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Clean bill of health for Connolly

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The mere fact Prince George Cougars forward Brett Connolly, a top-five prospect for the NHL draft, was able to play in the world under-18 men's hockey championship is a boon to his status.

That seemed to be the big takeaway from Chris Botta's post on Islanders Point Blank:

"That’s a positive sign,” NHL Central Scouting Bureau director E.J. McGuire told Point Blank. "If Connolly is healthy, there are many teams in the league that will have him ranked right at the top of the draft with Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall."

Potentially, this is an exciting development for the Islanders for two reasons. If Connolly continues to prove his health, he is a guaranteed top-5 pick. They could have the option of drafting him (fifth overall) or moving up to grab him. Connolly’s selection at 3 or 4 by another team would result in the Islanders staring right at one of the leftover top defensemen: (Windsor's) Cam Fowler or (Kingston's) Erik Gudbranson.

The draft analysis is better left to draftniks, but it's probably a pretty obvious statement that whoever jumps to take Connolly -- whose hip injury limited him to 16 games this season with the Cougars -- more of a story than the overblown Taylor vs. Tyler drama.

Meantime, let Botta's line, "As Canada sheds tears over a possible eighth-place finish (at the U18s), Team USA has advanced to the championship game" be taken with a grain of salt. It is ignominy writ large that Canada finished seventh in Belarus after a 4-2 relegation-round win over Slovakia today. The rub is most hockey fans' focus is probably on the playoffs taking place in North America, and if there's any long-term consequences for Canada, it probably won't be noticed until it hits us. That's usually how it goes.

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