Devils’ Jesper Bratt Needs Consistency to Reach Next Level

Every passionate hockey fan who tunes into the NHL draft knows that if you are not selected in the first few rounds, you most likely will not make an impact in the league. In fact, according to Dobber’s Prospects, only 7.6% of sixth-round picks become full-time NHL players. However, there are always exceptions. There has been a respectable amount of sixth-round picks in the NHL that have had stellar careers and even Hall of Fame careers. Players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Rick Tocchet, Brett Hull, Pavel Bure, and many more game-changing players have been drafted in the sixth round.

Today, the league’s most notable sixth-round picks include Mark Stone, Anders Lee, Nick Bonino, and Cam Atkinson. In terms of points, the New Jersey Devils’ 2016 162nd overall pick, Jesper Bratt, is currently ranked 15th among active sixth-round picks in the NHL. Despite a high spot on the list, Bratt can jump to the top ten if he can produce consistently during the season.

Jesper Bratt’s Past Four Seasons

Bratt has totaled 231 games played in four NHL seasons. Through those seasons, he has scored 44 goals and 86 assists for a total of 130 points. Furthermore, he has averaged 32.5 points since his debut in the 2017-18 season. For a 23-year-old 6th round pick, his numbers are promising and unique. On the other hand, he has shown Devils’ fans his skillful play on the ice and has left them wanting more. He has been a common piece to the top six and power play for the past two years.

Jesper Bratt #63, New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Jesper Bratt #63, New Jersey Devils – January 20, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Usually, Bratt plays alongside Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier or is placed with Jack Hughes and another available winger. Due to the younger player emerging on the team and veterans being less apparent, Bratt has been a staple on the team. However, he has yet to amass a total of 35+ points, which he earned in his rookie year. His first season was also the last time the Devils made the playoffs and had a winning record. Therefore, his play can heavily rely on how well his teammates are doing. Bratt’s playmaking abilities are easily one of the team’s best, but it will affect his numbers if the team is not scoring.

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Another issue that has affected his numbers and career totals (so far) is the number of games he is playing in a season. The young Swede is yet to play a full 82 games in a season for New Jersey. The closest that he came was in his 2017-18 rookie year, where he played 74 games. If he could play all 82 games in a season, he was projected to get as much as 53 points in two out of four seasons. However, he is still producing as a top offensive presence on the team. According to NaturalStatTrick, he has the second-most points per games played (P/GP) on the team with 0.65.

Underrated Presence

On the ice, Bratt’s play is creative, eye-catching, and purely fun to watch. He is one of the most dynamic playmakers on the team and can turn a nothing play into something. However, he has trouble doing this on a nightly basis. He has had explosive games for most of his career but then goes cold for a stretch of games. Inconsistency in a young NHL player is extremely common and even more so on an inconsistent young team. Bratt is often left out of the core group of the Devils due to simple oversight, but his presence makes a heavy impact. If he can consistently make an impact every night, his numbers and presence can influence the team’s overall play. Despite the inconsistency, it is hard to take your eyes off of him when he is on the ice.

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With the Devils’ average age being 26.16 years old, 23-year-old Bratt is a part of the middle-aged group of Devils. He has a decent amount of experience in the league to help younger players but is yet to reach his ceiling. If he can hit his stride at the correct time for the Devils, he would be an indispensable piece to work alongside Hughes or Hischier. On the current roster, he has the fifth-most games played since his rookie season. Furthermore, he has had a pivotal role on the power play and currently leads the present roster with 25 power-play points.

Taking His Play to the Next Level

If an average spectator were watching Bratt on the ice, they would guess he has an impressive amount of points and is the star player on his team. However, he has not reached the next level of his play. In the past season, he was on pace for 53 points. With all of the hardships during the season, such as contract issues that forced him to miss the first two weeks of the season, a long pause due to a COVID outbreak, and a shortened season, it is not fair to fault him for not reaching a higher point total. Furthermore, New Jersey had to deal with games every other day with back-to-backs on a few occasions due to their restructured schedule from the COVID outbreak. For a young and inexperienced team, it is harder to adapt and compete well in the league.

Taking a look at Bratt’s advanced statistics shows how he impacts the game. For example, his individual points percentage (IPP), which indicates the percentage of on-ice goals scored when the player gets a goal or assist, is 73.2%. The statistic informs people how much a player is contributing to a goal scored on the ice. In Bratt’s case, it is extremely often when he contributes to an on-ice goal. Furthermore, he is tied for first place on the team in terms of points per 60 minutes (P/60) with 2.4. His 2020-21 season showed impressive analytics that can set him up for a career-high 2021-22 season. If he can play at a consistent pace, it will easily set him up for a 55+ point season.

As his experience and chemistry with teammates go up, it is almost certain that he will be a pivotal top six piece for the Devils. Having a coach like Lindy Ruff, who has proved his trustfulness in his players, will only improve Bratt’s confidence and production. All of his advanced statistics and flashy moves have proved that he is a skillful player, but to win hockey games, you have to contribute points. He is headed in the direction of being a consistent and clutch playmaker and scorer for the Devils. With veteran winger Tomas Tatar and an offensive wizard in Dougie Hamilton, Bratt will have tools to elevate his game.

On another note, it is also a contract year for the young forward. He will expire as a restricted free agent after this upcoming season. If he can prove to be a consistent and game-changing piece that he is capable of, the Devils will want to lock him up for multiple years. Of course, a decent payday will come for him as well. Bratt has all of the materials, tools, and skills to reach the next level, and now it is time to watch him do it.

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