Prince George’s Brett Connolly finds ‘right fit’ with Stanley Cup champions

 

 
 
 
 
Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly hoists the Stanley Cup after the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL final in Las Vegas earlier this month.
 
 

Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly hoists the Stanley Cup after the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL final in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, The Province

Brett Connolly, Stanley Cup champion.

It’s hard to truly fathom what those five words together must mean to the 26-year-old forward from Prince George, considering the ride it’s been for him to end up atop the hockey world with the Washington Capitals.

“It would be nice if you got drafted by a team and you went there and you played well and had a coach that liked you, but it doesn’t work out that way for a lot of players,” said Connolly, the sixth overall choice from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning who made a brief stop with the Boston Bruins before finding a home with the Capitals.

“It’s just the right fit for me now. Tampa Bay wasn’t meant to be. Boston was a nightmare. It happens. It happens to so many players. It happens to so many people in jobs,” he said.

“There were times that I doubted myself. There were a couple of years that it got really, really tough, but you just keep plugging away. I was lucky, too, because I’ve had a lot of great support.”

Connolly was born in Campbell River and grew up largely in Prince George. His hometown Prince George Cougars took him in the first round of the 2007 WHL bantam draft, and Connolly would go on to score 30 goals in his first full season with the club in 2008-09, becoming the first 16-year-old to accomplish that feat in the WHL since Patrick Marleau in 1995-96.

Prince George city council declared a Brett Connolly Day in the city the following September.

Connolly was highly touted for the 2010 NHL draft, but a hip injury limited him to a mere 16 games with the Cougars in his draft year. The Lightning still took him sixth overall, ahead of the likes of Jeff Skinner and Cam Fowler.

But things didn’t work out in Tampa Bay. The Lightning traded him to the Boston Bruins in March 2015 for two second-round draft picks. Things again didn’t work in Boston, where he broke a finger in a practice before he could play his first game with the Bruins and required surgery. The Bruins didn’t end up qualifying Connolly after the 2015-16 season and let him become an unrestricted free agent.

In July 2016, Connolly signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Capitals, according to capfriendly.com. He was coming off a one-year, $1.025-million deal with the Bruins.

Connolly scored a career-high 15 goals for Washington in the 2016-17 season. Washington initially didn’t qualify him  but instead signed him to a two-year, $3-million deal with the Capitals last June. He tallied 15 times again for Washington in league play this past season, then produced six goals and nine points in the Caps’ 24 playoff games.

He had pair of goals in their six-game Stanley Cup final series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

“Going through what I went through does make it a little bit sweeter,” said Connolly. “I had to work for my breaks. I had to gain a lot of trust from the Washington Capitals and try to find a role on the team. I was fortunate to be able to do that. I just kept believing in myself.”

Connolly plans to bring the Stanley Cup to Prince George later this summer. Dates are still being confirmed.

“My parents are still there. I have other family there. It’s where I grew up. I got to play for my hometown junior team,” said Connolly, who now spends most of his summers in the Toronto area. “Going there for me is the right thing to do.”

sewen@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/SteveEwen

You might also like:

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly hoists the Stanley Cup after the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL final in Las Vegas earlier this month.
 

Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly hoists the Stanley Cup after the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL final in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, The Province

 
Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly hoists the Stanley Cup after the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL final in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Then-junior stars Brett Connolly (left) and Devante Smith-Pelly share a joke at Team Canada’s junior hockey training camp in Calgary in December 2011. The two are also now teammates with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. (Photo: Gavin Young, Postmedia News files)
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice