23-Year-Old Right Wing – Boston Bruins
Brett Connolly Contract Information:
Signed a one-year, $1.025 million contract with the Bruins in July of 2015.
Heading into Monday's game against the Lightning, Connolly is in line to fill in for Brad Marchand on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson.
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Brett Connolly: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Is this finally Connolly's year? It has taken him several seasons to shake off the effects of being rushed to the NHL too soon. It's really a shame -- he has the speed and skill to be a sniper off the rush, and has the size (6-foot-2) to play in possession. His game took a step back in the AHL least season, at least as far as sniping and two-way play go, and risks being passed by the next big thing. This year will be make-or-break for the 22-year-old winger -- he's not old by any means, but today's NHL is all about young guys immediately stepping in and excelling. He hasn't done that yet. Don't give up hope -- he'll enter this year as a sleeper that many owners will avoid or ignore. Make him a late draft pick if he earns a gig with the Bolts in camp.
Connolly has great hands and speed, and his shot is like a lethal weapon. But he was rushed to the NHL when he was far too young and that set him back … until now. Last year, he finished tied for third in goals (31) in his first full season in the AHL and most of those (22) came the hard way -- at even strength. He's in the hunt for a third-line job with the Bolts behind Marty St. Louis and Teddy Purcell, and could see occasional time on the power play if he can finally crack the lineup. Worst case scenario? He dominates the AHL for one more year. We still like his keeper value -- this guy has first-line upside sooner or later.
Connolly has extraordinary talent. But we can't help but wonder if he would have been better served in the Western -- and not National -- Hockey League last year. At some point, he'll be a first-line winger, but this year, he's destined for the third or fourth line. Or even some development time in the AHL. It could be another rough year for the sniper.
There was a time -- before his hip injury at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tourney -- that Connolly was seen as the best player in the 2010 draft class. He slipped to sixth based on injury fears and it looks like the Bolts struck gold. Connolly is an elite talent who can take over games with his speed, smarts and skill. His hockey IQ is better than most guys already in the NHL. And his sniping is phenomenal (he scored 46 goals in just 57 junior games last season). But there's always the injury risk -- he had a suspected concussion at the 2010 World Juniors, where he represented Canada and he suffered the first injury at the 2011 development camp for the same squad. He's a solid pick for keeper leaguers, particularly if the Bolts decide to start his pro career in 2012-13 beside, say, Vinny Lecavalier.
Connolly wears an elite tool belt. And if it weren’t for a hip flexor injury that limited him to just 16 games this past season, he might have challenged Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin for top billing for in the 2009 draft. He’s one of the best pure goal scorers in the draft and he’s an absolutely effortless skater. But serious hip flexor injuries at such a young age do concern us, just the same way they’ve concerned a lot of scouts. He needs to put some muscle on his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame to withstand the pounding he’ll take along the walls in the NHL. And he's already taken the advice of his new general manager Steve Yzerman and worked on his core strength and speed. He'll spend this season back in the Western Hockey League where he'll look to rekindle the magic he showed as the 2008-09 Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year.