With stricter rules on hooking, holding, body checking, and fighting rising to prominence in the NHL, the slow exodus of the enforcer is upon us.
Smaller, skilled forwards are leaping at the opportunity to claim rosters spots left by the enforcers and are showing that they have what it takes to be effective in the best league in the world.
This bodes well for Jeremy Bracco, the USNTDP’s leading point scorer this season. Despite standing at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Bracco has managed to put up nine goals and 17 assists in 14 games so far this year. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Bracco has been turning the heads of scouts at this point in the season.
Scouting director Dan Stewart describes Bracco as “an offensive dynamo though he lacks in size; a game breaker with the ability to both play set-up man and finisher, who moves very well on the ice but is easily knocked off the puck when caught.”
It’s clear from watching Bracco that he possesses the high end skill set necessary for a smaller player to succeed at the next level. Most importantly, Bracco has the ability to create offense; using either his speed, quickness, or hands to move around defenses and into open space. As Stewart says, “He is extremely creative, making plays out of very little time and space, and possesses high end puck skills.”
It’s this type of creativity and skill that Bracco has used with the USNTDP to “blow up the USHL, stats wise.”so far this season. The skilled forward excels as a playmaker and has elite passing and vision while on the ice, as well as a pass first mentality. His quickness and balance help him elude defenseman and his quick hands allow him to fire passes to his teammates within seconds.
Despite showing such a prolific scoring ability, there still are drawbacks to his game; at least at this point in time. Stewart mentions that Bracco “needs to get stronger and become more elusive to really take that next step.” Though Bracco needs to add strength, he’s shown that he is not afraid to work hard in the defensive zone, especially along the boards.
While the road to the NHL is never easy for a small forward, Bracco has shown both the skill and ability to become a difference maker, as well as the determination to make the necessary improvements to his game. Given enough work, Bracco could be putting up big points for an NHL team soon and that will lead to his name being called early in June.