Jesper Bratt is going to personally have to deal with the same thing the franchise as a whole will endure coming into this season — heightened expectations. In the 2017-18 season, no one expected much of the Devils and even fewer expected anything from Jesper Bratt. Therefore, the Devils getting ousted in 5 games against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning was fine because we were playing with house money anyway at that point. Everything we got other than the playoffs was gravy on top. Similarly, Bratt had likely done enough in the first half of the season to automatically earn a roster spot this coming year, but he too had a very weak finish, getting healthy scratched in 4 of the 5 playoff games. This coming year though, the Devils will be expected to be competitive, and Bratt will be looked to to put together a full season.
Last year was an interesting one for the former 6th round draft pick out of Sweden. He made the team out of camp in pretty impressive fashion, and starting at around game 20, he got regular time with the first line due to his strong early performance. And then he hit a wall. After 12 goals 18 assists in his first 44 games he put up just 1 goal and 4 assists in the remaining 30 games. Mike took note of this early on and I elaborated a bit later in the slump.
What I’ve seen on Twitter, in articles, in comments here and elsewhere, etc. is a really interesting mix of reactions to Bratt’s season. Some think that he is a current or future first liner, given that he received time there as just a 19-year-old this past year. Others think that the second half of the season revealed that the first half was a complete fluke and he is the fringe NHLer his draft position would have suggested. Unsurprisingly, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I used the date filters on OffsideReview to pull the following data which is all situations, except for the on-ice relative stats at the end which are 5v5, score-adjusted.
So there are plenty of things to point out here, but let me start by explaining why I chose to divvy up the games in this manner. The largest number of regular season games that Bratt played with a team before the Devils, was 48. Now I’m absolutely not suggesting there is anything magic about this number that makes it the point at which Bratt’s gas finally runs out. After all, including playoffs, tournaments, etc. he actually played 88 games in 2015-16. Jesper agrees, as he said he thought it was more mental. So I’m using 48 merely because every game after that was a new personal high for him in regular season duration. If the mental fatigue did in fact set in, I have no idea when that would have been, but I’m choosing this spot as an example.
Fluky Goal Rates
Now let’s delve into the actual numbers. Bratt had some pretty incredible production early on. Posting 31 points in 48 games is a 53-point pace which is one more point than Nico Hischier put up this year. This pace cooled off in a bizzarely harsh fashion. After nearly doubling his expected goal total in the first 48, he falied to score even a third of his expected goals in the last 26 games. This is due to the fact that his iFSh% (shooting percentage on unblocked shots) plummeted from 17.39% to 3.33% despite his ixFSh% (expected shooting percentage on unblocked shots) actually going up from 7.21 to 7.1. We can see here that, while the narrative of his early season triumphs being driven by percentages were likely at least partially true, a fair amount of luck went the other direction in the latter portion of the year. Bratt took shots at nearly the same rate (5.32 before, 5.37 after) but his goal rate cratered (0.93 before, 0.18 after). Some of this may be due to the fact that his special teams minutes went from 27% of his ice time down to 16% (5v5 has lower shooting percentages). Some of it might be that he got in his own head and started shooting worse. And some may have just been dumb luck.
Poor On-Ice Impact
Now let’s focus on just those relative stats. We see that the Devils were WAY worse off with Bratt on the ice than with him off the ice with regards to goals. Our goal ratio was 30% worse with him on the ice. YIKES!!! As described previously, goals can be fickle, but what’s troubling here is that his RelxGF% and RelCF% are also bad. They are worse than they were in the first 48 games which seems to point towards something a little more than luck going wrong. What’s worse news, is that even when Bratt was playing well, he was still a negative impact in these areas. This should cause concern for those advocating for his high ceiling. Shot attempts and expected goals are less fickle than goals due to the larger sample size. Bratt’s slump is represented in those contexts as well though and so it was, at least in part, a real slump, identifiable both both his explicit numbers and his implicit impact.
I think the one thing not sufficiently demonstrated by these statistics is his potential based on some raw athleticism. He may have only been a bottom 6 guy in stats by the end of the year, but he had a gear and a creativity that bottom 6 guys don’t typically have.
Bratt is both more effective in transition and in shot generation than guys like Coleman or Noesen and Gibbons. He’s also got slick moves in shootouts as John broke down here. His potential is not that of your average 162nd overall pick. He has another level and we saw pieces of it this year. Will he be able to get there more regularly moving forward though? We’ll have to see.
Bratt’s shooting percentage went from way too high, to way too low, and in the end it was just about right. His on-ice impact went from below average, to catastrophically below average, and we will hope for that to improve. His potential was on display, but inconsistent. Last year, his production was likely closest to that of a 4th liner in the end, but as a 19-year-old who shot up to the NHL very fast and was not used to the toil of a long season, we might be able to write some of it off as rookie yips. But how much? I’m interested in what you guys have to say. What do you think Bratt should be this year and moving forward. If you’d like to elaborate, or if your thoughts aren’t listed, please add in the comments section below.
What do you expect Bratt to be?
This poll is closed
Top line winger this year or next.
Hopefully top 6 this year, top line down the road.
Middle 6 this year, top 6 potential.
Bottom 6 this year, best case for future is 2nd liner.
Fighting for his spot this year and moving forward.
Thanks for reading!