Faber’s Prospect Rankings #10: Hunter Brzustewicz already has enough puck-moving skill to project as a pro player
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By Faber2 months ago
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Age and potential go hand-in-hand and that’s a big reason why right-shot defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz finds himself sitting 10th on our 2023 post-draft prospect rankings.
Brzustewicz is a 6’0″, 190-pound, right-shot defenceman who the Canucks selected at 75th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Brzustewicz is an American who plays in the OHL. He had six goals and 51 assists last season with the Kitchener Rangers. Those 57 points make him the highest-scoring draft-eligible defenceman in the OHL last season.
OHL scoring from 2023 draft-eligible defencemen provided by EliteProspects.com
There are a few things we really like about Brzustewicz’s profile. First off, we love that he has a high level of all-around skills. Brzustewicz is a capable defender, a good skater, has a decent shot and sees the ice well. He doesn’t have a weakness in his game and happens to play a position of value as a right-shot defenceman.
The best part of Brzustewicz’s game is his offence — specifically his playmaking.
A good way of describing Brzustewicz’s puck-moving ability is to say that he is deceptive with his passes. He does an excellent job looking off a defender in the offensive zone or at times just making a no-look pass that often lands directly on a teammate’s stick in a dangerous position.
It was promising to go back and watch this kid play in the OHL this past season. He was a top-minute-muncher for Kitchener and showed well on the power play unit.
Brzustewicz is certainly setting himself up to be one of the most prolific defencemen over the next two OHL seasons. The fact that he was able to produce 57 points in his rookie season is very impressive. He has a strong chance to be the leading scoring defenceman this coming season and is a favourite to do it during the 2024-25 season if he returns to Kitchener.
5-Unit Prospect Evaluation
Ceiling: Top-four defenceman with second power play potential. It will take a hell of a few years of development but with the current skillset that he possesses at 18 years old, you can see him become a stronger defender as he finishes off his teenage years and then if he can bring that improved defensive play along with the offensive background to pro hockey, he will find success.
Floor: AHL top-four defenceman. We can see Brzustewicz being one of these defencemen who finds the AHL jump easier than others. Because of his good base level of all-around skill, he is going to be trusted for minutes in the AHL on the day of his arrival. He has good enough pucks skills to be an AHL defenceman — especially after one or two more seasons in the OHL.
Production (and how): Six goals and 51 assists in 68 games is very impressive for a 17/18-year-old. as we touched on earlier, his playmaking is a big reason for the big point total. Brzustewicz gets a lot of his offence on the power play but didn’t rely upon it. His five-on-five offence is still impressive and he uses his edge work in the offensive zone to get away from defending forwards. A good way to create offence at even strength is by creating space — Brzustewicz does this in spades and uses that space to find both passing and shooting lanes.
Prediction (for the 2023-24 year): 11 goals and 56 assists for 67 points in 68 games. If he’s a point-per-game next year, we’d believe that’s a step ahead of what we imagined for a solid season of offensive development.
ETA: We can see him coming to the AHL either at the conclusion of the 2024-25 season. It’ll probably take a year or two in the AHL but we could see an NHL debut sometime in the 2025-26 season from a call-up.
There seems to be a good return on pick value from an immediate reaction standpoint for a third-round pick being spent on Brzustewicz. You’re getting one of the best offensive defenceman in the OHL and he has enough good qualities to not have any worries about the rest of his game.
Brzustewicz is a solid addition to the prospect pool and we love that he plays a position of value at right-shot defenceman.
The key now is for him to continue to develop toward playing pro hockey. Obviously, he’s got to focus on playing well for Kitchener in the OHL but that’s where the Canucks’ development staff will be tested with watching and advising Brzustewicz on what he needs to work on.
We will be following closely with what Brzustewicz does over the next two seasons. If he lights up the OHL and continues to improve his defensive play, he might be able to make a case for the top-five in a couple of years.
A solid top-10 prospect in an NHL organization, Brzustewicz has a lot going for him and his future.
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