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Canucks Army 2017 Pre-Season Prospect Ranking #16: Guillaume Brisebois

At some point in our lives, most of us have seen the people that surround us get very enthusiastic about something that doesn’t appeal to us. Some people don’t get Frank Ocean, or The Velvet Underground, or the films of David Lynch. Me? I don’t get Guillaume Brisebois. I never have.

There are a lot of smart people I know, people whose opinions on hockey I deeply respect, who really like Guillaume Brisebois as a prospect. But, much like every time a friend tries to sell me on the Velvets, I always find myself shrugging, and struggling to understand what exactly the appeal is.

Brisebois enters our pre-season roundup as the 16th-best prospect in our consensus ranking. This is quite the fall for a player who saw himself sniffing at the top five in January. even for someone who isn’t particularly high on him, that’s a huge drop, and one that can be equally attributed to the influx of talent in the Canucks system over the summer and the fact that he had a fairly pedestrian second-half.

Qualifications

We’ve changed the qualifications up just a little bit this year. Being under the age of 25 is still mandatory (as of the coming September 15th), but instead of Calder Trophy rules, we’re just requiring players to have played less than 25 games in the NHL (essentially ignoring the Calder Trophy’s rule about playing more than six games in multiple seasons).

Graduates from this time last year include Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin, while Anton Rodin is simply too old now, and Jake Virtanen is not being considered solely as a result of his games played.

Scouting Report

The analytics-vs.-eye-test trope is such a tired one that it feels lazy to cite it, but Brisebois is exactly the type of player that magnifies the divide between “hockey men” and the pocket-protector crowd. What sets him apart from the type of players that usually cause this rift, however, is that he isn’t particularly mean or physical. In fact, in some ways, he’s the type of player that’s often overlooked by the mainstream at the NHL level. For whatever it’s worth, Chris Tanev is frequently cited as a player comparable, and he’s not exactly a bruiser.

Brisebois is what Jim Benning has previously called a “transitional defensive defenseman”. His offensive instincts are limited, but his ability to move the puck is above-average, at least for the QMJHL. From my limited viewings of Brfisebois, I’d say he’s comfortable transitioning the puck into the offensive zone, but is a little too eager to dump the puck in or go glass-and-out. Still, I give full credit to the Canucks organization and the scouting community writ large for understanding that defensive play is in a state of evolution.

Brisebois’ offense improved dramatically this season upon being traded to the Charlottetown Islanders, increasing from 26 points in 52 games in his draft+1 season to 47 points in 62 games in his most recent campaign. While that’s far from a bad sign, it looks significantly less impressive with proper context. Brisebois’ relatively advanced age for major junior obvious played a factor, but more importantly he went from playing on the offensively anemic Acadie-Bathurst Titan to playing on a Charlottetown team that lead the QMJHL in goals-for.

If you’re a Canucks fan, you should definitely be pleased with Brisebois’ development. He was a staple on the Islanders’ power-play this season, where he scored the bulk of his goals, and he appears to have added a sneaky wrist-shot to his offensive repertoire. Defensively, he continues to make safe plays in his own end and in the neutral zone, sometimes to a fault.

I think what strikes me as so odd about the scouting community’s enthusiasm for Brisebois is that even by the eye-test he’s failed to leave a significant impression on me. He looked downright disengaged at training camp and the Youngstars tournament last September, and although he improved upon returning to major junior, it’s still not a great sign that he looked so legitimately shook under the spotlight of an NHL-affiliated event.

By every conceivable measure, Brisebois looks like a steady defender at the major junior-level. But I struggle to see a future for him as anything more than a depth defender in the NHL. pGPS seems to confirm this, as just slightly over one in every ten of Brisebois’ statistical cohorts went on to play at least 200 NHL games, with the majority of those cohortd played in a third-pairing role.

Trying to analyze prospect success is difficult because no prospect exists in a vacuum. Pedigree matters, as does popular opinion, and for this reason I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that pGPS may undersell Brisebois somewhat. That doesn’t mean that his relatively high standing within the Canucks’ system is based on merit, however.

As far as the hockey community on the whole is concerned, I’m sure I’d get pegged as a “numbers guy”, but the truth is that I’m not exactly a math whiz. If anything, it seems like the people who are trying to convince us that prospects that don’t help their team produce much offense are being undervalued are the ones playing three-dimensional chess.

When Rhys Jessop began to articulate the theory that PCS, and it’s spiritual successor pGPS is based upon, it was based on a simple hypothesis: only the best of the best among junior players become notable NHLers. To date, Brisebois hasn’t convinced me he’s the best of the best.

I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again. But based on my viewings of Brisebois and his statistical profile, I feel comfortable playing the odds on this one and assuming he’ll go the way of Yann Sauve and be forgotten in five years’ time. If not, I’m sure the comment section will make sure I never live it down.

  • elvis15

    I tend to share your scepticism on Brisebois. That’s not to say I think he’s a bad player, just that he’s average in a lot of areas and just safe in others. His increased offence is a bonus, but I like to look back at players the Canucks have had (like Ryan Johnson, Manny Malhotra, and now to an extent Brendan Gaunce) who were thought of as good offensive players in junior but ended up playing a bottom 6 role in the NHL. If that means Brisebois ends up as a better version of Aaron Rome and goes on to play a lot of games, then I’m good, but he’ll have to reinvent his game a bit (like Johnson did to become a checking, faceoff, shot blocking specialist) to make that happen.

    • RIP

      Good comment except I would say it is too early to catorgize Gaunce as “ended up playing a bottom 6 role.” He was playing the role the coach gave him. He could still crack the top 6 IMHO, he has great vision out there and is such a smart player.

  • “Analytics vs eye test” This should be obsolete. Smart hockey people use both.

    As far as I know Brisebois suits up for the Comets this year, so we’ll find out soon enough where he’s at. To my eye is development is on track and can’t understand the drop in rank. He will be a fine Canucks defenseman.

  • wojohowitz

    Interesting problem – rating defensemen. Yesterday I was thinking Rathbone (95th overall) could be better than Makar (4th overall) but it will take 6 or 7 years to find out. Brisebois could be a solid number 4 defenseman but completely unacknowledged until he gets to 1000 games and then we start comparing him to Ohlund. The upside on some of these guys is completely unknown.

  • Bud Poile

    Benning was adamant about drafting Brisebois.
    Jim should have a fair understanding of expectations,having played the same position.
    A third round pick is hardly a sure bet but with his solid skillset I hope he can be developed properly in Utica.

  • Bobaner

    Kind of an interesting strategy to have an analyst who doesn’t believe in a player write an article about his chances to make the NHL. At least we know we’re not getting sunshine blown up our a$$es. Not that I would suspect such a thing to occur on this website.

  • truthseeker

    If you’re not going to score then you’d better be a guy who locks down games and keeps the opposing team off the scoreboard. That’s why Tanev is so good.

    I honestly have no clue about this guy but if he becomes even half as good as Tanev there should be a spot for him somewhere eventually. Still….most guys like him fail, so that’s probably what will happen. Just the nature of pro sports. Most guys just don’t make it, and a lot of the time it’s simply a matter of work ethic…not talent.