Now that the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is over, let’s shift our focus to profiling Leafs prospects. This post will compare and contrast two of my favourite prospects in Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco, who are both expected to start next season with the Toronto Marlies.
GIFs may contain high-end playmaking and scoring ability. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
Brooks is a 5’11” centre who dominated the WHL in each of the past two seasons. He posted a jaw-dropping 250 points in just 138 games during this span, and this rises to 291 points if you include the playoffs. With 1.61 primary points per game this season, he tied Daniel Sprong for the CHL lead, and barely beat Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters.
Brooks was one of the oldest players in junior hockey this season, and I wanted to see him try his luck against older competition in the American Hockey League. Still, he’s done everything in his power to showcase his scoring talent, and it is tough to expect anything more from him in terms of performance. The Leafs asked him to go back to the WHL and continue to dominate, and he did just that.
Ironically, even though Brooks is coming off back-to-back 80-plus assists seasons, his edge over Bracco is largely in terms of goal scoring. Simply put, Brooks is terrific at picking a corner with his wrist shot, and this makes him a major threat coming down on the rush. He may not carry the heaviest shot in the league, but he constantly releases his shot before the goalie can react.
Brooks gets the primary assist in the GIF above, after shielding off a defender and completing a full 360-degree spin. Bracco is the bigger standout in terms of passing ability, but Brooks certainly stands out in terms of his patience with the puck. He consistently makes quick, short, and smart passes that help put the opposing goaltender out of position. However, he does not complete as many jaw-dropping cross-ice passes as Bracco, and he is less “flashy” in this area.
This goal is a great indicator of Brooks’ game. He is not a complete burner in terms of speed, but he remains an average to slightly-above average skater who boasts a ton of confidence with the puck on his stick. He showcases his patience by waiting the defender out, then proceeds to score by picking a corner with his wrist shot.
Brooks turns on the jets here, beating the defender out wide and firing a perfectly placed shot over the goalie’s glove hand. After watching this GIF, you have to wonder if he could easily shift over to left wing if needed.
His release is extremely quick. All in all, his scoring ability in the slot gives him the edge in goal scoring ability over Bracco, and he is a strong playmaker in his own right. His ability to complete plenty of short and quick passes allows him to rack up assists, and he boasts impressive vision down low in the offensive zone. Given his lack of size and strength, he will need to prove himself at the AHL level in terms of two-way play, but there is plenty of promise here thanks to his ability to create scoring chances. Here is a look at his ability to complete short and quick passes:
Trying to defend Jeremy Bracco feels like you are trapped in a scary movie. You can hear Bracco skating with his incredible edge-work, but the opposing defender is left frantically searching for the elusive scorer. All of the sudden, he pops out of nowhere, and he winds up in the middle of the slot with no one around him. He is highly creative and a top-end passer, plus his heel-to-heel move helps him to gain the offensive zone with ease.
He finished sixth in the OHL in primary points per game this season, and the five players ahead of him all played on the high-scoring Erie Otters or Owen Sound Attack. As a top-end passer, he constantly sets up his teammates for scoring chances on the power play, where his ability to quarterback and distribute a cross ice pass stands out.
You can see his signature heel-to-heel play at the start of this GIF, and this often scares off opposing defenders from challenging him at the blue-line. We will largely focus on Bracco’s playmaking in this post, but he also pulls off plenty of highlight reel toe-drags in the offensive zone.
This is Bracco’s big assist from the Memorial Cup, as he cuts across the ice and draws all of the defenders himself. His edge work is phenomenal, and his body is practically facing his target as he delivers this pass. Bracco stood out in a major way at the Memorial Cup, as Windsor was far better at gaining the offensive zone when he was on the ice.
If you are trying to defend Bracco on a 2-on-1, you almost have to think pass. I would not recommend giving him an open teammate to pass to. He will find them.
I believe this is Mitch Marner who tries to steal the puck away from him just before he makes the pass. Marner held the title in 2015-2016, but Bracco likely led the league this year in terms of setting up “can’t miss” chances for his teammates. Even I could have finished this play off.
This GIF showcases one of the main reasons why I think Bracco has a bright future ahead of him. He is one of the best players you will see in terms of firing a cross-ice pass, and this is a major asset on the power play. This is his calling card.
This is similar to the last GIF, and we could have a whole post dedicated to Bracco’s playmaking from this spot. To avoid repetition, we will limit this just two GIFs.
He may be known as a playmaker, but his creativity generates plenty of goals for himself as well. This is another toe-drag goal, but Bracco often scores by popping out of nowhere and appearing at the side of the net. He circles around the offensive zone and prevents anyone from covering him, then quickly stops in a scoring area.
A Look At The Year Ahead
Brooks and Bracco will be the big names to watch at Ricoh Coliseum next season, as both players will look to show off their scoring ability at a professional level. As offensively-focused and undersized forwards, they will need to rack up the points before they are considered for an NHL opportunity. We cannot expect either player to make the NHL in a traditional fourth line role, as they lack the strength to become a major force off the puck.
It could be top nine or bust for both of these players, and we already watched the offensively talented Brendan Leipsic depart in the expansion draft. As we prepare for our Top 25 Under 25 series, our writers will need to weigh their ability to find the scoresheet with the probability of even getting a chance at the NHL level.
In terms of who is the better prospect, I give the edge to Bracco, although I keep flip-flopping between the two players. His passing ability is a clear standout attribute, and this skill should earn him a big role on a NHL power play. He does one thing (playmaking) incredibly well, and he will rack up the points if a team runs their power play through him.
In the end, these players are the hockey-equivalent of lottery tickets. Carl Grundstrom, who stands out with his off the puck play, is a safer bet to reach the NHL level in some capacity. Brooks and Bracco may very well end up as high-scoring AHL players, but they are worth keeping an eye on as potential scoring threats in the NHL level.
Which player is the better prospect?
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