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Brett Connolly thinks his best hockey is ahead of him 03.03.15 at 1:15 pm ET
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Brett Connolly looks forward to a change of scenery. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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.

“€œ[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.”

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Brett Connolly arrives at Bruins practice, Adam McQuaid given maintenance day at 10:58 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Brett Connolly has arrived in Boston, as the recent trade acquisition joined his new Bruins teammates in Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.

Conolly will wear No. 14 with the Bruins. With another practice day before Thursday’s game, the Bruins seemingly eased Connolly in by skating him as the fourth member of Boston’s fourth line. Gregory Campbell, who has been out since last week with an upper-body injury, returned to practice. Peter Chiarelli said Monday that Campbell was “very close” to being ready to return.

Adam McQuaid did not practice, with Claude Julien saying after the practice that the defenseman was given a maintenance day. Given that the Bruins did not practice Sunday or Monday, that’s an awful lot of maintenance.

Max Talbot, Boston’s other trade acquisition, was not on the ice. The lines were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Paille-Soderberg-Eriksson
Campbell/Kelly-Kelly/Campbell-Ferlin/Connolly

 

 

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Barry Melrose on MFB: Bruins need more than Brett Connolly to make playoffs 03.02.15 at 11:57 am ET
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Barry Melrose

Barry Melrose

ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Middays with MFB to discuss the NHL trade deadline and the Bruins’ playoff prospects heading into the stretch run. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Sunday night, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli traded two second-round draft picks to the Lightning for 22-year-old forward Brett Connolly.

“I like Connolly,” Melrose said. “He’s a good young player. I think he’s certainly somebody down the road that could play some big minutes for the Boston Bruins. But I don’t know if he’s good enough to put them in the playoffs.”

Added Melrose: “[Connolly] is a good player, he’s a good young kid, he’s been successful where he’s been, but he’s not ready to change the fortunes of the Boston Bruins right now.”

The trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m., and the Bruins still have time to make another deal.

“Make a deal, get a player that you need to make your team better,” Melrose said, discussing whether the Bruins will make more moves before the deadline. “Get [David] Krejci back, and all of a sudden you become a really good team instead of just a team hoping to make the playoffs.”

The Bruins currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers, who recently added future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, are just two points behind.

“You saw Jagr go to Florida, Florida’s won two games since that’s happened,” Melrose said, adding: “It basically comes down to a playoff battle between Boston and Florida, and I think they play each three times yet. I just think Boston’s got to do more to make sure that they make a playoff spot.”

Added Melrose: “If the Boston Bruins miss the playoffs right now, probably some people will lose their jobs.”

However, Melrose believes that the Bruins will be able to hold on and finish the regular season in playoff position.

“I just can’t believe that [the Bruins] will be outplayed the last 20 games of the season by the Florida Panthers,” Melrose said.

For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

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Bruins acquire F Brett Connolly from Lightning at 6:18 am ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

The Bruins announced early Monday that they have acquired right wing and former sixth overall pick Brett Connolly from the Lightning for their second-round picks in the next two drafts.

Connolly, 22, has 12 goals, three assists for 15 points with 38 penalty minutes in 50 games this season. He has skated on Tampa’€™s third line recently with Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette.

In his 134-game career, covering parts of four seasons, he has 18 goals, 14 assists and 72 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 181-pound British Columbia native tied for third in the AHL with 31 goals during the 2012-13 season in 71 games with the Syracuse Crunch. His 63 points ranked ninth.

In acquiring Connolly, the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Bruins paid a steep price, but sought and obtained an actual piece going forward rather than a rental. The 22-year-old forward will be a restricted free agent at season’s end after playing this season on a one-year, two-way deal.

On the Lightning end, one might ask why Tampa would trade a good young player off its NHL roster in a season in which the Lightning are pushing for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s very possible that the team wanted to open a spot for young forward Vladislav Namestnikov and were in turn motivated to trade Connolly, who would have required waivers to be sent down. Tampa would have certainly lost Connolly on waivers if they tried to send him to the AHL.

General manager Peter Chiarelli will hold a press conference Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss the deal and any other moves the Bruins might make.

To hold you over in the meantime, here’s a video of Connolly and fellow 2010 top prospects being uncomfortable with Don Cherry.

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NHL Mock Draft: Who’s No. 3? 06.14.10 at 5:01 pm ET
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If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I live for draft projections. We had some moderate success mocking the NFL draft this season (the good: called Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes to Patriots; the bad: had Ricky Sapp about 100 picks too high), so after years of doing NHL mocks elsewhere, it’s time I bring my projections to the Big Bad Blog. There’s been enough chatter about this draft (what the first two picks mean, whether the Bruins will move around with all their picks, etc.) that Bruins fans should be as prepared as possible before the 25th day of the month rolls around.

1. Edmonton Oilers (62 points) Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor (OHL)

The Oilers can’t lose with this pick and quite frankly, neither can the Bruins in the No. 2 slot. Both guys are can’t-miss prospects with no visible flaws in their game and measure/weigh in the . They both figure to be up their among the league leaders in goals by the time they hit their prime, and they’ll at least be difference-makers at rookies. The fans in Edmonton prefer Hall, so it could be the difference in a remarkably close race.

2. Boston Bruins [from Toronto (74 points)] Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth (OHL)

Boo hoo, the Bruins don’t get the guy at the position at which they need the most help. Isn’t their biggest need a goal-scorer? Just because they’re loaded up the middle and don’t have impact scorers on the wing, doesn’t mean they won’t gladly take the guy who scored eight more goals than Hall this past season (48 G). As for the talk of trading up, the difference between these two guys isn’t big enough to warrant moving the 15th or 32nd pick.

3. Florida Panthers (77 points) Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL)

Much like the top two forwards in this draft, there is a bit of uncertainty as to who the first defenseman off the board will be. Many feel that Erik Gudbranson will be the guy who goes third, but the Panthers might prefer the American-born goal-scoring blue-liner in Fowler.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (79 points) Brett Connolly, LW, Prince George (WHL)

The Blue Jackets are one of the teams rumored to be interested in trading for Senators center Jason Spezza, and unlike many of the other teams reportedly involved in talks, they actually make sense as a landing spot. As a result, don’t be surprised if Columbus doesn’t end up selecting with this pick. If they stay put, however, they’ll try to add offense after recently signing 2009 first-round defenseman David Savard.

5. New York Islanders (79 points) Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL)

Gudbranson would be a beyond solid pick for the Islanders because he, along with Blake Kessel once he signs, will help build a versatile stable of young defensemen. Gudbranson uses what size he has (6-foot-3,  195 pounds) and is your more hard-nosed defenseman, while Kessel is more offensive-minded and will help on the power play.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (80 points) Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton (QMJHL)

The bad news for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is that he won’t be able to get Seguin, who has been compared to the Hall of Famer by many, with the sixth pick. The good news is that the Lightning can’t get much worse than they were in ’09-’10 and that adding Gormley to a good young nucleus can only help. Gormley, who is more like Fowler than Gudbranson, is a good puck-moving defenseman who figures to be a top-four defenseman for years to come.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (80 points) Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland (WHL)

The team could very well be on the verge of losing left wing Ray Whitney to free agency, and while the NHL is different from the NBA and NFL in that teams generally can’t plug in draft picks to replace lost talent, Niederreiter is the best left winger in this draft not named Hall or Connolly.

8. Atlanta Thrashers (83 points) Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL)

Don’t be surprised if four of the first eight picks are Windsor Spitfires and Portland Winterhawks, as is the case here. Windsor’s Hall isn’t the only one to boost his stock with an outstanding showing in the playoffs, as Johansen racked up 18 points in 13 games in the postseason for Portland.

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