Jeremy Bracco is, in a lot of ways, the encapsulation of Toronto’s drafting methods in 2015. They weren’t scared off by his small stature, his drop down the draft rankings, or concerns about his defensive-zone commitment. They saw a player with a ton of upside, gaudy numbers in a good program, and committed.
This year, they’ll see if his efforts can translate to the professional level.
|Age||20 (March 17, 1997)||Birthplace||Freeport, New York|
|Pos||Right Wing (RH)||Drafted||2015 (Rd 2, Pick 61)|
|Vitals||5’9, 181lbs||Acquired||Via Draft|
Bracco’s comparable career begins at the Age of 16 while playing in the United States National Development program. That year, he led all Under 17 forwards in the USHL in points per game, only being closely trailed by Auston Matthews, who was some unknown kid from Arizona that was a few months younger than him and hasn’t been heard from since. On their U17-specific team, Bracco finished the year with 74 points, which to date is a team single-season record.
In his draft year, Bracco took another step at the USHL level, though Matthews, Jack Roslovic, Kyle Connor, and Matthew Tkachuk did jump ahead of him in production rates, solidifying themselves as can’t miss prospects. That’s not to say Bracco’s year wasn’t incredibly impressive though; that group ahead of him ranges from future star to fringe generational, and only Tkachuk and Matthews remained ahead of him on the main U18 development team’s scoring list.
This development path was designed for Bracco to transition to college hockey, but his career in the NCAA lasted just five games before he decided to pivot. Speculation flew around as to why he made the decision, but the youngster has insisted that it was a hockey decision, to ensure that he’d have staying power at the professional level. Given the fact that he joined a new team mid-season and had never played in the league before, Bracco had himself a rather impressive season with the Kitchener Rangers, finishing 17th in points per game, and 9th among U19’s.
|12||2009-10||Long Island Gulls||AYMBHL||28||34||41||75||4|
|13||2010-11||Long Island Gulls||AYBHL||31||25||42||67||6|
|14||2011-12||Long Island Gulls||AYBHL||28||26||49||75||26|
|15||New Jersey Rockets||MetJHL||10||9||15||24||0|
|15||New Jersey Rockets||AtJHL||30||16||34||50||24|
|16||U.S. National U17 Team||USDP||54||16||58||74||20|
|17||U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||65||30||64||94||10|
|19||2016-17||Kitchener / Windsor||OHL||57||25||58||83||35.8||6||13|
This all set him up for a bit of a roller coaster season this year. Bracco absolutely stormed out of the gate with Kitchener, scoring an obscene 51 points in his first 27 games, only not scoring in his last one with the team. Had he kept that 1.89 points per game pace up, it would have been good for third in the OHL, and the highest to not play for Erie (Dylan Strome, Alex Debrincat, and Taylor Raddysh finished as 1/2/3 by a significant margin).
Instead, he was traded to the Windsor Spitfires, who were hosting the Memorial Cup this season and wanted to ensure themselves a strong chance at winning it. The cost to get him was steep; some of the draft picks given up won’t be used for nearly a decade, but they believed he’d be the difference maker that would get them over the top.
He was and he wasn’t. For the remainder of the OHL season, Bracco’s numbers were the most ordinary they’ve ever been in junior, scoring 37 points in as many regular season and playoff games as Windsor got bumped in the first round. But as hosts, that just meant time for him and his teammates to get prepared for the tournament at hand, and when they returned to the ice, early-season Bracco did too, scoring three goals and five assists in four games, upsetting the Erie Otters in the final.
Bracco also added to his international resume in between the switch of junior teams. Already known for his dominance for Team USA at the U17 and U18 levels, Bracco scored 5 points in 7 games at the 2017 World Juniors, earning himself a Gold Medal, the third different type in his collection.
|pGPSn||pGPSs||Exp. Success %||Exp. P/82||Exp. Value|
|225 (8/31)||28 (9/31)||13.2% (22/31)||42.4 (5/31)||5.6 (16/31)|
The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.
Bracco’s biggest curse here is his size. Historically, hockey doesn’t trust the 5’9 winger, unless he’s abundantly great. The good news for Bracco is that he’s pretty darn close to that; not exactly racking up Mitch Marner numbers in junior, but he was still one of the OHL’s biggest threats last season. pGPS feels that if he were to make it, he’d have nearly the highest upside in the organization, and I think that’s a conclusion we can all agree on; he’ll be riding the boom-or-bust wave to his eventual outcome.
When Bracco is on his game, he’s electric. He has no qualms with playing the game at a high pace, he doesn’t shy away from dangerous areas despite his size, and he’s an incredible playmaker. He’s a crafty, agile skater, and his offensive awareness is through the roof:
And this is why I love watching Jeremy Bracco play hockey. pic.twitter.com/QXg8EHIKXc
— Ian Tulloch (@regressIan) September 9, 2017
Bracco does struggle at times with committing in the defensive zone, though that’s dramatically more teachable than talent up front and often something that has to do with youthful irresponsibility. As well, there’s always that fear as a smaller player that a physical play that goes wrong can come back to bite you harder with him than it would with someone else. That’s a diminishing issue in today’s game, though; if he keeps scoring, teams will compensate around him to offset any potential issues.
The Upcoming Year
If there was an award or distinction for the high-ranked prospect most likely to have a slow start to their season, Bracco would be the clear front-runner. His offseason has been painfully short, between the Memorial Cup run, the celebrations that followed, and the mononucleosis that he’s since suffered. There’s a good chance that he’ll struggle to earn himself minutes out of the gate with the Marlies, but with all of that in mind, that shouldn’t be a huge cause for panic; a groove will likely come as the season progresses.
Bracco’s a hard one to get a long-term grip on, largely because his stays with teams and even leagues have been so brief. But just about every time, he’s found a way to use his offensive ability to become a key contributor to all these clubs and all these places, so as much as it’s easy to doubt that a smaller player like him will be successful, you begin to buy into the patter once its repeated enough times.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to believe that a player with Bracco’s skill set and pedigree can become not just a good NHL forward, but a great one. It won’t all come instantaneously, though; filling out the holes in his game and earning the trust of his new, hopefully, longer-term home is going to be vital to his success.
To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.---
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