Is there anything Josh Brook can’t do? The Moose Jaw Warriors tried their damnedest to find out, and Brook rose to each occasion with aplomb.
At even strength, the Warriors let Brook grow from a secondary role to their top pair by season’s end. They weren’t as shy on special teams, where Brook played on the top unit in both phases. He’s a complete defenceman, and the Warriors usage of him suggests a level of confidence contending teams don’t usually place in 17-year-old blueliners.
I had to talk myself out of rating Brook as a first-round defenceman, but the collective opinion of Canucks Army has dragged him closer to consensus. We’ll know who’s right in time. For now, I’ll make my case for Brook, who checks in as the 50th ranked prospect in the Nations Network Prospect Profile countdown.
- Age: 17-years-old, 1999-06-17
- Birthplace: Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Position: D
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Moose Jaw Warriors
- Frame: 6’2″ and 185 lbs.
|PGPS S||PGPS N||PGPS %||PGPS P/82||PGPS R|
|NHL (CSS)||ISS||FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS||HOCKEYPROSPECT||BUTTON||MAREK||MCKEEN’S||PRONMAN|
|49||N/A||77||N/A (Not in Top 75)||N/A (Not in Top 100)||N/A (Not in Top 100)||N/A||96|
The point totals for Brooks were slightly helped by a good Moose Jaw team, but he looked solid overall when I watched him. Brook is a good skater and very mobile for a 6-foot-1 player. He’s able to evade pressure fine, and often shows the ability to be effective leading a rush. His skill level isn’t fantastic, but he’s a competent puck mover with decent stick skills. His point totals this season are a little higher than his true talent, but I think he can put up some points in the pro ranks. He’s solid defensively, with good gap control, a physical edge and the ability to disrupt plays. He’s not perfect in all his reads or decisions yet, but in general he’s a pretty steady defender whom you don’t generally notice for bad reasons.
A smart play reader who can be a shutdown cornerstone as well as an offensive contributor…overall speed game isn’t flattering but the edge work and quick bursts of acceleration allots him the amount of time he needs to be effective…not a big puck rusher who skates the puck up ice consistently, but with his vision and ability to consistently hit the tape of teammates with hard passes makes him effective at moving the puck…handles himself in a composed manner with the puck and shows patience when making a play out of his own end…capable of keeping his gaps controlled…no stranger to the rough stuff on the boards or at the net front…makes quick decisions…displays smarts in all aspects of the game…eludes pressure by outwaiting opponents and skating to an area of the ice where he can send a solid outlet pass…playing the top pairing defender role will help with his development…has two-way middle pairing professional upside. (November 2016)
Few attributes lend themselves better to a successful transition to professional hockey than vision. It’s one of those skills that you either have or you don’t. You just can’t teach someone anticipation or the ability to read a play as it develops. That’s a quality Brook carries in spades.
There’s a subtle brilliance to each decision Brook makes that’s often lost on the casual observer. Brook knows when to apply pressure in the offensive zone or when he has the support to close his gap in the neutral zone and force either a turnover or an uncontrolled entry. The blue line is his Alamo, and he’s unyielding in its defence.
Contrary to Pronman’s opinion of Brook’s offensive upside, I see a player who probably produced fewer points than he should have — an impressive feat given his standing among first-time draft eligible defencemen from the CHL. Without shooting percentage data from the WHL, we can’t say for certain where Brook stands on the luck spectrum, but I’m fairly confident he has some semblance of offensive upside that was more likely lost than exaggerated with his counting statistics.
— Janik Beichler (@JanikBeichler) April 18, 2017
Obviously, Brook is far from a perfect prospect. That much reflects itself in his rankings or blatant non-rankings by other services and scouts. Sometimes Brook tries to do too much, and this can get him in a fair amount of trouble. Jeremy Davis highlighted one such occasion in his Fabian Zetterlund profile (it’ll make sense when you get there), and Janik Beichler comes through again in the clutch to highlight another such occasion (from the same game, I think) where Brook’s carelessness cost his team a goal. Brook is prone to the occasional gaffe that can make the perception of him sway regardless of what the sum of his contributions is.
— Janik Beichler (@JanikBeichler) April 20, 2017
With Brook on the ice the Warriors surrendered 51 goals at five-on-five this season, which is the second highest rate on their blue line. That would be an issue if they hadn’t also scored 65 goals themselves with Brook on the ice. Over the course of the season, Moose Jaw controlled five percent more goals with Brook on the ice as opposed to on the bench. It’s high even hockey, to be certain, but it’s damn effective. That second point is what matters.
Another part of the reason scouts might be sour on Brook has to do with how he plays defence. He’s not a bruiser, though, by that same token, he does throw the body from time to time. And he’s not a safe defender, either. His mistakes are borne of a desire to transition play with control of the puck far more often than not. When that doesn’t work out, it looks awful. Over the course of the season, though, I’ll take the odd turnover from trying to create offence as opposed to a glass-and-out approach any day of the week.
In totality, Brook’s package of smarts, skating and instincts at both ends of the ice should drive him into the first round. In fact, despite the industry consensus, one scout I spoke to does have him in the first round and said that he sees a Damon Severson-type of career arch for Brook. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at Brook’s season through the pGPS lens.
A staggering 36.7% of the players in Brook’s cohort of statistically similar players developed into full-time NHL’ers. Brook’s cohort includes the likes of Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, Derek Morris, Dan Hamhuis, Brad Stuart and Johnny Boychuk. Hilariously enough, though, his closest comparable player is Luca Sbisa. I guess that last bit of information might explain his pGPS career assignment as a third pair defender.
Don’t be surprised if you hear a team call Brook’s name at the top of the second round in June. He had an up and down Under 18 showing with Team Canada, but was fantastic for Moose Jaw in their seven game series against the Swift Current Broncos, where he produced at a point per game clip.
For now, though, Brook is the 50th ranked prospect in the Canucks Army consensus rankings and even lower in the minds of draft analysts and scouts alike. I’m interested to see where this one goes.