For years, Devils fans have grown accustomed to selecting "two-way forwards" and "stay-at-home defencemen" as early draft picks. In the NFL, the Devils would be the team that continually selects offensive linemen. Although, this is the dawn of a new era. The Devils are under new management. This management had captained an offensive-minded Penguins team for 8 years and led them to a Stanley Cup. Perhaps this means taking a chance on a guy like Jeremy Bracco.
Who is Jeremy Bracco?
Jeremy Bracco was born March 17,1997 in Freeport, NY. He has played at both Center and Right Wing in his time in the USHL. At only 5'9'' and 172 lbs, the biggest questions by far will be if his game can translate to the NHL level. He was not the best player on his team, which is not a shot at him because his team includes Auston Matthews, the projected 2016 1st overall player by a healthy margin, and Matthew Tkachuk, another bona fide 2016 first rounder. But his stats speak for themselves quite a bit.
Other than the flurry of points that this guy produces, I liked the production in the WJC. With 1.86 points per game, and 13 in total, he was outscored and outpaced in the World Juniors by only 2016-stud Auston Matthews. As a reference, against the same competition, projected top 5 pick Pavel Zacha managed just a point per game (5 in 5). Clearly at this level, he can sustain it as he put up 94 points in 65 games in the USDP.
He has managed to produce a point per game at every level and his playmaking prowess has yet to find encounter a level of competition that it does not match up to.
What Others are Saying
It's really all over the place honestly. Everyone seems to agree that he is one of the premier offensive talents in this draft, but the size and defensive aspect of his game have caused his projections to be erratic. The most commonly-referenced default ranking is NHL Central Scouting list in which he is ranked a meager 60 among North American skaters alone. However, everyone else thinks those guys are wrong. Future Considerations ranks him at 26 and wrote a glowing overall review, including the interesting section saying:
[Bracco] works hard defensively, and has a good defensive stick and plays aggressively at the point looking to cause turnovers.
This is tells me that although he currently lacks the size and strength to be a penalty killer or defensive force of any kind, his effort and stick allow him not to be a liability in the defensive zone. That being said, his strength and size are a clear liability and something that he will need to address in the NHL. The one other line from FC worth noting for Devils fans is that Bracco "plays with grit and has no issue going to the net for chances with grit and has no issue going to the net for chances." Sound like someone?
He seems to have been unilaterally forgiven for his size by scouts online. Brendan Ross of Dobber Sports barely mentions size, instead focusing on his unquestionable special offensive skill:
Possessing a truly unique skating technique, relying on crafty edge-work and a heel-to-heel stride, Bracco is a dynamic offensive winger who competes at high speed.
They go on later to compare him to Patrick Kane.
Ben Kerr from Last Word on Sports goes one step further than FC and ranks him at #23 overall. They do, however, have a unique take on his otherwise unanimously lauded offensive genius:
Bracco has a decent shot and good release, but sometimes seems a little too hesitant to shoot. Overall he must get stronger to win more battles on the boards, and to be able to succeed with his frame. He’s headed to Boston College in the fall.
An important thing to mention is that Bracco is mostly agreed upon as a playmaker rather than a sniper. His numbers imply that he can do both, but scout note that among the truly special skills he posseses -- skating, speed, stickwork, vision --- a cannon shot is not one of them.
The Hockey Writers I think have the best hold on his ranking at 45 landing him smack in the middle of the 2nd round which is where I think he will go. They also had a long write-up including what I consider one of the more accurate categorizations of his skillset and potential:
Highly skilled, Bracco is elusive in the offensive zone and outworks everyone to win loose puck battles. His work ethic is one of the best I’ve seen this year and he does everything in his power to help his team win. Size will always be a huge drawback, which is why I consider Bracco a "boom or bust" pick. He does get knocked around against bigger defenders, but that’s to be expected. He’s still able to maintain excellent balance for the most part given how low he is to the ground. Having said that, he’s shown the grit and determination that leads me to believe he’ll be more boom than bust.
What's normally the knock against players with huge talent? More often than not it's lack of effort. Bracco is the antithesis of that. He is a super-skilled athlete who puts in twice as much effort as guys with half his talent and that makes him a truly special prospect. If he can hit the weight room to make his small stature less of a liability then he will be a tough guy to let slide.
Lastly, it wouldn't be right of me to conclude this section without mentioning that our fellow SBNation Blog, Winging it in Mowtown, decided to pitch in on Bracco as well.
The full playlist of his videos can be found here, but it's really only the first two videos that are any good. The first one is just dirty so I'm going to post that one right here:
That's not a toe drag. That's an assault on humanity. The goalie overcommits absurdly, but that doesn't make that move any less awesome.
In the USA Top Prospects Game, Bracco played ona a lethal line with Jack Eichel. Here are the two goals Bracco scored as part of that line.
An Opinion Of Sorts
I like the guy a lot. The real question is where do I like him. For me, he is a 2nd round pick, though I feel the Devils are a bit high in the 2nd round to take him. That being said, I would not revolt if our young-forward-starved team decided to take a truly special offensive talent that leaves it all out on the ice with our SECOND pick simply because he some size questions.
I always see Devils fans ready to declare every undersized playmaker the next Tedenby. And yet they also complain that the worst phrase in the language this draft is "two-way forward." Well not everyone can be a 6'2'' 210lbs offensive powerhouse. It's also worth noting that the same coach we have blamed for mismanaging Adam Larsson, was the one who Tedenby was playing under. It's also worth noting that this years Calder favorite, Johnny Gaudreau, is the same height as Bracco, 20lbs lighter, was a 4th rounder, and put up 64 points in his first year in the NHL. If we properly handle a talent like Bracco, he could be just the kind of offensive sparkplug this team could rebuild around. Pairing him with our 1st rounder would only go to expedite the transition.
Do you agree with the lovers in thinking that he is a late first-rounder? Do you agree with the haters and think that he's an early third rounder? Do you think my assessment of him was accurate? How do you feel about the idea of an undersized forward with tons of offensive potential? Leave your thoughts below.