As was being speculated for the past week or so, Brett Connolly of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Devante Smith-Pelly of the Anaheim Ducks have indeed been loaned out by their respective organizations to play for team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships.
While the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Johansen were eligible to return as well; there was clearly never a realistic chance of obtaining their service. So instead team Canada will have to settle for these two young rookies who have already proven to be capable NHL players…not bad for a country that already possesses overwhelming depth at the junior level with or without them.
A returning member of last year’s silver medal winning squad Connolly has registered four goals and four assists in 27 games for the Lightning who have been struggling of late. Last year with the Prince George Cougars, Connolly rebounded from a serious hip injury to score 46 goals but was somewhat of a disappointment in the World Junior tournament as he failed to score a goal in Canada’s seven games. The 19-year-old will be counted on to use his NHL experience to have a much greater impact this year as he is certain to be given a spot on a top line as well as power-play duty.
A surprise inclusion on the Ducks roster this season, Smith-Pelly has spent most of his rookie year on the 3rd and 4th line for the club, who find themselves one point out of last place in the NHL standings. A year ago the Scarborough, Ontario enjoyed his finest OHL season collecting a career high 36 goals and 66 points. On top of his strong individual play, Smith-Pelly also enjoyed great team success as his Mississauga St.Michael’s Majors advanced to the championship game of the Memorial Cup.
The Anaheim rookie is a highly energetic player who should quickly become a fan favourite due to his tireless work ethic as a forechecker and the ability to use his physical attributes to create scoring chances.