Jack Eichel has been referred to as “The Ultimate Consolation Prize” and will almost certainly be donning the Sabres blue on opening night. The Boston University star has now shown that he can dominate his peers, and coming off an impressive showing at the IIHF World Championship there is no doubt he’s ready to play in the NHL today. Eichel has the potential to be a generational talent, adored by Sabres fans for years to come, and is the no-questions-asked 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Eichel’s former teammate with the United States National Team Development Program and Boston College commit Jeremy Bracco has the potential to be his perfect compliment.
Bracco, the 5’9, 170 pound winger from Long Island has been turning heads with his playmaking ability for years now, but his size has always been the flaw that keeps him out of the conversation as an “elite” prospect. At the 2014 All-American Prospect Game, Bracco shined with two goals while playing alongside Eichel and fellow NTDP winger Jordan Greenway, and despite Eichel being named the game’s MVP it was Bracco whose profile was raised that night.
Former Sabre and AAPG coach Mike Grier had this to say about Bracco after coaching him for a day,
“I think on his own [Bracco’s] a very good player. He sees the ice extremely well, makes plays happen, and you can see he’s not only a playmaker, he can score. A lot of guys on that first goal are going to panic when they get the puck on that sharp angle, but he took his time and buried it…He reads the game well…He has an ability to slow the game down. Even though he’s not going that fast, he can slow it down and create space for himself. He’s an impressive player.”
Jeremy Bracco’s accolades are tough to argue against. His 64 assists this season broke a single-season record for the National Team Development Program, and the previous record of 58 was shared by Bracco and Blue Jackets property Sonny Milano. He added 30 goals this season, and at 94 points the list of players who have scored more in a year is pretty short: current teammates Auston Matthews and Matt Tkachuck, and NHL stars Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.
Over the course of his career, no player in the history of the NTDP has amassed as many assists as Bracco has. In fact, it’s not even close. Jeremy shattered the previous record of 88 (held by Patrick Kane, JD Forrest, and tied this year by Auston Matthews) early on in the season and finished with 122. With 168 points in two seasons, only Phil Kessel (180) and Patrick Kane (172) are above him on the program’s record board. Though Matthews and Tkachuck are both eligible to return for a third season, Tkachuck has committed to play for the OHL’s London Knights and speculation around Matthews has him everywhere from the Everett Silvertips to Switzerland’s SCZ Lions. Bracco’s record seems safe for now.
Still, the concern about Bracco’s size is there. International Scouting Services’ most recently rated Bracco at 28th, while NHL Central Scouting has dropped him all the way to 60th. Our own Shawn Reznik listed him at 25 in March. There is no consensus on where Bracco really fits in.
It seems that Johnny Gaudreau has changed the idea of what a small player can do in this league, and while it’d be easy to make that comparison it’s important to remember that Gaudreau went to the NHL Combine at 5’6 and under 140 pounds. It’s not unrealistic to believe Bracco joins Boston College at 5’10, 180 pounds. As small as Bracco is, he’s not nearly as small as other players who have defied the odds and made a major impact at the NHL level.
Jeremy Bracco has the potential to be a top playmaker in this league alongside Eichel and the recently-acquired Evander Kane. The Sabres have drafted well and look like a team that three or four years down the line will have some serious firepower, and with the 21st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft it would be a shame if they didn’t add Bracco’s talents.