Lightning Striking in Prince George

Dobber Sports


Brett Connolly

In three successive seasons, future #1 NHL draft picks John Tavares, Patrick Kane and Taylor Hall were named CHL rookie of the year. The following season, the winner was Brett Connolly. So the Tampa Lightning product certainly has the pedigree to become a major stud in the NHL.


Selected sixth overall by Steve Yzerman and Co. in last year's NHL Entry Draft, the six-foot-two right winger is dominating the WHL with the Prince George Cougars this season, scoring 40 goals in 56 games against 23 assists.


Playing for his hometown team, Connolly missed all but 16 games last season after suffering a hip injury at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.


Prince George Head Coach Dean Clark, who was drafted by Edmonton in the eighth round of the 1982 NHL Draft and played one game for the Oilers during their first Stanley Cup season in 1983-84, told PROSPECT PRESCRIPTION that Connolly's injury is behind him and he's back to playing the way he showed he could when he scored 30 goals as a 16-year old, the first WHL player to do so in 13 years.


"There has been no trouble at all this season with his hips," says Clark. "After the season is done, Brett just needs to put in a good summer and get himself in better shape and stronger so that he compete at the next level. It's a lot harder to compete at that level, playing against men, as compared to playing against kids here. So that's the one way he's really got to improve this summer."


Clark doesn't think Connolly will find a spot on Tampa Bay's roster next season but is confident that he'll be an impact player one day.


"I project him to be a top-six forward in the NHL," says Clark. "But obviously, for these kids to get to that level there is still a lot of work to be done. And I don't know if he's a guy that can step in next season. Like I said, I just think there needs to be more work done physically so he is strong enough to play at that level for an extended period of time and play against men."


Some seasoning in the AHL with Tampa Bay's affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, may be in Connolly's future, says Clark although he admits he's not very well versed in the Lightning's depth at each position.


"They've got a great lineup with Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis but they've got a lot of young, good kids too that are coming up and eventually there will be room for these kids on the roster."


Clark says Connolly skates very well for