SB Nation NHL’s Mock Draft is fully underway, providing the perfect distraction from the free agent-drama that’s currently surrounding the St. Louis Blues. We can instead turn our attention to the draft, which is itself surrounded with plenty of angst. But at least it’s a bit more positive. The Blues have the 26th overall pick in this year’s first round.
Making this selection wasn’t very easy. This is an incredibly deep draft class and there were plenty of great players to choose from with the Blues selection. The player that St. Louis GameTime selected was the best of the bunch, though, and could seriously spark the future of the Blues offense. So without further ado...
With the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Mock Draft, the Blues have selected Brendan Brisson, a center from the Chicago Steel.
A big thanks Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst) for all clips featured below.
Brendan Brisson Goes 26th Overall
Brendan Brisson is a seriously talented player. His offensive potency is among the best of the draft class, even if some scouts remain a bit cynical. Brisson is a creative, smart, and effective forward that’s really fun to watch.
Brisson radiates offense. He’s impressively smooth with the puck on his stick and is terrifically agile. This allows him to manipulate any offensive situation to his will. After using great skill to set up situations, he has top-end passing and a great shot that help him capitalize. Brisson is great in transition and on defense to boot, helping round out his offensive-focus.
That’s the abridged version. Going into depth... well, Brisson is special. He earned “First All-Star Team” and “First All-Rookie Team” honors this season. He also, easily, won the USHL “Rookie of the Year” award, a seriously coveted title. Previous ROTY winners include Andrei Svechnikov, Anders Lee, Jake Guentzel, Johnny Gaudreau... I could go on. Of the 15 winners since 2005, six have become NHL stars. Three more are considered very promising prospects for the organizations they’re in. That places Brisson in great company; company that he easily stacks up to.
Brisson’s Effect on His Team
USHL ROTY is an award that stands out on a player’s resume, to say the least. But Brisson’s stat-line is even more impressive. The rookie ranked second in the entire USHL in scoring this season, with 59 points. The only player above him, Mathieu De St. Phalle, had 60 points and was actually Brisson’s winger — the winger that Brisson spent all season beautifully setting up.
De St. Phalle is actually a great blank to show just how good Brisson’s offensive impact really is. During the 2018-19 season, De St. Phalle scored 13 goals in 51 games. It was his third year in the league and he still couldn’t find his scoring touch. But this past season, now paired with Brisson, De St. Phalle ranked second in the entire USHL in goals, with 30 in 49 games. Brisson’s great passing and offensive ability was enough to more-than-double the goals netted by his winger.
Brisson was close behind in scoring, with 24 goals, which ranked him eighth in the league; and top among all rookies by six goals.
Brisson’s impact on his linemates was clearly great. And that becomes very clear when watching him play. He has the complete offensive package.
Brisson boasts great skating, with solid speed being matched with elite agility and edgework. While his top-end speed could use a bit more control, he’s painfully the best skater on the ice when things slow down in the offensive end. Great feet allow Brisson to seemingly effortlessly float around the ice.
Brisson packages this great skating with the best set of hands on his team, at least. He not only has great stick-handling but manages to be incredibly quick with his hands, releasing shots before goalies can even realize what’s going on. It’s deceptive, it’s fast, and damn is it impressive.
It’s a one-two punch that allows him to win any-and-all one-on-ones. Here’s an example of his skating and hands working him out of an impossible situation and his quick release netting him an all-too-easy goal (he’s in the corner to begin the clip):
This ability to come out on top when pressured is invaluable and lets Brisson do a variety of different things on the ice. His ability to wiggle his way out of trouble consistently is great. But perhaps more impressive is how he matches his smarts with his hands and skating. He regularly tries to pull opposing defensemen into him, opening up his teammates. When that happens, Brisson’s great passing is able to set up his teammates perfectly. This is the skillset that allowed De St. Phalle to score so many goals and would translate beautifully to the professional scene.
And before I continue, it’s worth spending an extra second on just how smart Brisson is. He has one of the best sets of hockey IQ in this draft. EliteProspect’s Draft Guide from this season said that Brisson was, “the best problem-solving forward in the draft not named Alexis Lafrenière.” That’s high praise but it’s well earned. Brisson’s ability to manipulate the opposition is helped immensely by great skating, hands, and passing but it all starts with his IQ.
He knows exactly how to run the play and how to move to open up chances for himself or his teammates. His whit is what truly makes him such a dangerous attacker. Whether the puck is on his stick or not, Brisson is likely thinking three steps ahead of you already. He’s playing chess while his opponents are playing checkers, to use a cliche. With so much skill to back up his smarts... well, Brisson is seriously impressive.
This offensive ability helps make him an absolute menace on the power-play. It’s truly a sight to behold. Brisson was most-likely the best power-player in all of America last season, excluding professional leagues.
He ranked third in the USHL in power-play goals with 11, three shy of the lead. He also tied the league in power-play points, adding 13 assists to his goal total to mount a very admirable 24 power-play points. And he managed this despite being a rookie! Needless to say, no other rookie was anywhere close.
He is far from power-play reliant, like some scorers can end up. Instead, it’s simply a very, very strong feature of his already talented skillset. He sets up in “Ovi’s Office” (albeit on the other side of the ice since Brisson is a lefty) and causes mayhem. He has an absolute laser of a shot that he’s clearly worked tirelessly on. His ability to find the perfect corner of the net is uncanny. I mean, just watch it:
This clip shows exactly how Brisson likes to set up on the power-play. He’s on his off-hand and serves as the focal point of the special teams. Whenever his team can find him an open shot, they’ll dish him the puck. More often than not, it seems like he scores.
And that shot is incredible. While it’s not the hardest thing — something many scouts dock Brisson for — he makes up for it with incredible accuracy. It seems all of his shots from the circle manage to perfectly find the corner of the net. It’s a talent that very, very, very few players can repeat consistently. Yet, watch him do it again:
These aren’t two carefully chosen clips, quite honestly. They’re simply the first two goals highlighted on Brisson’s film-reel, courtesy of the Prospect Film Room. And yet they both show his uncanny ability to score on the power-play. The remainder of the film-reel features plenty of other cases of Brisson’s terrific shot proving invaluable on the power-play (as well as some amazing passing plays) and is definitely worth a watch.
Simply put, Brisson uses an incredible shot and — while not featured in the GIFs — awesome passing to make easy work of the power-play.
So... Why So Low?
I get what you’re probably thinking. I’m making Brisson out to be the perfect package. And, well, it’s kinda not my fault. He really is terrific, with great offensive ability and solid defense to boot.
But his defensive abilities are often not as appreciated. Brisson is not a “grindy” player, fighting along the boards for the puck or battling in front of the net. Quite frankly, his skating and hands make it so he doesn’t have to worry about these situations. But their absence has worried some into thinking he might not be competent in those areas. While that might be true, it’s a field that is much easier to develop; and one that doesn’t look nearly as bad when juxtaposed with the amazing hockey IQ, skating, passing, shot, and hands that Brisson possesses. All assets are really top-notch.
He’s well worth a top-20 pick, even if many scouts seem to have him ranked in the mid-20s. If he falls to that level, he’ll be one this year’s steals.
The best way to visualize Brisson’s style of play would be to compare him to someone fans already know. Well, luckily, Brayden Schenn provides a very similar style. Both players are solid playmakers with a goal-scoring upside. Their shots — while not particularly hard — add an extra layer of danger to the play that their passing abilities and hockey IQ earns them.
Both players can skate well and use it to their advantage. Brisson is a bit quicker and more agile, which makes up for the fact that he’s far less physical than Schenn. But still, the two play a very similar style of hockey, showing what fans can expect from Brisson.
An Easy Pick
At face value, it wasn’t easy to choose who to pick at 26th overall. Jan Mysak is one of the best defensive-forwards in the draft. John-Jason Peterka has already played professional hockey in Germany and looks promising. And one of the many defensive options — like Braden Schneider — could really help improve a Blues prospect pool that needs blue-liners.
But Brisson was too good of a pick to pass up. He has a truly great skillset and strong enough hockey IQ to make him a reliable pickup; knowing that he’s simply too smart to fail. He has all of the makings of a future top-six lock, in the same way that a player like Schenn have become must-haves in St. Louis. Brisson’s ability would perfectly feed into Robert Thomas’ already-great play, creating a dynamic duo that would become the face of the Blues. Really.
And even better, Brisson is likely to be NHL-ready within the next two-or-three seasons. He could make the jump straight to the AHL this upcoming season but that likely won’t happen. He’s much more likely to play out the 2020-21 season in the USHL — or with the University of Michigan if they play — and will make the jump to the pros for 2021-22 or 2022-23. But when he does make that jump, he’ll skyrocket quickly. Expect him to be an NHL fixture within three seasons. If that happens, and he continues flaunting the awe-bringing skillset he currently has, he’ll be WELL worth the 26th overall pick.
But there’s a lot of debate to be had!! Who do you think we should have taken at 26th overall? Let us know in the poll below! If it’s someone different, we’d love to hear why you made the swap over on Twitter @StLouisGameTime and @NHLFoley or down in the comments below!
Thanks again to the Chicago Steel, the Draft Analyst, and all of the great colleagues that helped me out with this one!
Who Would You Take at 26th Overall?
This poll is closed
Brendan Brisson (C)
Jan Mysak (C)
Braden Schneider (RD)