In 2016, the New Jersey Devils selected Jesper Bratt in the sixth round of the annual Entry Draft. At the time, nobody expected him to make the NHL, let alone be a franchise player. After a career year in 2021-22, Bratt is still a restricted free agent. It’s safe to say that the Swedish native is due for a big payday, whether it be for the Devils or another team.
The Young Career of Jesper Bratt
Despite being only 23 years old, Bratt has been in the NHL for five seasons. He made the team as a 19-year-old in 2017, putting up 35 points in 74 games during his rookie season. The next two years saw a slight dip in production, scoring 33 and 32 points, respectively. However, he only played in 51 games in 2018-19 and 60 games in the COVID-shortened season. In 2021-21, Bratt had only seven goals, but 30 points in 46 games.
Last season, Bratt had by far the best year of his career. He broke out for 26 goals and 73 points in 76 games and was the Devils’ leading scorer. This resulted in a direct increase in ice time as well, averaging 17 minutes and 26 minutes per game. Despite the increase in numbers, Bratt struggled on the power play. Three of his 26 goals were on the man advantage, and he only had twenty shots. With that said, he has turned into the best passer on the team. His 47 assists were easily the most on the team, setting up goals for Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich, and others.
To go along with his scoring, Bratt does a great job staying outside of the penalty box. Throughout his tenure in the NHL, he has only spent 54 minutes in the penalty box. With those numbers, Bratt can stay on the ice and add to his point total. He also was more comfortable with the puck on his stick in his impressive 2021-22 campaign. With 324 shots in the year, it results in more opportunities, and he’s sure to be rewarded for his effort.
Constructing a Bratt Contract
The Devils are at a crossroads when it comes to Bratt. While his 73 points were impressive, it is more of an outlier so far. Granted, he’s 23 years old, and he has his prime hockey career left ahead of him. A Bratt contract should be comparable to other 50-point players in the NHL since that’s between his 35 and 70-point average.
According to Hockey Reference, a fair player comparison for Bratt is Andre Burakovsky. A pending free agent in his own right, he had a remarkable season for the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. After coming over in a trade from the Capitals, his point total increased almost immediately. Much like Bratt, 2021-22 saw Burakovsky’s best season to date. He put up 61 points in 80 games and eight points in 12 playoff games, en route to his second Stanley Cup. Entering his age 27 season, he cashed in on a five-year deal with the Seattle Kraken that will pay him an average of $5.5 million per season.
Another player that is comparable to Bratt is Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine. After entering the league as a pure goal scorer, Laine has shifted into a more all-around player, dishing the puck when need be. After a slow start in the 2020-21 season following a mid-season trade with the Winnipeg Jets, Laine rebounded nicely last season. He put up a pace of exactly one point per game, a number that almost matches Bratt’s. Even though Laine played in fewer games, both players had an even 26 goals. On Saturday, Laine signed a four-year deal with Columbus averaging $8.7 million each year.
Bratt is right in the middle of these two players. While not a traditional goal scorer like Patrik Laine, he has proven that he can put the puck in the net when the team needs it the most. He’s also the same age as the Finnish star. While Burakovsky played for a Stanley Cup Champion, Bratt was on a Devils team that has not made the playoffs since 2018, his rookie year. He’s more dynamic than Burakovsky, he’s younger and he should get more than $5.5 million on his next contract.
With the prime of his career ahead of him, Bratt should get the maximum eight-year deal from Tom Fitzgerald at approximately $7 million per season. Other contracts have set the bar, but Bratt has shown that he can take control of an offense, even when Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier missed some games last year. Even though he may not be a flashy superstar, Bratt deserves a long-term deal from the New Jersey Devils, the only team he’s ever known in the NHL.
Erik Johnsen is one of the NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. He is also a writer for Triple Play Newsletter. Erik is a 2022 Rider University graduate, and co-hosts a podcast called Too Many Men.