Brett Connolly looks forward to a change of scenery. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON – Brett Connolly knows he hasn’t reached his ceiling. He’d like to do that with the Bruins.
The 2010 sixth overall didn’t become one of the league’s better players like Tampa’s previous first-rounders in Steven Stamkos (2008) and Victor Hedman (2009). He became expendable with the Lightning due to a crowded group of right wing prospects and was flipped to the Bruins for a pair of second-rounders in the wee hours of Monday morning.
After his first practice with the Bruins, Connolly said he feels he hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential.
“Oh yeah, for sure. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming in. Everything wasn’t always going to be going my way. I’ve had some ups and downs,” Connolly said. “I’ve played some good hockey, I’ve played some not-so-good hockey. I’ve been up and down. I played my first year [in the NHL. [During] the lockout, played in the American League, had a good team in the American League, went to the finals there. Then last year, up and down and this year obviously stayed the whole year. It’s exciting. I’m looking to take that next step and hopefully it’s here in Boston.”
This is not the first time Peter Chiarelli has targeted a high pick of small-market team whose career wasn’t going perfectly. Though Nathan Horton had a 30-goal season with the Panthers, he wanted a change in 2010 and Chiarelli gave up Boston’s first-round pick and Dennis Wideman for him.
That trade was obviously very successful for the Bruins. Connolly would like to have the same impact.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s a good situation. It’s all up to me and the way I play. I just want to come in here and do the things that I’ve been doing in the last month. I feel like my game’s been taking off a little bit in the last month. [I’ve been] scoring a little bit. Obviously not playing as much as I would have liked in the last month, but playing physical and getting in on the forecheck and going to those dirty areas and chipping in a little bit offensively, scoring a few. Again, you just want to fit in as much as you can, so I’m excited.”
Connolly was not a rental. The 22-year-old will not put the Bruins over the top offensively right now, but he figures to be a key young part for them going forward.
With 12 goals this season, his first full NHL campaign, Connolly obviously arrives with expectations to perform, but he doesn’t need to live up to the top-10 pick billing that he had in Tampa. That might be a breath of fresh air for the young right wing.
“[I’m] just another piece of the puzzle. Obviously, you want it to go upwards your whole career, but a lot of the time it doesn’t do that,” he said. “Maybe a change of scenery will be good for me. I’m excited, obviously. It’s going to take a little bit to get familiar with everything. Obviously everything’s different, so you want to get comfortable as fast as possible and get comfortable out there on the ice, too. It’s exciting.”