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Brayden Tracey: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Offensive Machine This Past Season

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In AATJ’s continuing coverage of NHL draft prospect this year, come check out a WHL winger who burst onto the scene this year in a big way, dominating the league as a rookie. He has shot up the rankings big time.

For today’s prospect profile at AATJ, we have the Calgary, Alberta native and left winger Brayden Tracey, who currently plies his trade for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. Tracey is a somewhat taller winger, standing at a clean 6’0”, and although he weighs only 176 pounds at the moment, could certainly grow into that taller frame, a definite plus out of the gate.

Tracey was somewhat of a latecomer to the party. Many higher draft prospects, especially in terms of Canadian juniors, play two full seasons of major junior hockey before being drafted. This was not the case for Tracey. He had a full season for Moose Jaw this year, logging a solid 66 regular season games plus a couple of playoff games. Last season, however, he spent most of the year playing Midget AAA hockey, only jumping up to major junior to play 5 games for Moose Jaw.

But if you think that would be a major detractor against this kid, think again. He absolutely dominated this year in the WHL, and given that league’s reputation for a tougher brand of hockey, that is saying something. Had he done that well for Moose Jaw for two years in a row, we would be talking a first round selection here, but as is, even with just one full season in the books for the Warriors, there is a chance you could see him go in the second round. Is he someone the New Jersey Devils could look at?

Who is Brayden Tracey?

-LINK TO ELITE PROSPECTS STATS-

As I mentioned above, with Tracey only playing one full year in the WHL, there is not a significant amount of numbers to delve into. But what he did produce is admirable. In 66 games this year as really a first year player in the league, he produced a whopping 81 points, 36 of them coming as goals. That was good enough to be the highest scoring rookie in the league this season, and earned him the honors of Rookie of the Month for December 2018.. And for what it’s worth, he ended the regular season at a +33. Moose Jaw was a strong team this season, so seeing a + there is not some major feat, but they were not a completely dominant team either, finishing third in their own division and being swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs by Saskatoon (Tracey was injured during that series, only playing in two games and perhaps not playing at 100%). Being that strong on a good team like that is a good sign.

Tracey also played internationally over the last two seasons, but the real experience came this year at the World Juniors where he played for Team Canada. And he played quite well at the tournament, producing 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 tournament games. That only enhanced the amazing year that he has had.

Thanks to Habs Eyes on the Prize, we can check out Mitch Brown’s scouting report from his CHL Tracking Project ($). Tracey rates as a consistently positive player across the board. The one true exception where he struggles is in backchecking, which you would think tells us that he is more offensively minded and might not play as strong a defensive game yet as we would want (this will bear out from reading profiles of those who have watched and analyzed his game). However, he is also incredibly strong with Corsi Against and with controlled zone exits, which might also show us that he can be a positive player in the defensive zone when he wants to be. Offensively, he rates strong in one timers as well as generating shot assists in transition. He is strongest in generating zone entries via forechecking, which shows his desire to battle up the ice for pucks. Overall, his advanced numbers look strong.

Where is Tracey Ranked?

Central Scouting makes it clear just how much Tracey has jumped with his strong year. He was ranked as the 73rd North American skater at the midterms, but is now at #21 for the final rankings! It makes sense given his strong year, but also his lack of experience heading into it.

-Future Considerations did not give the jump in rankings to Tracey that Central Scouting did. FC has him at 70th overall, four slots behind Karl Henriksson, whom I profiled a couple of weeks ago and who is projected to be a 3rd-early 4th selection.

-The Draft Analyst gave Tracey a big boost because of this season too, but not nearly as high as Central Scouting. Steve had Tracey at #202 overall at the midterm, and has him at #99 now. That is a monster jump in rankings, but 99 is still an early fourth rounder, as opposed to the 2nd rounder that Central Scouting has him ranked at.

-The Hockey Writers has Tracey as a late second round selection, much more in line with Central Scouting than FC or the Draft Analyst. They have him at #57 overall.

-Draft Site is quite high on Tracey, projecting him to go 43rd overall to Chicago. Mid-second round might be the best Tracey can hope for given his only one full year of major junior, but it is a good spot to be in for sure.

-Dobber Prospects is in similar agreement to Draft Site, ranking Brayden at #49 overall.

What Others Have Said About Tracey

Last Word on Hockey has a good profile up on Tracey as part of their series on draft profiles. They break down his game into different facets. Skating: “He is more quick than fast”...”his top-end speed is merely good, not great”...”has very good edgework and agility which allows him to make quick moves and avoid defenders”...”needs to add core strength in order to improve his strength on the puck and balance.” Here are quotes about his offensive game: “very smart offensive player”...”shot is strong and accurate and he has a quick release”...”A natural goal scorer, he can also convert in tight to the net with good hand-eye coordination”...”he doesn’t always show the willingness to battle in those key areas though”...”anticipates where his linemates going and he has the patience to wait for them to get open”...”can make tape-to-tape passes through tight areas”...”good stick-handler.”

Defensive game quotes: “needs to show more commitment in the defensive end of the ice”...”He does not like to play a physical game, prefering to use his stick to try and steal the puck”...”away from the puck, Tracey can get caught puck watching and stop moving his feet.” Overall, he sounds like a player with a lot of offensive upside who needs to work on his defensive game to make it acceptable at the NHL level. If he is willing to work on that and is coachable, that would work well. Last Word on Hockey calls him a boom or bust prospect, potentially becoming a top 6 winger one day, but with the downside also possible. Stylistically, they compare his game most to Jason Pominville.

Our affiliate at Habs Eyes on the Prize beat us to a profile, and you should definitely check their out as well. The profile names Tracey a “finisher.” Specifically, David St. Louis writes that “he shows he had a knack for positioning himself in the best ways possible to capitalize on rebounds from his teammates, especially the shots put on net from the point.” However, St. Louis also notes that he is not just that, but also “creates his occasions in the slot.” He also likes Tracey’s shot a lot, and really most all of his offensive game. Both profiles are very effusive in their praise of his abilities to generate offense, through shooting, collecting rebounds, and setting up his linemates.

St. Louis also notes that Tracey needs work on his defensive game, and that it holds him back, but also states that teams will not be drafting Tracey for that part of his game. They will be drafting him for his offensive upside. The defense can use work, but his job will be to produce offense. Because of this, he believes Tracey will be a second round selection this year.

A Little Video

If you want to watch the one definitive video, here it is: over 11 minutes of highlights from his 2018-19 year with Moose Jaw:

You’ll get some repeats here if you watched the first one, but here is a shorter highlight video, only 2:11 long:

Here is Tracey at the World Juniors this year:

My Take

In terms of the New Jersey Devils looking to take this kid, this is a tough one for me. The reasons to probably stay away and go elsewhere in the second round are evident. The Devils have a couple positions of need, defense and right wing coming to mind, and left wing is certainly not one that is needed. Left wingers have had to spend time on the right side to fill gaps, so adding to the left side of the offense is not a priority, especially in the second round. Also, the Devils have generally prided themselves on defensive play, and have been known for it, especially when they were a perennial playoff powerhouse. Nabbing a player who is not keen on playing in the defensive end, and can be caught watching the puck and not giving it his all when off the puck is not ideal for that mindset of a team playing defensively-sound hockey.

However, what do the Devils really need, and have needed for years now? Scoring! Yes the blue line is incredibly shallow at the moment and needs to be replenished, and if Ray Shero takes three defensemen in the second round with their three picks, I would not be upset in the slightest. But that will not help to score that many more goals, and as long as New Jersey is a bottom 10 scoring team in the league, being a true playoff contender is difficult to achieve. With three second round picks, I could see Shero going two of those on defense, and nabbing this guy as a way to really help add to the team’s scoring capabilities. With Jack Hughes and Tracey, assuming he pans out to be a top 6 skater like Last Word says he has the potential to become, that would really boost both the scoring capabilities of this offense as well as the depth.

So my take is really, as long as the majority of second round picks are spent where the team really needs help, the blue line, then why not also look to add some scoring help with the third choice? Would right wing be the better play? Probably. But if the scouting department is really high on this guy, and less so on other right wingers projected in round two, then I would say go for it. He has boat loads of offensive potential, and boy the Devils could use that, regardless of the position.

Your Take

Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Brayden Tracey? Do you agree with me that while defense is a major area of need, so is scoring, and Tracey could really help there? Do you think that is worth one of the team’s three second round picks? Or, do you think NJ should really stick to filling positional needs at defense and right wing instead? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!