Brayden Tracey is not your typical rookie CHLer. He scored 81 points in 66 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors in his first year in Major Junior hockey. The stats alone speak to his talent as an offensive player.
Last year, he only played five games with the Moose Jaw Warriors before being sent back to dominate Midget AAA. Born on May 28, he would have been 16 for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, and is therefore one of the younger draft-eligible players in this 2019 class.
The decision to send him back seemed to have been the correct one considering his almost immediate impact on the Warriors this year. He turned into a constant contributor on the first line with Justin Almeida and Tristan Langan, and finished as the third-best scorer on a team that was very top-heavy. The Warriors relied on their very productive first line all season to win games.
Birthplace: Calgary, AB, Canada
Weight: 176 lbs.
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors
Playing with Almeida and Langan definitely added to his numbers this season, but Tracey’s skill made him the perfect match for his veteran linemates.
The left-winger is a finisher. He scored 36 goals in the regular season in a variety of ways, but his most effective work was perhaps near the blue paint. He showed 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.
But he doesn’t just collect. He creates his occasions in the slot. He understands when and how to separate himself from coverage and get his stick freed up, either to find the rebounds or one-time the puck in.
Watch Tracey in the sequence below. He patiently glides into the slot, acting as the ‘‘bumper’’ on the power play (the skater in the middle of the ice) and follows his teammates as they move the puck. From that spot, his job isn’t one of distributor; he is the final touch on passing plays.
Tracey knows that, but he still looks to direct the puck-cycling, pointing to the goal line with his stick, telling his teammate on the half-wall to pass there. As he does, Tracey chooses that exact moment to separate from his coverage.
He takes a step forward, giving himself room to put his blade on the ice and fires to complete the tic-tac-toe.
Tracey wears #7 for the Moose Jaw Warriors
The winger has a goal-scoring instinct, and he possesses a precise release to go along with it.
Tracey can shoot from a stand-still with the use of a catch-and-release motion, and can also fire in stride and combine his shot with a couple of moves to further surprise the goalie. He only needs a second of space to pick his spot and hit the back of the net.
His shot combined with poise and restraint becomes even more deadly. In the sequence below, the winger catches a puck in mid-air, puts it down, and accelerates with crossovers in the neutral zone. He skates to the other end, and forces the defence to retreat with his speed. He takes full advantage of the space given to him, dropping his weight and abruptly dragging the puck back like he is about to fire on net from a few feet past the offensive blue line, but stops himself for a quarter of a second — enough to glide to the top of the circle to snap the puck into the top of the net.
From the other angle, you can also see Tracey drag the puck closer to his body before releasing. This movement changes the angle of the release, which contributes to fooling the netminder. It’s a beautiful setup and goal from the rookie scorer.
His 45 assists on the season are also saying a lot about his potential as a passer, which we are seeing glimpses of at the Under-18 World Championship. The skater is currently going off at the event, part of the best line for Team Canada. Every time he is on the ice, scoring chances happen.
On this next play, Tracey starts by missing a first pass on a two-on-one, but successive timely plays by Jamieson Rees on the forecheck give him a second chance at setting up a goal.
He attacks the net from below the goal line and looks to reach his teammate in front. The defender skates into the passing lane, but Tracey quickly readjusts, dangles around, and makes a cross-crease backhand feed for the goal.
His advanced stats show him to be a good all-around player. Despite his potential, Tracey sometimes lacks urgency in his play away from the puck, and he doesn’t play a premium position. Because of this, he should be slated for somewhere in the second round.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #55
Hockey Prospect: #43
NHL Central Scouting: #21 (NA skaters)
Still, teams won’t look at him for his defensive capabilities. They will be interested in his ability to create offence, and most of all how he can complement other skilled players with his talent and push a line into dominant territory. His current performance at the U-18s should only improve his draft stock. He has been shining in a setting with a lot of other top draft-eligibles, and his offensive package might make him a first-round selection after all.