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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Brendan Brisson’s skill and smarts makes him a potential top line centre

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In a hockey family, Brendan is quickly making a name for himself.

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Brendan Brisson and his family are no strangers to high level hockey players. Brisson’s father is agent Pat, who is agent to some of the biggest stars in the NHL. Brendan, however, is quickly becoming a household name in his own right. His performance in his draft year will likely see him taken in the first round on Tuesday night.

Birthplace: Manhattan Beach, California
Date of birth: October 22, 2001
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)

In his first year in the USHL with the Chicago Steel, Brisson scored 24 goals and added 35 assists for 59 points. That put him second in league (and team) scoring, and earned him the USHL’s rookie of the year award.

It should be noted that despite being behind teammate Mathieu De St. Phalle in scoring, the two played on different lines and Brisson was the play driver on his line with fellow draft prospects Sam Colangelo and Sean Farrell.

He also had a standout performance at the World Junior A challenge. With Team USA, he had five goals and seven assists in six games. The 12 points tied him with Andrei Svechnikov and Nick Schmaltz for the tournament’s all-time record.

Elite Prospects

Brisson is committed to the University of Michigan, where he is going to play his NCAA hockey. Like many prospects committed to the college circuit, his immediate future is currently up in the air.

Strengths

It doesn’t take a long time of watching Brisson to see him break out his one-timer from the right circle. Whether at even strength or on the power play, Brisson can score from there consistently even if other teams know it’s coming. What makes it even more impressive is that he doesn’t even need a perfect pass to fire it. He’s able to twist his body or drop to one knee to beat goaltenders.

He also shows great awareness to be able to make himself available as a back door option and get lost in coverage. His ability to find open spots even though the opponent is keyed on stopping him is unique.

It feels like every prospect projected to go in the middle of the first round is blessed with excellent hockey sense, but Brisson moves to the top of the class in this department. His spatial awareness is one thing, but he’s able to process the ice in a way that is truly elite. The group at Elite Prospects says that his problem solving offensively is the best of anyone not named Alexis Lafreniere in the entire class. They even reference the Terminator in the way he’s able to process threats, which they say is machine-like.

Hockey sense is not worth much if you don’t have the skill to pull off what your brain processes, and Brisson is incredibly skilled. His playmaking may even be as good as his one-timer and shot is.

While there are questions to his effort level, it should be noted that he was trusted at the World Junior A Championship in all situations, and was seen as Team USA’s go-to player. His defence adds value to his game, and although he was seen to try to transition to offence a little fast, it’s not something to be concerned with long-term. Most scouts who talked to him ended up liking him more than they did entering the interview process.

Weaknesses

As mentioned, there can be some inconsistencies with his effort level. It should be noted that he often played in blowout games with the Chicago Steel, where that team was dominant in the top-heavy USHL. Don’t interpret this as a reason for Brisson’s performance as his play was a reason the team was as good as it was.

However, the lack of intense games saw him prone to lapses at times.

Brisson is seen as an average skater. Most scouts believe that adding some strength to his lower body will help him with his top end speed. They also believe that his skating can be adequate in the NHL without much improvement. In other words, it won’t hold him back. He can also be slippery at times and is able to beat defenders.

As average as his skating can be, his game remains so fast because of his processing speed. Scouts rave about his ability to play fast, so teams that draft Brisson can be sure that his skating won’t slow him down.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #15
Future Considerations: #41
Hockey Prospect: #19
McKeen’s Hockey: #21
McKenzie/TSN: #30
NHL Central Scouting: #20 (North American skaters)

Brisson is pretty solidly a first-round prospect, and will be in the mix from the middle of the first round where he will be discussed with counterparts like Dawson Mercer, Mavrik Bourque, Connor Zary, Hendrix Lapierre, and others.

It should be noted that after growing up in California, and then playing at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota, this season in the USHL was really his first year of high level hockey. He adapted well and improved as the year went on. Most scouts rave that his performance at the World Junior A challenge was his coming out party and really showed a different level to his game.

Of course, when it comes down to the Montreal Canadiens, Brisson’s father Pat has been friends with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin since the two were younger than Brendan is now.

There’s no saying whether this will make the Canadiens more or less likely to draft Brisson.

As for the outlook on Brisson himself, his upside is that of a top-line centre on the high end, or a top-six centre failing that. It is a risk as to whether he will be able to make it to that level, but the combination of skill and hockey sense will have a team bet on him.

The draft is filled with smart, highly skilled forwards, but Brisson’s potential may outpace his rivals even if there is some work to be done for him to get there.