KENNEWICK — Tri-City Americans general manager Bob Tory announced today the Tampa Bay Lightning will not send 19-year-old forward Brett Connolly back to the Western Hockey League.
Tri-City acquired the rights to Connolly from the Prince George Cougars at the 2012 WHL Trade Deadline in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft. It was a gamble that depended upon the discretion of Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.
This season, the native of Campbell River, British Columbia has played in 48 games for the Lightning, totaling 4 goals, 9 points and 20 penalty minutes. Before making the jump to the NHL, Connolly had compiled 86 goals and 152 points in 144 WHL games as a member of the Prince George Cougars.
“Although we are disappointed that Brett is not joining our team, we completely understand the rationale behind Tampa’s decision,” Tory said in a news release. “Steve had to make a decision that was best for his hockey club and Brett’s development.”
Last season, Connolly recorded 46 goals and 73 points while serving as the Cougars’ team captain. As a 16-year-old rookie, he also picked up 2008-09 CHL and WHL Rookie of the Year honors after posting a 30-goal season. He was the Cougars’ first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft.
Connolly, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right winger, was a first-round selection, sixth overall, by Tampa Bay in the 2010 NHL Draft. He also served as an alternate captain with Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, picking up 5 goals and 6 points in Canada’s third-place finish.