The long journey to getting scoring center Brendan Connolly in an Alaska Aces sweater appears to have almost reached the destination.
The ECHL club today announced Connolly will eventually join the Aces on assignment from their affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.
(UPDATE: Turns out the gun got jumped a bit, but don't freak out, Cowbell Crew -- it's something of a technicality. The Blog is told Connolly's AHL contract has not yet been filed with that league office, so a move to the Aces is not yet official, but inevitably will be soon -- we're only about a week away from the start of Aces training camp).
Connolly, 28, represents a coup (on paper, of course, season hasn't started) because he fits in as a pivot on either of the top two lines and comes in packing serious scoring credentials. Last season for ECHL Greenville, he racked 24-36--60 totals and a +14 rating in 64 games. Two years ago for Greenville, he pocketed 24-32--56 totals and +17 in a mere 40 games. He also has 15 games of AHL experience.
Combined with returning first-line center Nick Mazzolini, Connolly's arrival would give the Aces two proven high-level centers. Connolly can also play wing, so he could end up on the left side on one of Alaska's top two lines.
Here's how Connolly ended up with the Aces. The Aces in the offseason traded the rights to center Bobby Hughes to ECHL Fort Wayne for future considerations. Said considerations ended up being Jean-Michel Rizk, who the Aces could not come to terms with. Thus, the Aces traded the rights to Rizk to Greenville for the rights to Connolly. Aces coach Rob Murray said all along he felt confident Connolly would end up here.
When Connolly iis n the fold, the Aces will have 21 players on board -- 12 forwards, seven defensemen, two goaltenders. And, remember, they are likely more players on the way from the NHL Calgary-AHL Abbotsford affiliation. Should one of those guys be a top-two-line center, Connolly could play the wing.
Check for more on all of this later Thursday on adn.com and in Friday's dead-trees edition of the newspaper.