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Photo Credit: Utica Comets/ Twitter

2019 Preseason Prospect Rankings: #15 Guillaume Brisebois

Guillaume Brisebois will enter the 2019/20 season coming into the final year of his entry-level deal with the Canucks after being selected in the third round, 66th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. At the time that he was drafted, the Canucks were not exactly overflowing with defensive prospects and the team soon began to talk up the young defender as a future bright spot on their back end.

All of the accolades being heaped upon him by the management group eventually began to conspire against Brisebois, with some in the fan base failing to see what all the fuss was about. Brisebois, for his part, has come to work and done his job, blocking out the noise around his name. Work ethic and dedication to his craft have never been issues for the Longueuil, Quebec native. He clocks in at #15 on our preseason rankings.

Qualifications

In keeping with past lists, we’re considering a prospect to be any player who is 25 years of age or younger and who has played less than 25 regular season games at the NHL level. This is a slightly modified and simplified version of the qualifications for the Calder Trophy.

As of the 2018/19 season, both Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette have graduated from prospect status.

By The Numbers

TEAM/LEAGUE SEASON GAMES GOALS ASSISTS POINTS PIM +/-
UTICA/AHL 2018/19 49 3 8 11 22 4

When viewed through the lens of Jeremy Davis’ prospect Graduation Probabilities System, Brisebois looks very respectable, with an XLS of 21.2%. Of note to Canucks fans: one of the players in Brisebois’ cohort is longtime Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev, the player to whom he is perhaps most often compared.

While pGPS points to Brisebois having a decent shot at carving out an NHL career, it also indicates he has limited upside. The vast majority of players in Brisebois’ cohort were 3rd-pair, depth, or fringe NHL defensemen.

Scouting Report

At the age of 16, Brisebois played 60 games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in his first season of QMJHL hockey. In those 60 games, he picked up three goals, 16 assists, and 19 points to go along with 26 minutes in penalties. The young defender also finished that season with a minus-23 beside his name.

In the following season, just his second with the team, the 17-year-old Brisebois was named team captain and got into another 63 games. He put up four goals and 24 assists to give himself 28 points to go along with 34 penalty minutes. That season he finished a little worse off with a minus 40.

In the 2015/16 season, Brisebois got into 52 games for Acadie-Bathurst, scoring 10 goals and adding 16 assists to give himself 26 points along with 28 minutes spent in the penalty box. He was able to tighten up his defensive game and finished at a somewhat more respectable minus 13.

The following season saw Brisebois get traded to the Charlottetown Islanders where he was immediately named team captain. In his 61 games for the Islanders, Brisebois picked up another 10 goals and added 37 helpers to finish the season with 47 points and 34 penalty minutes. Brisebois finished with a minus 35 in his final year of junior hockey.

The QMJHL has been a pretty high-flying offensive hockey league for a lot of years, so although I included those plus/minus stats, I don’t put a ton of stock into them.

Brisebois turned pro with the Utica Comets in the 2017/18 season, getting into 68 games as a rookie blueliner. He spent the bulk of his season playing on the right side as a lefty, but that didn’t seem to bother the rearguard as he had done his share of side swapping in his junior career as well.

In his rookie season, Brisebois managed to pick up three goals and 15 helpers to give himself 18 points along with his 16 penalty minutes. The blueliner turned in a respectable minus six in his first year as a pro.

Brisebois saw a good share of minutes early with the Comets and he didn’t look back. While he did see the odd chance on the power play, Trent Cull and his coaching staff used Brisebois on the penalty kill a fair bit more in his rookie year. He showed some steady improvement throughout the season, but he wasn’t blowing anybody’s hair back offensively.

I spoke with Brisebois at training camp last year and thought I’d include his interview here:

Last year, Brisebois took another step, although he also lost some time due to injury. The second-year blueliner got into 49 games with the Comets, grabbing another three goals while putting up eight helpers to give himself 11 points to go along with 22 minutes in penalties. He also managed to end up on the right side of the plus/minus stat with a plus-four to his credit.

Brisebois spent most of his second year playing on the left side and saw a good deal of time with the steady Jaime Sifers on his right. Sifers helped to settle Brisebois’ game down and the two made a solid defensive pairing for their coaching staff. Brisebois saw a little more time on the power play last season, but he was still being used sparingly on that side of things. His penalty killing game, however, took another big step in the right direction.

Brisebois and Sifers were often seen gobbling up entire two-minute penalty kills like candy. Last season, Brisebois proved capable of eating up minutes while shorthanded and showed improvement in areas of his game that the team was asking him to work on.

One of those areas was his passing. Brisebois was somewhat tentative on that side of things in his rookie season and the team asked him to put a little more zip on his breakout passes for his second pro campaign. The young blueliner did just that and it showed early in the season when he hit former Comet Jonathan Dahlen with a crisp breakout pass, sending the winger in for a breakaway. Those types of passes came more often from Brisebois last year than they had in his rookie season.

I think that Brisebois still has room for growth in his game and hope to see him add an offensive element to his play this season while not falling off with his defensive responsibilities. I would also like to see him use his size more effectively. Brisebois has decent size, standing 6’2″ and now tipping the scales at 187lbs according to the club’s prospects camp roster for this year, but he hasn’t done a great job of using it to his advantage to date.

I’d like to see him add some edge this year, similar to the way Ashton Sautner brought more of a mean streak last season. I don’t need to see Brisebois getting into fights or blowing guys up with open-ice hits, but I would like to see him become a little tougher to play against in his end. He could stand to take on a little bit of what Jalen Chatfield and Sautner bring on the physical side of things.

Brisebois was rewarded with an eight-game NHL audition with the parent Canucks at the end of last season and unfortunately finished his season with an injury. Those eight games were vital in giving the player a look into what he will need to do to improve his game to get back there. Brisebois went pointless in his eight contests and finished as a minus-four with the Canucks.

The Canucks and Comets have a pretty crowded left side with Alex Edler, Quinn Hughes, Jordie Benn, Oscar Fantenberg, Olli Juolevi, Ashton Sautner, Brisebois, and Josh Teves all looking to make their mark with NHL games this year. The first three are locks to make the big club out of camp, while Fantenberg is likely if the team decides to carry eight defenders.

If the organization decides that they want to see Josh Teves getting regular minutes in Utica, It is possible that we could see Brisebois swap back over to the right side to partner up with the 24-year-old rookie. If that is the case, I believe that Brisebois will be able to handle the switch without a lot of drop off in his game. Having the ability to play either side comes in handy on backends that see a lot of injuries as the Canucks/Comets seem to, so it’s a feather in the young rearguard’s hat.

This will be a big year in Brisebois’ development as he looks to impress the team enough to earn a new deal for next season and beyond. There are other defenders in the system now and if he doesn’t take another step this year and establish himself as a capable call-up, he could find himself passed over for someone else. As mentioned, Brisebois will already be competing for minutes with Juolevi, Sautner, and Teves, but he could soon also find himself battling for minutes with the likes of Jack Rathbone and Toni Utunen in the not too distant future.

I am going to go out on a limb and predict a career-year for Brisebois if he can stay healthy…let’s go with five goals and 18 assists to give him 23 points to go along with 37 penalty minutes and a plus-eight. I can also see him getting into eight-10 more NHL games this season.

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