NHL 2010 Top Draft Prospects: Brett Connolly

Injuries are a funny thing. Sometimes it kills a player’s draft stock, sending them pummeling down the boards of most NHL teams.

However, other times, it simply leaves scouts wanting more, as if it were a tease.

Brett Connolly seems to be in the latter category.

Having an incredible rookie season, Connolly, a member of the Prince George Cougars, became the first 16-year-old WHL rookie to score 30 goals in a season since Patrick Marleau in 1995-96.

This season, though, Connolly suffered a hip injury that has sidelined him for most of the season. Up to that point, he had put up 19 points in 16 games, on pace for extraordinary numbers that would be among the league leaders if he kept it up. In fact, the 2009 CHL Rookie of the Year probably is among the best of the WHL.

“He puts the puck in the net, he’s got good size, great on-ice awareness,” one scout said. “He’s not a crasher or a banger, but he finishes his checks. He does everything well.”

He is ranked third by NHL Central Scouting among North American players, which is where many NHL teams have him as well.

“He’s going to be a special player,” another scout said. “He’s got it all. He can make things happen all by himself. He looks like he’s going to be a natural leader. There aren’t too many 16-year-olds that can step up and be a leader for a team, especially in the (WHL). He’s just a young kid but he showed up to play every night for them.”

The 6-foot-2, 181 pound right winger has been consistent when healthy and is being looked at as a possible top-five draft pick in this year’s entry draft in Los Angeles.

Connolly, a native of Prince George, won a silver medal at the 2009 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, and also was a member of Team Canada at the 2009 World U18 Championships.

“He has a great frame, but is still filling out,” one scout said. “He has good puck control, finds open ice, good hand-eye coordination and is smart and patient with the puck.”

He is incredibly strong on the puck, often able to maneuver his way through multiple defenders en route to the net. He also has great hockey sense and instincts in the offensive zone. He must work on his defensive game and although he is not as fast as most NHL scouts would like, there is much room for improvement over the next few years.

Connolly is not expected to step into the NHL immediately in the 2010-11 season, so any team drafting him would have to have a fair amount of patience as he rehabs from his injury and further develops his skill.

But whichever team drafts Connolly will most likely be happy with the product they get in return a few years down the road.

Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News , he has also worked for the Philadelphia FlyersHe is the general manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.

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