There’s a lot of change and discussion swirling around the New Jersey Devils 2019-20 campaign, as it unmercifully drags on. Personnel decisions and development need to once again be placed at the forefront of the conversation, as let’s face it, this season is sadly all but over. One of those conversations that needs to be had should focus around Jesper Bratt. Having appeared in 25 of the team’s 30 games this season (two missed for injury, three for healthy scratch), Bratt is on pace for a career low in point.
Bratt has played under the same coaching staff for his entire NHL career so far, which leaves me unsure as to how much blame I can put on him for not progressing. The rest of the team playing like a dumpster fire this season probably isn’t helping either. At the same time, it isn’t as though Bratt’s game is taking great strides forward, and the fact that he has only nine points this season is worrisome.
The good news is the six goals that he has potted puts him on pace for a career high; continuing at this pace see him finish the season with 18-19 goals. The issue again is that he would only finish the season with roughly 27 points, which would be a career low for the third year forward. His slight point drop last season was understandable, as he missed time with injuries and played in 23 fewer games than his rookie campaign. If Bratt misses more time this season due to injury (or for any other reason) his point estimates will go down even further.
For a player that should be improving as he gains experience and plays more games, the fact that Jesper has taken a downward turn is extremely concerning. The Devils need him to be an important future piece; maybe not to the level of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, but Bratt needs to be at least a complementary piece to the level that Kyle Palmieri is. Some fans may have some issues with Palms and his streakiness, but he’s still a 50 point per season player who isn’t a complete defensive liability. Bratt needs to become a piece like that in the future; again, not exactly the same, as both have different playing styles, but of similar contribution levels.
While it may be time to worry about Bratt, I think it’s still way too early to give up on him, especially when we circle back to the coaching situation. Even though the Devils now have a new head coach, we’re looking still at essentially the same coaching regime that has been with him for his entire professional career. I would hope that Ray Shero recognizes the developmental stagnation of our young players at the end of this season and bring in some new staff to aid the forward progression of the players. If things remain status quo, we might see many players including Bratt, Hischier and Hughes (as well as many other younger players in the organization) that don’t hit the ceiling that they could have under a staff that helped them grow their games.
Personally, I am worried about Bratt; he doesn’t appear to be the same confident player on the ice as he was in the past couple of seasons. He’s playing tentative (where have we heard that before?) and isn’t finding good results. His quality of linemates has decreased as well, which could at least partly explain why his assist total isn’t as high. Any way you look at it, Bratt looks as though he’s going to regress instead of progress this season; as he was looking to be an important piece moving forward, the Devils as a whole need to figure out what the plan is going forward. The more time spent in limbo this season, the worse things are going to get for the young players, and that’s going to set the organization back even further.
Now it’s time to hear all of your thoughts on Jesper Bratt, his development and the Devils’ organizational discord; should we be worried right now? What needs to be done to help Bratt continue growing as a player? Should Ray Shero be looking into coaches/staff that having a proven track record of developing young players? Will there be a fresh staff coming in next season and if so will it help our youngsters to meet their full potential? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!