Today, in our continuing coverage of top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft here at All About the Jersey, we have American born center Brendan Brisson. Brisson is in the unique position of having a father, Pat Brisson, who is one of the top player agents for NHL players (serving John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Sidney Crosby, and more). This has meant he has been close to the game from an early age, despite being born in Manhattan Beach, California. Despite his father being Canadian, and having himself played in the Q when he was a kid, Brendan has gone the American route through and through, and he will continue that this fall in the NCAA for the University of Michigan. Brisson is decently sized for a center at 18 years old, standing 5 foot 11 and weighing just under 180 pounds.
Heading into this season, he was relatively unknown, having come up through the midget and high school ranks in the United States. He had a killer season for Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep in 2018-19, which is, of course, where all of Marty’s sons played (Anthony, Jeremy, and William). However, playing midget prep is really not going to get you noticed without having the greatest goaltender ever as your father, so Brisson was relatively low on the rankings heading into this year.
Everything changed this season, when he went into the USHL and had a purely dominant year. This has left him as one of the higher American prospects entering this year’s draft, and one who could potentially sneak into the end of the first round if everything fell perfectly, although at this point he is more likely looking at a 2nd round selection. Let’s dive into his numbers.
Who is Brendan Brisson?
As I just said, you can see that he made a mockery of his opponents in 2018-19 while playing for Shattuck St. Mary’s. In 55 games for them, he put up a whopping 101 points, coming pretty close to 2 points per game. He did it both ways too, with 42 goals to go along with 59 assists. But again, playing midget prep hockey at a high school level is not going to get you into first round consideration for an NHL draft. So while it was an incredible season, it was one that left him as an unknown heading into his draft year.
Well, that all changed quickly. He played this year for the Chicago Steel of the USHL, the same league where you will see those in the USNTDP play. It is the top junior league in the USA, and one where he could make a name for himself playing against top draft competition. And make a name for himself he did. In 45 games for the Steel, he produced 59 points, well over a full point per game. Again, like the year prior, he produced both by shooting and distributing, with 24 goals and 35 assists. You might expect to see centers gain more assists than goals, given that their position on the ice lets them find open wingers for grade A opportunities. But he is also clearly happy scoring himself.
What is also worth noting is that his team, the Steel, were absolutely dominant this season. In 49 games before the season was cancelled, Chicago went 41-7-1. It is hard to get much better than that. That was 8 more wins than the next best team, and they were the only team to have already clinched a playoff berth when the season halted. Brisson was a huge part of that, but not the only part. Brisson was ranked #2 in the USHL this season for points, but the #1 and #3 ranked scorers in the league were also on Chicago. Brisson was the top rookie scorer in the league, of course (it was not even close), but was outscored by 20 year old teammate Mathieu De St. Phalle by one point (by the way, a player Draft Site has projected to go in round 4 of this year’s draft as an overage player). The third top scorer in the league, another Steel player, was Sam Colangelo, the #31 ranked North American skater this year by Central Scouting. He had 58 points, one behind Brisson. So as you can see, the Steel were stacked, and despite being a rookie, Brendan Brisson was absolutely in the center of that success, and he is the one best projected to succeed at the NHL level.
Where is Brisson Ranked?
With their final rankings released only a few days ago, we now have some comparison on what Central Scouting saw between their midterm rankings and now. For Brisson, we see the final act of the rise that this season has done to his rankings. At the midterm, he was the 31st ranked North American skater. Now, after the rest of the season played out, he is ranked #20. Among the top 20 NA skaters, no one had a bigger jump, and only one other skater tied with him in that 11 rank rise (Ridly Greig, currently ranked #14).
-Future Considerations is obviously not convinced after seeing Brisson’s season this year. They have him ranked as the #79 skater in this draft, a third rounder. This is the one major outlier you will see (they have Steel teammate Sam Colangelo at #63, the one ranking you will find where Sam is ranked higher than Brendan).
-The Draft Analyst, on the other hand, is sold on Brisson. In his March rankings, he has the American ranked #28 overall (and, fun fact, has Colangelo ranked #29).
-The Hockey Writers, in their March rankings, has Brisson ranked #43 overall, an early-mid second rounder. Not as high on him as Steve at the Draft Analyst, but much higher than FC is (they have Colangelo at #85 here, much lower than Brisson).
-Draft Site, which has a mock draft that will continually be updated until the draft, currently has Brisson mocked to the NHL’s Chicago team at #55. I’m sure Brisson would love that, he could stay there (to keep the comparison going, Colangelo is also mocked to the ‘Hawks, at #71).
-Elite Prospects has their own top 31 rankings from February, and Brisson made the list at #19 overall, the highest you will find him in any rankings (Colangelo did not make the top 31, but fell under the “Other Notable Prospects” list).
What Others Have Said About Brisson
At the Prospect Network, back in mid-February, they ranked their top 10 Americans entering the NHL Draft this season. They have Brisson ranked 6th on this list, and simply put, they say that he has “some of the highest upside” of anyone on this top 10 list. They do mention that he “needs a ton of refinement to certain aspects of his game,” but that is what you would expect of a one year riser like Brendan. In a neat paragraph, here are the positives they mention:
“Brisson is an exceptionally skilled player. He is a dynamic playmaker who is incredibly fun to watch. He is an elite skater and there isn’t much you can say in that department, the guy skates like the wind. Brisson can stickhandle extremely well and makes some plays that make him look like Houdini. He processes the game at a very high level and makes plays the average player will and can not. Brisson completes almost all of his passes and can wire the puck with a hard and accurate shot.”
The Puck Authority put up a scouting report on Brendan a little over a week ago. In their summary at the top, they project him as a top 50 draft pick this year (makes sense given the projections we’ve seen), with the potential to one day become a top 6 forward if all goes well. Their NHL comparable is Max Domi, if you want an idea of how he plays. Here are a few quotables from their scouting report: “very good offence generator and is also very balanced in his game” … “can score and pass as well as enter zones in a controlled manner” … “makes his teammates better, often being the catalyst in scoring plays.” They project that he could be a continual riser heading into draft day, and could sneak into the back end of the first round if this occurs, although being an early 2nd is just as likely.
Bill Placzek has his short scouting report up for Brisson at Draft Site, and is very positive. Here you go, although don’t mind the spelling and grammar concerns:
“Strong relentless light-footed attacking centre who understands the nuances on the attack and continues to maintain pressure with passes, positioning and poerful wrist shots. can let go off hard back-hand passes as well as burying his chances from both outside and in close. His superb skating allows him to win the races to the loose pucks, shake and roll off coverage, and take pucks to the net. Already sows an all-around 200 foot game and habist and details in puck support that show and upward trajectory in his development. Committed to the University of Mchigan.”
If you want to read an interesting deep dive into Brendan’s transitional game, check out this article here from Dobber Prospects which was written in February. Again, it is not a prospect profile or scouting report, but rather is an analysis into his ability to transition up and down the ice. While I suggest checking it out if you want the details, in the end, they note that the numbers they researched show an improvement in his defensive transitional game, marking an improvement in his defensive play overall, a good thing for his draft prospects.
A Little Video
Here is a highlight package for Brendan from this season’s WJAC, where he played quite well, posting over a point per game for Team USA:
The next video is a highlight package from his entire season with the Chicago Steel, over 5 and a half minutes long. There are some real pretty plays in here:
First, you should know that I, generally, am hesitant on players who have massive rises in their draft year. I am not against taking them, and I think many can turn out to be great picks, but what happens sometimes is that the hype train drives the player up the draft board more than perhaps he should go, and the player ends up getting taken before his numbers say he should. I am sure you could find plenty of examples of those who rose dramatically in their draft year and paid massive dividends, but I am just giving you my perspective.
So, given that knowledge, I think it matters when I say that I do like what I see from Brendan Brisson, and I think he is someone who really does have a chance at being successful at the NHL level. I am certainly not in the same mindset as Future Considerations and their third round grade on this kid. He is an all-around offensive talent who is great at many aspects of the offensive game, including passing, shooting, quick feet, and having an eye for where to be on the ice to make plays. And despite what I said about my prejudice against fast risers, I also tend to like players who spend time playing in the NCAA, and I think going to Michigan will be a great benefit for Brendan moving forward. He should learn a lot this year as an 18/19 year old playing against many players who are years older than him. The USHL is certainly not the same as playing in Canadian juniors, and if he had put up the same numbers in like the WHL or the OHL, he would be ranked higher for sure, but the NCAA will alleviate that. If he ends up being a solid player for Michigan this upcoming year, odds are pretty good that he could be an NHL contributor.
Given that, I think anyone who takes Brendan around the 30-45 range is smart, and they are placing a smart bet that the pick will pay off. I would definitely be happy with him in that range, the early-mid second round perhaps being the sweet spot. The problem, of course, is that we are a Devils blog, and this take has a Devils tint on it. As you know, the Devils don’t have a late first round pick, and don’t own a second rounder at all, given they traded it away to Nashville in the P.K. Subban deal. Had they kept that pick, which would be around pick #37, I would say that NJ should absolutely be looking at Brisson as someone to take with that pick. At #37 he would be a great choice, as he would provide more forward depth in the farm system that the Devils so desperately need, and he comes with the potential to be a top 6 forward one day. Any time I can get someone with legit top 6 potential at pick #37, I’m pouncing and not thinking twice.
However, given where New Jersey currently has their selections, I do not think it likely that they end up with Brisson. He is not someone that is going in the top 20, and if he does, my fears about fast risers going too high would be true in this case. The Devils will be looking elsewhere with their three first round picks, and when they finally pick again, Brisson will be off the board. If the Devils happen to trade back with one of those first rounders, and end up with a pick in the second round, especially in the first half of the second round, I do hope they take a good look at the Californian. I would be happy with him at that point in the draft, and think he could be a real contributor one day if he keeps progressing forward in the NCAA this year and beyond.
Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Brendan Brisson? Are you enamored by his fast rise in the USHL this season, or does that scare you somewhat? Given the broader range of rankings on him as compared to other early round choices, where do you think is the sweet spot for him to be taken? Am I off when I say anywhere from picks 30-45? Do you see a scenario where the Devils end up with him? If so, how would that take place given the team’s current selections? What do you think are the odds he continues his fast rise and becomes a quality NHL contributor one day? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!