When NHL teams use their late round draft picks, they’re usually spend on players who have NHL potential or NHL-level skills, but not so much the certainty of making it to the big stage. The New Jersey Devils used the 162nd overall pick in the summer of 2016 to select a young Swedish forward named Jesper Bratt; Bratt for his part had probably been waiting until that point in the sixth round to find out the fate of his NHL rights. Either way, the Devils had grabbed a young player, that would probably need seasons worth of seasoning and growth before he made an impact for the club.
Except for the fact that he didn’t.
While he would spend the 2016-17 season continuing to develop in Sweden, Bratt would join the Devils for the 2017-18 training camp and make the team. While it was unexpected for a late round choice just one year after being drafted, the team saw something in him and he’s rewarded Devils fans since. While Bratt has been a contributor in his time in New Jersey, he seems to have the potential to put up even greater totals than he has. So will this be the season that Jesper Bratt takes that next step toward being a true Top 6 forward?
Bratt So Far
Bratt has been an important piece for the Devils since joining the squad for the 2017-18 campaign. While the second half of said rookie season was certainly disappointing, (he went through a rough scoring drought and was bounced all around the lineup, including out of it) he still finished with 35 points in 74 games. Both of those numbers are, to this point, career highs for Jesper. His point production has remained consistent, as in 2018-19 he scored 33 in 51 games, and this past truncated season, he scored 32 in 60 games.
Before we go any further, let’s talk that 31 game chunk missing from his games played in 2018-19, so we can dispel any “injury prone” talk right here and now. Part of those games missed stemmed from the very start of the season, where Bratt’s jaw was broken when a puck in practice deflected off a crossbar and into his face. He would suffer a lower-body injury toward the end of the season, and with the team struggling anyway, he was shut down rather than being pushed to return. I think if we subtract the broken jaw accident here, and realize that most of Bratt’s missed games in his rookie year were healthy scratches, we’re looking at a player who has dealt with usual NHL wear and tear injuries.
The best word to describe his aforementioned point totals would be “consistent” although there’s varying factors that affected Bratt each season. With injuries and a low shooting percentage affecting 2018-19 and the team’s absolutely awful start to 2019-20 (plus the season pause), Bratt theoretically should have broken the 40 point plateau at least once by now.
Bratt to the Future
2021 is going to see some changes for the Devils; Bratt will have the opportunity to be one of the team’s primary scoring options, particularly at LW as this will be the Devils’ first full Taylor Hall-less season since 2015-16. A more offensive-minded system courtesy of new coach Lindy Ruff could see Bratt appear as a featured played on the power play, resulting in more than the six PP points he had last season.
Additionally, not knocking Pavel Zacha here, but he’s not exactly the most offensively skilled center the Devils have. On a team that also features Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, the Devils should probably try to have Bratt spend the majority of his minutes with someone who will put him in better position to contribute points.
If everything goes right this season, I think Bratt will see a good jump in his points per game total. However, I don’t see him eclipsing 40 points simply because we might be looking at a shortened NHL season in terms of number of games. We already know the season isn’t going to start on time (we’re already closing in on December), and with realignment and other factors still needing to be discussed, I doubt even with a January start that the NHL plays a full 82 games.
Bratt should take a leap forward this season offensively this season in my opinion and in doing so, he will cement himself as a Top 6 winger for the Devils’ future. If he steps up and legitimizes himself, with some of the other younger talent on the way, the Devils could move back towards being a truly competitive team sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on Jesper Bratt and the possibility of him improving his offensive game this season? What do you expect from him in terms of points or ppg? Do you think this season is a make or break to determine if he is a key piece for the future? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!