TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Lightning may be interested in loaning Brett Connolly to Canada’s World Junior Championship squad this coming December. If you’re team Canada, why wouldn’t you want Connolly? He has all the intangibles necessary to be a great WJC player. For example, let’s take a look at some of the great WJC leaders for Canada in the past few years. There’s Eberle, Ellis and many more that spring to mind. Connolly is cut from that same breed and you can see it in his play with the Lightning.
For a young player (born in 1992) to come in and player defensively in the National Hockey League is a rare occurrence. This season, Connolly has established himself as a very consistent, smart forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We all knew he would be good one day, but I’m not sure anyone predicted that he would play so intelligently at such a young age.
Fans of struggling teams starve for players who are exciting; look at Edmonton and Taylor Hall. When he was drafted 1st overall, he brought a certain excitement that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t. Hall is an exciting player to watch; there’s no doubt about it. That being said, he is also a reckless player who is going to get hurt quite often if he keeps up this style of play. He doesn’t bring the game that a guy like Connolly does. That’s not to say that Hall isn’t a good player, it’s just that he is a different kind of player.
The Lighting already boast one of the most electric (pun intended) players in the game in Steven Stamkos. It’s pretty hard to argue that no one is more exciting from that pure offensive perspective. So, when Steve Yzerman took to the podium to make his draft choice, Brett Connolly was the right pick. He wasn’t brought in to overload an already offensively strong roster; he was brought in to compliment it. Look at his body of work this season and you will quickly see that he has complimented the Lightning more that anyone could have hoped.
While his offensive totals haven’t been spectacular, it’s his solid defensive play that fans should take note of. Going back to his draft year, the scouting report on Connolly was that he was good at both ends of the ice. Even in his young NHL career, we have seen that. While his strength isn’t as evident as it would have been in junior, you can still see that he knows where to put himself in order to protect the puck and create offense.
The real question the Lightning have to ask themselves is whether or not they can allow Connolly to sit out of their line-up for the duration of the WJC? Is there a replacement that could come in and do a better job that Connolly? You can bet that Steve Yzerman will be mulling over these questions until decision time.
That being said, if I were a betting man, I’d count on number 14 staying with the Lightning through the holiday season. His size, youth and determination are too valuable for the Lightning to lose. Let’s hope that Connolly can be a great member of this team for a long time. To Steve Yzerman: I think you found a heck of a player.
Thanks for reading and have a good night.
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