In the 2000-01 season, Patrik Elias set a New Jersey Devils team record with 96 points in a season. Over the course of their history, the team has never had a 100-point scorer, as they were most known for their “trap” style of defense. Many have come close to topping the 100-point plateau, most recently Taylor Hall in his Hart-trophy winning 2017-18 season. So far, Jesper Bratt has 15 points in nine games, and if he keeps up this pace, he will etch his name into Devils history and earn his way into the Hart Trophy conversation in the process.
Bratt’s start to this season is unlike anything newer Devils fans have seen. Hall’s historic point streak came in January, February, and March of 2018, while Bratt’s strong gameplay started as soon as the puck dropped. As of Nov. 1, he is fifth in NHL scoring, among the likes of Artemi Panarin, David Pastrnak, and the lethal Edmonton Oilers duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He also has a plus-6 rating, tied for second most on a Devils team that has a 6-3 record so far.
Bratt is Becoming Elite
When it comes to Bratt, scoring goals is a piece of his game, but not the focal point. While he had 26 last season and led the team, he also had 47 assists during his breakout 73-point campaign. This season, four of his points have come from goals, while his 11 assists place him second in the league, just behind the great Draisaitl. Bratt is becoming the top scorer that the Devils have needed for a while. It never had to come through free agency, instead, the team has developed Bratt into the scoring winger that strikes fear in opposing goaltenders.
Bratt is also not afraid to shoot the puck, either. So far, he’s taken 27 shots on goal through the team’s first nine games, averaging three per game. His four goals on the season give him an impressive 14.8 shooting percentage, one of the best on the team. This goes hand in hand with the Devils’ success with the puck as well. Through the team’s first nine games, New Jersey has shot the puck an astonishing 354 times, which comes out to just under 40 per game. It’s no secret why Bratt’s numbers have seen an increase, especially if there’s an added boost of confidence shooting the puck.
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It’s also worth noting that Bratt has had one point in every game so far this season, and is currently on a nine-game point streak. His most impressive effort of the young season came against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 25. In the Devils’ home opener on Oct. 15, Bratt had one assist, but only shot the puck once and had a minus-2 rating in just over 18 minutes of ice time. 10 days later, he not only scored twice, but one of those goals was a game-winner on the man advantage. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this performance was that his three-point night occurred in only 12 minutes and 46 seconds of ice time. “I thought all 60-minutes as a team, we played really well,” Bratt said after the game, giving credit to his teammates.
Bratt’s Perfect Linemates
Of course, Bratt’s success can also be attributed to his stellar linemates. In six of the team’s nine games, Ondřej Palát has been the left winger for Bratt. Although the first-year Devil has not played since Oct. 24, he has three goals in six games, including two in one game against the New York Islanders. Since Palat’s injury, Erik Haula has filled in on Bratt’s line to successful results. In two games paired with No. 63, Haula has two assists. He also has found success in the faceoff circle, winning 86 and losing 50 for a 63.2 faceoff percentage, second-best on the team behind Nico Hischier.
Bratt’s other linemate is Jack Hughes, and it’s no surprise to see him among the Devils’ leaders once again. In eight games this season, the first overall pick has three goals and five assists, with several of them going to Bratt. Hughes ranks first among all Devils with 36 shots on goal through the team’s first nine games, and it’s safe to assume that Bratt’s skillful passing is helping that cause.
On Monday (Oct. 31), the NHL awarded Bratt with the Second Star of the Week after a seven-point performance over the Devils’ last four games. In the summer, he bet on himself with a one-year contract paying him $5.45 million. In the nine-game stretch to begin the season, it seems like that gamble is paying off for him in a big way, and the contract that he receives next could put him among the NHL’s elite. Bratt is a sixth-round pick, and the chances that he would make the NHL alone were slim. Six years later, he finds himself in the same conversation as McDavid, Pastrnak, and Panarin.
While Bratt might not keep up this pace for the entirety of the season, the 100-point mark is certainly a possibility, and a Hart Trophy could be in his future. The Devils could finally see their first player hit the century mark, and at just 24 years old, the sky’s the limit for the winger that has defied all expectations since he began his career.
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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.