Chris Kelly was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the third round(94th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Kelly spent the next few years playing in the American Hockey League (AHL). He spent one year with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He then spent three seasons with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators. In His last two seasons in Binghamton, Kelly served as team captain.
He made his NHL debut on February 5, 2004, in a match against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kelly ended up playing four games for Ottawa in their 2003-2004 season. The lockout season of ’04-’05 found Chris back in Binghamton, where he racked up twenty four goals (four power play, four short handed, and three game winners) and a total of sixty points overall. In the 2005-2006 season, Kelly got bumped up back to Ottawa where he became a regular in the lineup, appearing in all eighty two games. He racked up thirty points overall in his rookie NHL season.
The 2006-2007 season found him playing the entire eighty two games in the season. His scoring improved to thirty eight points and was used primarily as a checking player. Kelly had scored seven points during the playoffs and that helped to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the first Stanley Cup Finals in Ottawa’s franchise history. (They were defeated by the Anaheim ‘Mighty’ Ducks.) It was also the first time the Kelly and future teammate Shawn Thornton would share the ice. On July 31, 2007, he re-signed with the Senators to a one-year contract.
The 2007-2008 season saw Kelly’s scoring go back to down to thirty points. Also, the Ottawa Senators had failed to make the playoffs(as they did again in 2008-2009). Kelly was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2008 but re-signed with the Senators on a four-year contract extension. Kelly remained a consistant player and scorer for the Senators. However, Senators management was looking to make themselves long term contenders for the Stanley Cup and didn’t see Kelly as part of their plans.
Kelly was dealt to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 15, 2011, for a second-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. (Ottawa chose Shane Prince with that pick.) The new #23 went right to work. He racked up five points for Boston on their way to the playoffs. Kelly scored five times, and gathered eight assists for the Bruins battled their way through injuries and multiple seven game series to reach the Finals. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup on June 15, 2011.
Kelly had been seen as a leader by the players and the staff. On October 7th 2011, it was decided that Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly will share the A that used to belong to Mark Recchi. Ference will wear the A during home games for the first half of the season and Kelly will have the A on the road. Then they switched in the latter half of 2011-12. When asked about the ‘split A’, coach Claude Julien commented. ”I think all the players and the coaching staff agreed that those guys have that personality that gives them the respect in the room. Also, they have that personality that shows leadership in the right way on and off the ice.”
The 2011-12 season saw Kelly continue to perform. Kelly scored twenty goals last season. (Six of them were game winners.) He notched up a total of thirty nine points and performed consistantly in whatever line Julien chose to put him in. Kelly was not afraid to throw down either. Kelly’s performance was one of the lynchpins that helped the Bruins earn their second seed in the playoffs last year. Kelly was not going to disappoint. #23 gave us our first win in the Playoffs with a 1-0 overtime win against the Washington Capitals. Well, the Bruins played their hearts out by lost in game seven.