that places him in Columbus.
5. New York Islanders: D Erik Gudbranson, Kingston (OHL)
The Islanders have taken forwards with seven of their last eight first round picks. Now they grab a shut down defenseman with big time leadership potential.
Today's entry brings to a close our 11 for 6 series on the eleven draft prospects we feel are most likely to go to the Lightning at the sixth overall pick. Just as a reminder, BoltProspects will be holding its annual draft chat on Friday and Saturday over the course of the two days of the draft in the BoltProspects message board chat room. Registration for the message board is free and will get you access to the chat room, so if you aren't already signed up for the BoltProspects message board, you might want to get that out of the way today to be ready for Friday night.
In addition, don't forget to check back with BoltProspects and with the BoltProspects Twitter page over the course of the week for the latest draft news and rumors. Finally, as a part of draft week coverage, BoltProspects will be issuing its own first round mock draft later this week. It's one of our favorite times of the year on BoltProspects so be sure to check back often to stay informed with what's going on.
Name: Mikael Granlund
Born: 2/26/92, Oulu, Finland
Last Team: HIFK (FIN)
Rankings: CSS 1 (European Skaters), ISS 14 (Skaters), RLR 3 (Overall), THN 10 (Overall)
HIFK (FIN), 43 GP, 13-27-40, +11, 2 PIM
HIFK (FIN) Playoffs, 6 GP, 1-5-6, +1, 0 PIM
Finland (U20 WJC), 6 GP, 1-6-7, -4, 4 PIM
Finland (U18 WJC), 6 GP, 4-9-13, E, 4 PIM
Like Skinner, we at BoltProspects suspect there is a lot of late upward movement in the draft stock of Finlandâ€™s Mikael Granlund that isnâ€™t being picked up by many in the media and we suspect heâ€™s a solid top ten pick. Despite scoring an unheard of 40 points in 43 games in the SM-liiga at seventeen and eighteen years old, many teams downgraded Granlund because of a pedestrian performance at the U20 World Junior Championships where he had 1 goal and 7 points in 6 games. We find it hard to believe that an over point-a-game pace in a tournament where most of the other players are one to two years older could be considered pedestrian, but that was what was depressing Granlundâ€™s value. All that changed at the U18 tournament in Belarus, though, where Granlund dominated to the tune of 4 goals and 13 points in 6 games. Evidently an over two points-a-game pace was more to the scouting communityâ€™s liking. Granlund has been universally compared to former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu in that heâ€™s small and doesnâ€™t have top end speed but heâ€™s a fierce and smart competitor. Granlundâ€™s hockey sense and vision are off the charts and he could go as high as third overall when all is said and done. He's a pure playmaker who might be a natural setup man to some of the Lightning's potential young finishers like Johan Harju and Carter Ashton. Heâ€™d be a good fit for the Lightning, which needs more playmakers in the system, and if the club could get around Granlundâ€™s compulsory military commitments in Finland, they could try to start the forwardâ€™s pro development in Norfolk of the AHL right away.
Previous Prospect Profiles:
11 for 6: G, Jack Campbell
11 for 6: D, Cam Fowler
11 for 6: D, Erik Gudbranson
11 for 6: D, Brandon Gormley
11 for 6: C, Alex Burmistrov
11 for 6: RW, Brett Connolly
11 for 6: LW, Nino Neiderreiter
11 for 6: C/RW, Jeff Skinner
11 for 6: RW, Vladimir Tarasenko