The Toronto Maple Leafs have one player they have drafted in this year’s Memorial Cup. Jeremy Bracco of the Windsor Spitfires is the man.
Bracco is one of the Leafs’ large stable of wingers who is usually found on the right side of the ice.
He is American, and began his hockey career in the USNTDP. He played a few games in the NCAA before moving to the OHL. He has lit up the points charts in his junior career in America and the OHL, always with a heavy emphasis on assists. He usually has at least a two to one ratio of assists to goals.
This has led to recurring questions about his play and his results. Is he reaping the benefit of better teammates? Or is he the real thing?
Kyle at Winging It In Motown said this before Bracco was drafted:
Most would argue that Bracco's production has a lot to do with being on a line with top pick Jack Eichel, but after reviewing highlights and video, it's clear that it wasn't just the "Eichel effect." Bracco and Eichel made each other better players, no doubt about it. Jeremy Bracco is a very "pass first" type of player, but when given the chance can score some gorgeous highlight reel goals.
We looked at Bracco in the Top 25 Under 25 of 2015:
PPP: Given the unique schedule the USNDTP plays, it's sometimes hard to put into context their results. So just how good was Bracco's past season?
JC: When looking at Bracco's stats with the USNTDP, it's imperative to remember his teams were playing some of the elite teams in the USHL as well as some college programs. His assist numbers broke records held by some guys who had terrific college careers. His numbers were fabulous, but having seen him play, his ability to make plays happen and find the score sheet was simply brilliant.
We had more to go on last year when he came in at 16th, a drop of two places from the year before.
On the chemistry of Bracco’s line, MacInnis said to the team website, "Playing with [Bracco and Robinson]; they both work hard. They’re great playmakers, and they can score goals too. We’re a good combination, the three of us." During the regular season, Bracco managed to squeak in at third on his team in points and second in assists, with only 49 games played. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his linemate MacInnis was first in points.
After being a late cut from Maple Leafs / Marlies training camp, Bracco returned to Kitchener and started his dominance of the OHL. His time in Kitchener was highlighted by passing Steve Downie for 2nd place in the Rangers history books, with the second longest point streak (26 games) in team history.
He joined the Rangers 5 games into his NCAA season with Boston College, and came out swinging, totaling 64 points in 49 games. He was on pace to shatter that number, so far this year he has 51 points in 27 games (1.89 PPG).
Jeremy added ‘Gold Medal’ to his season this year as well, after helping the United States defeat Canada in the final game of the World Junior Championships. With a resume like this, it’s no wonder Windsor jumped at the chance to solidify their scoring for the Memorial Cup in May.
After the trade, his production cooled right off. We’ve all seen that happen in the NHL where the lesson that it’s hard to work a new player into the lineup gets learned and relearned every year in the spring. But for Bracco, it didn’t hurt the Leafs’ view of him. They signed him to an ELC in March.
Bracco’s stats and scouting reports all seem to project him as a second line player. He’s a playmaker to some extent, but he’s not Mitch Marner, who can drive a line from the wing, rather, he needs a good centre to play with. Bracco’s points are good to excellent at times, but they are coming in junior hockey, and it pays to remember that Kasperi Kapaenen and Dmytro Timashov are only a few months older and they have a lot of pro experience already. Bracco needs to work fast to catch up.
His future with the Leafs seems set. At 20, he can play on the Marlies next season and join the competition for winger ice time there. It’s fierce. It’s fiercer on the Leafs on the right side, so he better get used to fighting for a spot.
As a member of the host team, Bracco is in the Memorial Cup even though Windsor lost in the first round to the London Knights. But he’s there now, and he has the opportunity to win a cup to go with that junior gold medal.