Checking in as the 19th ranked prospect in the organization is 2017 7th round pick, Matthew Brassard.
Selected after his draft plus one season, the organization mentioned him as a player that they had been tracking in his first year of draft eligibility but ultimately didn’t select him. With Brassard still available in the 7th round this past June, they decided to grab the right-handed defender with the 188th overall selection.
I’ve had the opportunity to watch Brassard quite a bit and have been impressed by his play relative to his draft position.
Brassard has exploded offensively this season, already setting career highs in goals, assists, and points. This is in large part to be a regular on the top pairing, and if he isn’t there, he is the rock on the second pair. He plays regular powerplay time, penalty kill time, and quite a bit of 5v5 – averaging an estimated time on ice of 17:38 per game.
He is ranked 5th among OHL defencemen in goals and 8th in points.
The Barrie native is averaging 3.16 shots per game, which is tied for 4th among that same peer group. Brassard finished last season with 6th in SH/GP among OHL defencemen. It’s clear that he likes to shoot.
If there was one criticism of his offensive game, it’s that he doesn’t get into higher danger areas enough. 174 of his 180 shots are from low danger and ideally that 96.6% of shots would be lower. Obviously, defencemen will have more low danger shots given their location, but I would like to see him move with the puck more or try to get into the home plate area when possible.
An example of this is his goal on February 8th:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) February 8, 2018
Given space on the powerplay, he moves towards the net, adjusts the lane, and then scores.
This is being nitpicky though as he does possess a good shot and isn’t afraid to just keep firing away.
Brassard started the season off slowly, registering only 9 points in his first 24 games of the season. But has taken off since then, picking up 33 PTS (13-20-33) in last 32 games.
On the defensive side of the game, Brassard is good at directing attackers to the outside, containing them, and forcing them to move it. There have been times where he has had issues with players who can beat him with speed, Jonathan Ang and Andrei Svechnikov for example, but those are not a regular occurrence.
Brassard uses his size (6’2″ and 195 lbs) to his advantage, leaning on opponents in his own zone or pushing them out of the high traffic areas in front. He is willing to get into the corner and make his adversaries work for the puck.
His decision making and read of the play is what helps him out in the defensive zone – he just has some issues with skating.
The best way to characterize his skating is that he is heavy on his feet. He has a good top speed but lacks acceleration and quick pivoting. When he has time and space to get his feet going, he isn’t bad, it just takes some time to get moving or adjust. It has improved since the start of this season, which is an encouraging sign.
Brassard is adept at moving the puck out of the zone efficiently.
He has also been an alternate captain for the Generals this season.
These flaws to his game are to be expected with a 7th round pick. But his ability to read the play, his shot, and offensive abilities are encouraging.
With an analytic look, Brassard rates very well given his size and offensive production this season. With a successful cohort of 18.9%, Brassard presents tremendous value for a player taken in the 7th round. Obviously, quite a few of the players that were successful were nothing more than depth defencemen but having such a high percentage is something to keep an eye on.
From a process standpoint, the Canucks selection of Brassard was a savvy dice roll. He didn’t put up huge offensive numbers last year, but had an extremely high shot generation rate and has an NHL frame. Add that he is a right-handed shot and it makes sense why the Canucks targetted him after tracking him for the better part of two seasons.
Brassard is benefitting from a strong Oshawa team but is a key contributor to a team that is full of 2018 draft-eligible players.
If, and that’s the big if, Brassard can carve out an NHL career, it will be as a depth defender. He will need to improve his skating and ensure that his getting beat by quick skaters is minimized.
Brassard will turn 20 in August, which means that if the organization feels he is ready then he would able to go to Utica. If he continues to build on his hot streak and has a good playoff run, I could see the Canucks signing him to an entry level contract and make the leap to the pro ranks next season. Alternatively, he could go unsigned and head back to the OHL for his overage season.
No matter what, I liked the selection of Brassard at the time and it’s good to see that he has taken that next step. All 7th round picks are long shots but there is a lot to like about the thought process behind the selection, Brassard as a player, and how he could project in the future.