Successful NHL general managers don’t rely on just one way they find talent for their teams.
The traditional way of drafting players and waiting for them to develop will always remain a fundamental component of a successful franchise, but hockey players don’t always develop at the same rate. GMs and scouting directors who keep their eyes and minds open to watch and reassess players after their draft eligibility are often rewarded.
Sometimes, it requires eating a bit if humble pie. After all, a great deal of time and money is spent assessing a player at 17 or 18. Admitting that your projection for that player was wrong isn’t easy for some.
As a fantasy hockey GM, I’ve learned that taking the same approach can help you find some talent in unlikely places, talent that is flying under the radar and can be had fairly cheaply.
One player who has evaded my attention is Brian Connelly. Dobber and I didn’t include him in the Prospects Report in the spring and we don’t like missing guys that have a chance to help you.
So, here I am, a little red in the face, saying I missed this guy and you should take a look at him; I certainly am.
First of all, as a five-foot-nine, 170-pound defenseman you have to admit it’s pretty easy for Connelly to fly under the radar. But if you ignore his size and look at his skill, you realize he has a chance. On most teams he wouldn’t, but with Chicago -- where there are openings on defense and key veterans who can carry the load on the power play -- there will be little pressure for Connelly to produce and he’ll be able to play a support role.
There are very few defensemen his size in the NHL, but those who are his size are offensive producers, something that Connelly has shown he can be. Connelly wasn’t a big point producer in the USHL with the Tri-City Storm, but became a reliable offensive threat with Colorado College. He averaged about half a point per game in his first two years there and surged to 0.7 points per game in his junior year. That prompted the Blackhawks to sign him as a free agent in the spring of 2009 and he played nine games for Rockford of the AHL to finish the season.
Last season with the IceHogs, Connelly had an impressive pro debut – even considering his age (23). He had four goals and 35 points in 78 games to match his PPG output of his freshman and sophomore years in college.
Connelly has impressive skating ability and loves to rush the puck. The Hawks don’t need a player like Connelly this season, but they’re facing a cap crunch and any player they bring in as an injury replacement will have to be cheap. The recent signing of Nick Boynton makes it more likely that Connelly will spend another year in the AHL, especially since his cap hit is $875,000 according to CapGeek.com. That’s not expensive, but with the Hawks, every dollar counts.
Connelly might get some playing time this year, and if the Hawks are able to find a taker for Brian Campbell (unlikely, I know) then they’ll likely call on Connelly to provide the puck-moving abilities they’ll need to replace Campbell.
Pick him on the cheap and stash him on your farm and you could be rewarded.
Upside: 5-30-35, low PIMs.