Right off the bat, I’m going to admit I have a bias. Out of all developmental leagues I watch the Ontario Hockey League the most. I probably care about the OHL as a league more than I do the NHL as a league. When it comes to teams, the Niagara IceDogs hold an equal weight in my heart with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but every season I’ll pay attention and watch all the other 19 OHL teams more than I would the other NHL teams (Senators/Sabres trolling opportunities aside).
With that disclaimer out of the way, I’m here to tell you about 2017 Memorial cup Champion Jeremy Bracco and why Fulemin and Gunnar are so very, very wrong for barely having him in their top 20.
Jeremy Bracco was the victim of a Maple Leafs system with too many players. Unsigned heading into his D+2 season, he returned to the Kitchener Rangers after lasting only until the second round of cuts from Maple Leafs camp. He was most likely disappointed with not getting a contract and joining the other signed players at Toronto Marlies camp.
The Kitchener Rangers, however, were thrilled to have him back on the ice of Kitchener Square Gardens. The previous season, the Rangers welcomed him to their team after he left Boston College only five games into the NCAA season. Bracco would score 64 points (21G, 43A) in the OHL, an add another 14 points (3G, 11A) in nine playoff games. This year he played up his age over his other opponents and netted 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points in 27 games for the Rangers, setting the second longest scoring streak for the team at 27 games. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Juniors Championships.
In January it all changed, and he was traded from the Rangers to the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup host team Windsor Spitfires. The return was massive - right winger Cole Carter and defenceman Andrew Burns along with Windsor’s 2nd round picks in 2023, 2024 and 2025 (those are kids that are currently 9, 8, and 7). The recent trade of top Spitfires defender Logan Stanley to the Rangers is seen as finishing up the Bracco trade as well. His play dipped with the Spitfires, Bracco scored only 32 points (8G, 24A) in the final 30 games of the season. This was seen as a disappointment from Bracco. Another disappointment was the host team Spitfires being eliminated from the OHL playoffs in round one by defending OHL and Memorial Cup champion London Knights.
For the Memorial Cup, Bracco took his long rested body, ran thorough a training camp again during the break before the tournament, and scored 2PPG in the tournament - three goals and five assists in four games. He set set up the goal that would give the Windsor Spitfires their third Memorial Cup in nine years:
That was his season, now why is he so high on our list?
Jeremy Bracco is a small forward, so he’s learned to play the puck well and has skating skill like very few. He’s often praised for his edge work and ability to avoid players. Earlier this summer, Kevin excellently broke down the two scoring forwards in the Leafs system, Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco, and said this about our subject today:
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.
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.
You can, and should, read Kevin’s entire piece here.
At development camp, Bracco got praise from many including his former team mate in Kitchener, and camp invitee, Joseph Garreffa:
“He’s a phenomenal player,” says Garreffa, a former teammate in Kitchener. “Great passer. Makes the guys around him better.
“He wheels around, beats the defence in the zone, and scores. You don’t see many guys do that. Unbelievable.”
Bracco is a dangerous player if he gets by your defenders. Most of his plays come in from close to the net, and he likes to skate through players to get in close. Prospect-Stats shows his most common shooting and scoring areas:
This is actually a little interesting, as he’s shooting more on the right side - where he plays wing - but is scoring more on the left side. He likes to cut across the ice and make plays to keep goalies on their toes. He’s an amazing player to watch live. If you go to a Marlies game, sit up high so you can see the whole ice, and see his full range of motion.
The charts from prospect-stats put him in first line player territory as well, his Primary Assists (A1/GP) and primary points (P1/GP) are almost off the chart:
On the flip side, he’s seen as a good prospect, but not a sure thing. Gunnar let me know why she had Bracco so low on the list.
I like Bracco's tools a lot--he's highly skilled and a great skater--and I was really high on him when he was drafted. I mostly ranked him so low for a few reasons. I had him in a tier with players who, by and large, have proven they can play well in the AHL, something that he has yet to do. He started off last season really strong but cooled off a lot after the trade to Windsor. For someone his age, I would have liked to see more from a player in his D+2 year on the eventual Memorial Cup winning team. He ended up in the bottom end of that tier because his performance in Windsor (and, to a certain extent, in his D+1 year in Kitchener) makes me question if he can be a better performer in the AHL than the players I had ahead of him. That said, he's tremendously skilled and has a killer highlight reel--so if he can take a step forward with the Marlies next year I'll definitely have him a lot higher next time.
Jeremy Bracco is now a Toronto Marlie, the right side is jammed for the Leafs in the big show, and he’ll need sometime to find his footing when playing against adults, vets, pros, and goons who are no good for anything except injuring people (Jake Dotchin) in the AHL before he joins the Leafs.
Before we go, here are two seasons of Bracco highlights: