The Tampa Bay Lightning’s decision to keep F Brett Connolly on its roster is one that may reverberate through the WHL for more than just this season.
Connolly, 19, was the sixth overall selection in the NHL’s 2010 draft. Steve Yzerman was running his first draft as the Lightning’s general manager, meaning Connolly is his original first-round selection.
The Lightning signed Connolly a while back, but, as a 19-year-old, he either had to play in the NHL or with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.
Connolly has had a great start to his NHL career and has been playing on a line with veteran stars Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis.
All of which is great for Connolly and not so great for the Cougars.
It is no secret that the Cougars have struggled, on the ice and at the gate, for the last while. This, however, was going to be the season when things started to turn around.
They acquired Drew Owsley, a front-line goaltender, from the Tri-City Americans over the summer. The Edmonton Oilers returned D Martin Marincin for a second season. Other defenders, like Daniel Gibb and Jesse Forsberg, were coming into their own.
Up front, Troy Bourke was proving to be a brilliant young forward, while the enigmatic Charles Inglis had proven last season that he can score. There are other good, young forwards, like Alex Forsberg and Chase Witala.
The glue, however, was going to be Connolly. Not every junior hockey team can boast a superstar who is playing in his hometown. It should be instant box office.
That dream, however, is dead. Yzerman told Connolly on Tuesday night that he would be staying in the NHL.
The Cougars have lost seven straight games now. They are struggling to score goals, having been twice blanked 1-0 by the visiting Tri-City Americans on the weekend.
The second game drew an announced crowd of 1,663.
Connolly was going to be at least part of the solution to both of those problems. He would score and would put some fans in the seats.
But that was before Lightning hit the Cougars' outhouse.
The Calgary Hitmen dealt F Kenton Miller, 20, and F Justin Kirsch, 19, to the Moose Jaw Warriors for D Collin Bowman, 20, F Joey Kornelsen, 18, and a fourth-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft.
The Hitmen acquired Miller, who is from Redvers, Sask., off waivers from the Spokane Chiefs during the offseason. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Regina Pats in 2007. He had 28 points in 28 games with the Chiefs last season. This season, he had three goals in 11 games with the Hitmen.
Kirsch had 42 points in 66 games with Calgary last season. He had five points in 10 games this season.
The Warriors have been hit hard by injuries and just came off a road trip during which they lost three games in a row, each by one goal.
The Hitmen are coming off a 7-1 loss to the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Tuesday.
Bowman, who began his career with the Kelowna Rockets, is the younger brother of former Spokane Chiefs sniper Drayson Bowman, who now is in the Carolina Hurricanes organization.
The Hitmen are hoping that Bowman will be the puck-moving defencemen they feel they have been missing. He had 49 points, including 38 assists, with the Warriors last season. He has five points, four of them goals, in seven games this season.
Kornelsen had 37 points in 118 regular-season games with the Warriors. He brings the Hitmen another young forward.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have dealt D Erik Fleming, 19, to the Swift Current Broncos for a 10th-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . In 156 games with Seattle over the last three seasons, Fleming, from Calgary, had 15 points and 72 penalty minutes. Fleming has played just one game this season to due an undisclosed injury. . . . He was the 16th overall selection in the 2007 bantam draft. . . . The Thunderbirds also assigned D Austin Frank, 18, to the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs. . . . Seattle is in Victoria for a doubleheader with the Royals on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Swift Current Broncos sent F Dillon Wagner, 20, to the Portland Winterhawks for F Adam Smith, 17, who is with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. . . . The 125th overall pick in the 2006 bantam draft, Wagner was in his fourth season with the Broncos. He had 53 points in 163 regular-season games. . . . This week’s WHL injury report shows Wagner as being out for three weeks with an undisclosed injury. . . . Wagner joins F Charles Wells and D William Wrenn as Portland’s 20-year-old players. . . . The Broncos are left with F Taylor Vause, F Brad Hoban and G Jon Groenheyde as their three 20s. . . . Smith, selected by Portland with the 178th pick of the 2009 bantam draft, is from Nanaimo. He has one assist and 13 penalty minutes in six games with the Clippers, after finishing with three points and 15 PMs in 30 games with the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals last season. . . . A gritty forward, Smith played two games with the Winterhawks last season, going pointless with five penalty minutes. . . .
F Connor Redmond, who has had nothing but shoulder problems for a couple of years now, has left the Vancouver Giants and joined the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. Redmond, 19, has seven points and 60 penalty minutes in 51 regular-season games with the Giants over the last two seasons. . . . Redmond was selected 11th overall by the Red Deer Rebels in the 2007 bantam draft. . . . Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun has that story right here.
JUST NOTES: The Medicine Hat Tigers have assigned D Kyle Becker, 17, to the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals. A native of Langley, B.C., he had offseason surgery on a broken scaphoid and has just recently been cleared to return to action. He was a seventh-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft. . . . The Vancouver Giants and Prince George Cougars have been fined $250 apiece for a line brawl that took place Tuesday in Vancouver. . . . Prince George D Martin Marincin drew a ‘tbd’ suspension for an interference major he incurred in that game.
In Medicine Hat, the Tigers doubled up on the Portland Winterhawks 4-2 last night in front of their 300th straight regular-season sellout (4,006). . . . That news paled beside the announcement that the venerable Bob Ridley, the long-time radio voice of the Tigers, has opened a Twitter account. Seriously! . . . F Hunter Shinkaruk scored for the Tigers. He has 11 goals and two assists. . . . The Tigers also got a goal from F Emerson Etem. He has a WHL-leading 17 goals, to go with nine helpers. . . . The game featured the Leier cousins — F Boston Leier, 18, skates for the Tigers, while F Taylor Leier, 17, is with the Winterhawks. Both are from Saskatoon. . . . Portland is 1-3 on its 17-day, nine-game trek. . . .
In Edmonton, G Tristan Jarry, 16, made his first start and helped the Oil Kings to a 4-1 victory over the Everett Silvertips. . . . Jarry stopped 20 shots. He was a third-round selection in the 2010 bantam draft. . . . F Curtis Lazar, the second overall pick in that draft, scored his fourth goal of the season for Edmonton. . . . Oil Kings D Mark Pysyk played his 200th regular-season game. . . . Edmonton has won three in a row. . . .
In Saskatoon, F Josh Nicholls had two goals and F Brent Benson had three assists, as the Blades dumped the Regina Pats, 5-3. . . . Saskatoon D Darren Dietz didn’t pick up even one point, but he was plus-4. . . .
In Spokane, the Chiefs ran their home record to 8-0-0 with a 6-1 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . The Chiefs closed out a seven-game homestand by completing the sweep. . . . Victoria G Jared Rathjen made his first WHL star but trailed 2-0 before the game was four minutes old. . . . Spokane held a 33-13 edge in shots. . . .
In Moose Jaw, F Quinton Howden had a goal and an assist on the first two shifts of his first game of the season to help the Warriors to a 5-2 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Howden returned to Moose Jaw from the camp of the NHL’s Florida Panthers with a concussion. . . . D Joel Edmundson, who returned from the NHL’s St. Louis Blues with an ankle injury, also was back in Moose Jaw’s lineup. . . . Moose Jaw was without D Kendall McFaull (hip) and D Dylan McIlrath (undisclosed), while F Sebastian Svendsen (knee) won’t play for another couple of weeks. . . .
In Kelowna, G Adam Brown stopped 28 shots as the Rockets beat the Prince George Cougars, 2-1. . . . The Cougars have lost seven in a row. . . . The Cougars, already without D Martin Marincin (suspended) and F Brett Connolly (NHL), lost F Troy Bourke just 22 seconds into the game with a boarding major and game misconduct. . . . Prince George did have F Charles Inglis back in the lineup after he completed serving a 10-game suspension. . . .
In Cranbrook, the defending-champion Kootenay Ice scored the game’s first three goals and beat the Red Deer Rebels, 3-2. . . . Ice G Nathan Lieuwen stopped 29 shots. . . . The Ice now is 10-3-2 and has won three in a row.
CBC News has reported details of the hazing incident involving players on the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives. According to CBC, one of the hazed player’s parents says their 15-year-old son “was forced to parade around the dressing room with water bottles tied to his genitals.”
That story is right here.
Taking Note on Twitter