Place of BirthTustin, CA
Connelly is a finisher with some good offensive instincts who probably plays best as a complimentary player on a line with a high-end playmaker. He is quite fast — both in and out of possession — often being the breakout carrier for the Team USA power play. In this game he showed a wide variety of tools in his arsenal including smooth hands, very impressive vision, and a quick release. On the man advantage, His strengths shone bright. Their system ran through him and he roamed around the offensive zone seeking a plethora of different opportunities. Given that his quick and powerful release as well as his vision that only improved throughout the game, Connelly was able to be a dominant double threat on the power play. That said, I do have some pretty strong initial concerns about his game. I found throughout this contest that, although he is decently fast and has good puckhandling ability, he struggled in transition at five-on-five due to his lack of ability to beat defenders using his body. What I mean is, having good hands is one thing but at an elite level of hockey, it isn’t enough. You need to be effective at using shoulder fakes, deceptive skating movement, and using the angle of your opponent to know where to attack. Connelly showed me none of that during this game. He made poor decisions on the rush, often skating into pressure in a straight line and trying to stickhandle through, resulting in a turnover. This issue trickled into all areas of his five-on-five game rendering him invisible outside of the power play and the odd chance coming from the stick of Mac Swanson. Connelly has a lot of skill and tools at his disposal, but his lack of play driving ability limits my projection for him a bit. This is just my first viewing and I could be proven wrong but at this moment I can’t see Connelly’s NHL projection ever being more than a secondary finisher in the middle six with second unit power play upside. I would likely be comfortable taking Connelly as a middle-to-late second round pick in the 2024 draft.