Newest Monster ready to contribute

by Doug Plagens || AHL On The Beat Archive

Newly acquired Lake Erie Monsters forward Mike Connolly had been living without a car during his first professional season, but on the NHL’s trade deadline day of February 27, he was hoping to change that.

“I was on my way to put down a deposit on a car. I had been car-less all year,” said Connolly, a rookie out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Connolly, though, decided against the automobile purchase, and the decision had nothing to do with the car itself. His phone rang on the way to the dealer, and almost immediately, Connolly was re-routed to the airport.

The former Worcester Sharks forward had been traded by San Jose to the Colorado Avalanche organization, and was being assigned to Lake Erie.

“Needless to say, I turned around, and didn’t go through with that car,” said Connolly, who played the first 40 games of his professional career with Worcester this season. “It was definitely a shock. I don’t know if for the first five minutes that it really sunk in, but I understand it’s a business. It’s my job to play my best wherever I am, and I’m happy to be [with Lake Erie].”

The possibility of a move is a realistic one for any hockey player, especially as deadline day approaches. Although Connolly didn’t see the move coming, he knew something was afoot when his phone displayed an unidentified San Jose number.

“I had heard nothing about [the possibility of a trade]. The coaches told us to keep our phones on us, and I knew San Jose was looking to add a few pieces. I got the phone call and didn’t know the number, and I picked up, and sure enough…. They were very polite, and really appreciated what I did for them,” Connolly said.

“But I was on my way to the Colorado organization. I couldn’t have been happier about an organization to go to. It’s a young organization that’s always competitive in a tough Western Conference, and they have a lot of good young players,” he added.

But today’s information-craving society and the magnifying glass that hovers over the NHL’s trade deadline become more and more zoomed-in with each passing season. For Connolly, a part of a national championship at Minnesota-Duluth last season, the newest experience was in becoming — even if just for a couple hours — part of a cross-continental topic of conversation in television, radio and social media forums.

“First time for that!” Connolly said about his initial experience with “trending” on trade deadline day. “Having your name up there on a deal is something you don’t look to experience, but at a young age, it’s something that you can grow from. If that’s what I’ve got to do to get famous on NHL Network, then I guess that’s what it takes.”

One idea Connolly isn’t having a tough time with is seeing the bright side of the trade, despite the fact that he had to leave teammates in the Sharks organization with whom he had forged significant bonds this season.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that San Jose and the coaches in Worcester gave me. They really helped me transition into a pro,” Connolly says. “But Colorado is a good organization to come to, and I’m happy to come here and help [Lake Erie] make a big playoff push. The guys have been great, and made it easy for me in practice. I’m just looking to impress the coaches and play my game.”