2016-2017 SEASON RECAP
Every offseason there are always a few players who exceed expectations when it comes to their cost and past production, and last summer, Capitals found one in Connolly, a former sixth overall pick (2010). Connolly came across a string of bad luck in terms of injuries and poor development during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and after finding no luck after being traded to the Boston Bruins, who subsequently declined to tender him a qualifying offer, the Caps were able to scoop him up on a one-year, $850,000 deal. Connolly finished the 2016-2017 season with 15 goals and 23 points in 66 games played (a 19-goal pace over a full season). His impressive showing earned him a new two-year, $3 million contract from the Capitals earlier this offseason.
While his final stats are impressive, the season did not start out as well for Connolly. For the first several games of the season, Connolly was a healthy scratch, and when he was playing, found himself on the fourth-line on most nights. It wasn’t until he was given a long look that he developed some chemistry with third-line center Lars Eller. This resulted in 12 even-strength goals in the final 46 games of the regular season, equivalent to 21 over a full 82-game season. During that stretch, he had a high shooting percentage of 25.0%.
2017-2018 SEASON PREVIEW
The Capitals will need Brett Connolly to not only continue to improve, but to produce on a higher level this season. With the losses of Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, the Capitals will need Connolly to produce at a consistent and bountiful pace. Connolly is still young at 25-years old, is fast, and has a great shot. He fits the parameters of the type of player who can chip in more goals. While he had 15 goals last season, over a full season he clearly has what it takes to be a 20-plus goal-scorer if can continue to find chemistry with Eller.
With the departure of Williams, there’s also an open spot for a right-handed player to play the position in the slot on the second power play unit. Both Connolly and fellow right wing Tom Wilson will likely be in consideration. Connolly certainly has a good shot, but Wilson has the big body. It would be huge for the Caps and Connolly if he can come out of the gate flying on all cylinders and scoring goals whether on the power play or not.
Brett Connolly’s Top Moment of 2016-17
More of this:
As noted above, Connolly clearly has the scoring abilities to make him a dangerous goal-scorer. It’s the reason he was drafted as high as he was, and that’s what the Capitals will need from him this year. With more consistent ice time and maybe even some power play appearances, Connolly will need to shoot the puck a lot more to raise his goal totals. He may never reach the level of expectation that came with being a sixth overall pick, but there’s no reason he still can’t be a good middle-six forward that brings speed, skill, and a laser shot and has the potential to score 20 or more goals.
Less of this:
While his final numbers were impressive, Connolly was relatively inconsistent at times last season, and will need to be less so in 2017-18. With the losses of two top-six forwards, and the likely addition of some young forwards from the American Hockey League, Connolly cannot afford to be as inconsistent this season. Of the 12 even-strength goals he scored in the last 46 games, eight came in a 16-game stretch. With a full season with the Capitals in the books, and some instilled confidence from the coaching staff, perhaps Connolly’s production will stay at a consistent pace.
Key Goals for 2017-2018 Season:
As mentioned above, Connolly will need to up his offensive game this season in order to be an effective player for the Caps. He will need to be willing to shoot more and will also need to stay consistent. With the aforementioned likely arrivals of two young players from the AHL, Connolly, despite being relatively young himself, will likely by looked to to provide a mentor-like role this season. As with any player, staying healthy will also be key in ensuring Connolly has another productive year. In essence, Connolly will need:
- shoot more
- stay healthy
- live up to his new contract
- be more consistent offensively
- aim to score 20 or more goals
- become a mentor for rookie players
Other Player Previews:
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Nicklas Backstrom
Washington Capitals Player Preview: John Carlson
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Dmitry Orlov
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Matt Niskanen
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Lars Eller
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Tom Wilson
Washington Capitals Player Preview: T.J. Oshie
Washington Capitals Player Preview: Andre Burakovsky
By Luke Adomanis