Time always marches on, but occasionally, you have to pause and realize how much has passed. Writing about 17 and 18 year old prospects looking to make a career out of playing the greatest game in the world is one thing. Writing about the son of someone you watched growing up, well, you might as well have someone yelling "You're old!" through a bullhorn. That would be irritating, so please don't do that. Instead, please continue to read a profile on a player who is not only the son of a player I watched growing up who is quite irritating on the ice: Barrie Colts forward Brendan Lemieux.
Who is Brendan Lemieux?
He is indeed the son of The Grate One, Claude Lemieux and the nephew of Jocelyn Lemieux. He was sired while Claude was with Colorado and making the city of Detroit learn to loathe him, but he has grown up and represents Canada. Originally, he was planning on going through the college route before he switched to the Ontario Hockey League. So in the 2012-13 season, he jumped from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, where his eligibility would be preserved, to Barrie of the OHL. He played 42 games, got punished for an eight game suspension for a check from behind (Neate Sager at Buzzing the Net has this article on him), and didn't produce a whole lot as he entered the new league. As his numbers will indicate, he has taken a larger role in his second season with the team as per Elite Prospects:
EP has him at 6'1" and 209 pounds, which is a sizeable frame. Not big, but not at all small. And I can't imagine he would be small given he took over 140 penalty minutes and has more than his fair share of fights. Only two other players in the OHL has taken more penalty minutes than him. Of course, he's more than just a box sitter. His production jumped dramatically from 2012-13 to 2013-14. While Barrie didn't go deep in the playoffs, Lemieux was rather productive. This made him hard to ignore and further raising comparisons to his dad. He was on Team Canada's radar as he was part of the U-18 team that went the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament last July. I do not know how that will last, but given that he was part of the CHL Top Prospects game and he didn't take foul after foul at the Hlinka plus the 2014 OHL playoffs, I don't think he's played himself away from further international duty. We shall see on that front, though.
What Others Say About Lemieux
Again, let's start at EP, where his profile has a quick blurb about him. Incidentally, if you're not familiar with what the terms "agitator" or "pest," then you will know them rather well when you read anything about Lemieux.
Perfectly fits the cliche has a player you hate to play against but love to have on your team. Like his father Claude, Brendan will drive the opposing team crazy as he is the perfect agitator. Lemieux also has the ability to burn you offensively as he is a top 5 scorer on Barrie. He showed the ability to both agitate and score in the CHL top prospects game. Most likely a 2nd-3rd round NHL pick in June, but could easily move up into the later first round. (Tyler Parchem, EP, 2014)
I can confirm that Lemieux finished tied for third on Barrie in points. A distant third behind Andreas Athanasiou (fifth in the OHL in points) and Zach Hall (tied for 37th in the OHL in points), in fact. Still, he was an active player on the scoresheet as well as the penalty box. Making guys mad will undoubtedly lead to calls taken.
Still, it's led to his reputation, something only helped out by his dad playing in a similar way. Given the family ties, there is this NHL.com article about him. Mike Morreale got a two quotes from Dan Marr of Central Scouting Services about Lemieux's game.
"Brendan is a guy you can put in front of the net because he can agitate and be a pest; I think that's in his DNA," director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said
"He has the same skating stride as his father, down low protecting the puck," Marr said. "He's also got a great one-timer and can finish. He's one of these guys who has an equal number of goals and assists, and he does bring an important ingredient to a hockey team."
I'm not sure what it means that he has a similar number of goals and assists as a mostly 17-year old in the O, but he's the expert, not me. Still, another confirmation of his pestiness but also a noting that he does some other things that you'd want from a forward. For what it's worth, CSS ranked him 28th in their final North American rankings; an improvement from 38th at the midterm. I suspect his OHL playoffs plus his appearance in the CHL Top Prospects game helped that rise.
Speaking of that CHL Top Prospects game, apparently Red Line Report's summary of that game was available online. At least, I found a .PDF version through Google that found it through their site. I don't know if RLR intended to have it available, so I won't link to it. I will summarize the summary, though. Basically, the scout that wrote it stated that he played the game as he normally does - meaning he was nasty, started beefs after the whistle, battled hard down low and along the walls, and knew when to get to the net. He was rewarded as he deflected in a goal. I know it's an analysis from one game, so I wouldn't take it with much more than a grain of salt. I would add it to the list of evidence that he's real pain to play against.
To be fair, it's not like he's just an agitator. Consider Mark Hunter when Lemieux was selected for Canada's team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Here's what he said about hiis selection last July in this article by Gene Pereira at The Barrie Examiner:
"He had a real good camp. He played hard, played smart," said Mark Hunter, part of Team Canada’s management group. "We all know he has God-given ability. He can skate. He’s big and strong. As long as he plays the right way and plays smart out there ... if he does what he’s supposed to do, he should be on the U20 team when he’s 19 and playing for them, because he’s got all the ability in the world."
"I think he’s more skilled than those guys and he adds good grit," said Hunter, who got a pretty good look at Lemieux when his Knights edged the Colts in last year’s OHL final. "I like how this young man plays. I like how he can make a pass. He has good hockey sense. Just as long as he keeps it together. We can’t have penalties and it’s important that he doesn’t get his emotions too high or too low."
Plenty of good things to read about a forward: good skating, uses his size, and provided he controls his emotions, he can do good things. Mind you, Hunter said all this about a 17-year old Lemieux. While it's unclear what he thinks of him after one year, I can't imagine he did much worse. Yes, he was a PIM machine in the OHL regular season, but he managed to ramp it down for the playoffs and at the Ivan Hlinka.
I found that article through Eldon MacDonald's and Christopher Ralph's profile on Lemieux at The Hockey Writers. Ralph has him 42nd in his March rankings, but there's a notion that he could go higher than that. The other rankings they cite have him as high as 26 and as low as 51. MacDonald has a few specific words about Lemieux. I was intrigued to read this part:
Offense – Brendan has some real NHL level type skills to go with his off the charts agitation level. He has a great wrister and one-timer, good passing skills and a nice feel for the game. But it is his willingness and determination to fight you not just for every inch of space but also for every breath you take that sets him apart from all others. He just sucks the life right out of you and then sits in your crease and bangs it in.
Usually, when I read about a forward prospect, more attention is paid to how they skate, how they move the puck, and how they shoot it. While it's heartening to read again that he's got a good shot and can move the puck, it's definitely different to see that more praise was put upon how he battles. It makes a big difference between someone who just goes about hitting guys and someone who can hit with a purpose. The latter is important as being able to win pucks along the boards is important at all levels of the professional game. He doesn't just make an opponent mad on purpose, but in doing his job.
Also from the The Hockey Guys' article, Lemieux did an extensive interview with Todd Cordell back in March. You may know Cordell as a Devils writer and one of the reasons why HockeyBuzz isn't total garbage anymore. Cordell did the interview for HockeyProspect, though. It's worth reading in full; but two answers from the future draft pick stuck out to me. First, here's what Lemieux had to say about his production.
HP: Is there any aspect of your game you feel has evolved or improved as the season has gone on?
BL: "As the year has went on I’ve been playing with more skilled guys. I’ve been playing with Andreas Athanasiou and Zach Hall, and playing with guys like that you really have to learn to be defensive minded but you have to learn to have offensive instincts and know where those guys are going to be. They’re not always up and down type guys and they sort of swerve all over the ice so you have to find those guys and be able to work with them. I think the offensive side of my game – the pure sense of moving the puck quickly and getting into open ice – that’s definitely improved for me this year. It’s been getting better and better and maybe my numbers have been OK this year, they haven’t been great but for the way I play I think it’s a pretty fair analysis of a guy like me and the numbers that I should have. It’s not always about the numbers for me, sometimes I’m out there creating space for guys like Athanasiou and Hall. It’s been a great learning experience for me this year and I’m definitely thankful to have the opportunity that I do in Barrie."
Again, this is evidence of what I thought when I saw his numbers. He did play more in Barrie and he did it with the two top scorers on the team. This speaks to how his skills mesh offensive talent in the eyes of the Barrie coach. Of course, there's a downside to that - something I'll bring up when I give my own thoughts. Here's the second:
HP: Every player has things they can improve on, what aspect of your game do you think you need to get better with?
BL: "That’s a pretty easy one for me: composure. I’ve had a year where I’ve had way too many penalty minutes, and have been spending way too much time in the box. It comes with, whether it’s the last name or just the way I compose myself on the ice, I play with a lot of emotion and am a high compete level guy so when you have that it opens the door for refs to call lots of penalty’s on me. I’ve been getting better in the past little bit here but it’s gotta improve much more for me to be able to be the player I can be at the next level and even the junior level."
If you want a big reason to like Bredan Lemieux, here it is. He's not only cognizant of his pesty nature, but he's able to do something about it. As proof, look at his playoff line again. A guy who finished third in the OHL in PIM, managed to take it down a notch and only take 16 minutes. Of course, it's arguable he took eight bad penalties or that he got away with a lot more by way of it being the postseason. It's still a massive improvement for a guy who has a deserved reputation for drawing and taking fouls. Between this answer and this fact from the postseason, I feel some confidence that he can be a real force at his level when he's not sitting down in a special area for two, four, or five minutes at a time.
However, Lemieux may want to work on some other aspects to his game beyond staying cool more often. Ben Kerr profiled him at Last Word on Sports and has plenty of good to say about his skating, battling, and his shot. However, he noted something about Brendan that isn't like his Claude at all:
If there is an area where Brendan Lemieux doesn’t play like his father, its in the defensive end of the ice. The younger Lemieux’s defensive game is very much a work in progress at this point. He has a tendency to puck watch and not move his feet, leading to what some might call floating at the defensive end. He simply doesn’t show the same intensity and attention to detail in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone. This is something that coaches will need to work with Lemieux on going forward.
That is teachable but it is something that may be keeping him out of the first round. It's one thing to bring offense to the table and another to play with an irritating passion. But not being so strong on defense is no way to advance. Presuming this is true, it is something that any team should consider before drafting and something that should be monitored in his 18-year old season.
A Little Video
There's plenty of little videos about Lemieux. Instead, I found one big video. I don't know who bigwhite06 is, but he or she is providing plenty of highlight videos of several prospects in this draft. There's one for Lemieux. You will realize that he really does have a good wrist shot and he shoots powerful one-timers. There are some spots where you see how his emotions get the better of him, such as goal around the 2:25 mark where he spits some verbals at a goalie he just beat for a goal. He got a penalty for that which caused him to spit more verbals from the box. Anyway, here's a highlight reel from his 2013-14 season with Barrie - he's wearing #21:
An Opinion of Sorts
First and foremost, if Brendan is as good as Claude, then the Devils should be running up to the podium if he's available at #30. What some don't realize was that Claude was more than just a guy opponents loathed, but he was a very, very talented hockey player. He was not clutch, he was rather good. That said, I don't think it's fair to Brendan to compare him to his dad beyond their styles, and I don't get the sense he'll be as good as him either.
Reading from Kerr about his defense - the only opinion that I saw so far that mentioned it - is a concerning point. Even if it is teachable, can he apply the same energy to the back end? Should he, knowing that same energy helped lead him to nearly taking 150 PIM last OHL season? But I'm just as concerned about his offense. The highlight video showcased that Lemieux definitely has a strong shot. I'm pleased to see him make a big jump in production from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Especially in the postseason, where he took fewer calls and got hot enough to put in seven goals in eleven games. However, how much of that production came from regularly playing with one of the OHL's top scorers in Athanasiou and another proficient producer in Hall? As per his own interview, he recognizes that his numbers aren't that great. Is that due to opportunity, luck, or just? He got a lot of nice feeds in that highlight video. Good on him for finishing; but would he suffer without them? I would love to know how many shots he took himself as that would clear up some of the doubts. But the OHL doesn't provide that stat for reasons beyond me.
Overall, I get the same sense about Lemieux that I did when learning about Stefan Matteau two years ago. He plays physical, he uses his size well, and he's demonstrated skills beyond just being a jerk on the ice. I think he would eventually make it to the next level of pro hockey and ultimately get in the NHL. Whether that's as a useful forward who is a pain or a fourth liner who is a pain is up in the air. I think how one rates him depends on how well (or how poorly) one thinks of his offense and defense. If you think his skills project to a higher level, he learns a bit more defense, and will be more productive with or without top scorers on his line, then you may think he can sneak into the first round. If not or you think he can't stay as calm as he should, then you may feel he can go anywhere in the second round. If he can really stay composed more often, more like he did in the OHL playoffs, then I think he could really enjoy a fine 18-year old season that clears up some of the concern about his projection.
Would I want him in the Devils system? Given the state of forward prospects in the organization, it's hard for me to say no. I don't think it's wrong to have a pest, actually. Provided he's not always annoying me with calls while trying to annoy his opposition, why not? Even if he tops out as a second/third line winger, that's one less spot the Devils have to go out and get in free agency. I would prefer him taken at #41 and have the team aim for someone with more scoring skill or more balanced game at #30. Assuming no one else thinks more highly of him and takes him earlier, of course.
Given that he's Claude's son and he stood out for Barrie for both good and bad reasons, I'm sure there's going to be plenty of takes on him. So what's yours? What do you think of him as a prospect? What about him impressed you the most? What about him concerns you, if anything? Would you want the Devils to draft him - and, if so, where? Have you seen him play, and if so, what do you think of him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Brendan Lemieux in the comments. Thank you for reading.