Today in our search for the Leafs 24th overall pick we venture off into the fabled Western Canadas to see what mysterious treasure can be unearthed there. Low and behold, there’s a hockey league out there! And it’s actually a pretty good one too. Maybe we should consider bringing in one of these players for a change? That Morgan Rielly fella worked out well, and we were able to flip Luke Schenn for van Riemsdyk, I think WHL first rounders might be the way to go for this team.
That brings us to Jake DeBrusk. Not only does Jake have the stigma of not being from Ontario, he’s got the added pressure of making you realize that he is no way an enforcer, despite his father playing that role in the NHL for many years. Though maybe since Louie played for the London Knights Jake will count as legacy OHL and the Leafs will take a look at one of the more talented goal scorers projected to go in the late first round.
A quick look at the rankings tells a similar story to what has been seen with pretty every prospect we’ve looked at so far. There are those who can make a case for DeBrusk going ahead of the Leafs pick and there are those who see him going even later in the draft, but there isn’t any disagreement on the fact that DeBrusk is a first round talent. Quickly averaging out those rankings (excluding the CSS NA one) that puts DeBrusk around 25th, so not much of a stretch for the Leafs, but he’s not likely a player you’re shocked is still on the board when Toronto picks. Of course, those are just the rankings, the real numbers on Jake DeBrusk make a case that he’s been underrated by many of those doing the ratings.
First off, Jake’s 40 goals are the highest total of any draft eligible player in the WHL season and they were good enough to place him 7th in the league (all stats in this post sourced from CHLStats.com). His ability to create goals is encouraging as well, as he finished the year with 27.54 (11th in the league, 1st among draft eligible WHLers), and accounted for 12.58% of his Team’s goals created (7th in league, 1st among WHL draft eligibles).
If you are looking to poke holes in the notion of DeBrusk’s production, special teams is how you can do it. 14 of DeBrusk’s goals came with the man advantage, and 15 of his assists were also scored on the powerplay. While these numbers might make a case for why DeBrusk isn’t in the top 20 on most draft rankings, it should be noted that he is still tied for the most even strength goals of WHL draft eligibles (with Ryan Gropp) and is second only to Jansen Harkins in even strength points.
Using the Prospect Cohort Success Model developed by the handsome group of Nation Network stats people, it appears that DeBrusk has a 24.24% chance of NHL success, with the points per game of his NHL comparables being 0.446. Who are his high end NHL comparables you ask, why Wendel Clark and Joffrey Lupul, of course. Also Shane Doan, which is less fun, and some of his other less offensively driven comparables include Colby Armstrong, Boyd Gordon, and Scottie Upshall.
Using the Hockey Projection Project, there is 40% chance that DeBrusk will be in the NHL. Of his 182 comparables, 7 are elite, 15 are first liners, and 14 are second liners, so that puts DeBrusk at a 19.8% chance of being a top six player.
The Eye Test
The story with Jake DeBrusk is quite similar to the story with Mitchell Marner. He’s not 6’0, he’s not 200 lbs, and he’s not a center, so his rankings have suffered as a result. And while DeBrusk doesn’t have the high end potential of Marner. DeBrusk’s goal scoring ability may not translate to the next levels, as he relies more on volume, rather than quality of shots, and while his skating ability is strong, he doesn’t have the high end speed of others who may be available around the same time in the draft.
From Hockey Prospectus:
“DeBrusk is an agitating and confident player who can produce. An immediate NHL comparable is Brad Marchand, albeit slightly larger and cleaner. He shows passion at both ends, plays a reasonable defensive game, and excels in the offensive zone where he’s currently posting a point per game. His tenacity and physical play combined with his offensive output should please the scouts. I project him to be a late first-round pick and has a ceiling as a second-line winger”
From Dub from Above:
“the way he finishes around the net reminds me a lot of guys like Brendan Gallagher and Joe Pavelski as they read the play well while also having both the desire and the skill to finish plays under duress…his wrist shot is hard and accurate with a very sharp release…has shown the ability to get his shot away off the rush while in mid-stride but can also lower his shoulder and drive it to the net…compliments his goal-scoring ability with smart playmaking skills…executes smart little chip plays when exiting his own zone…have seen him make some very impressive passes this year including touch passes in tight spots or saucing on the backhand…plays with smarts and his head up which often translates into smart little give and go plays when he’s given too much space…has seen time on the half-wall on the powerplay, allowing him to use his vision and shot to create offence…I have also seen him spend time in front of the net on the PP or down in the right corner so he can create on his forehand…owns some strong defensive instincts but play away from the puck remains a work in progress…”
Does He Make the Leafs Shortlist?
It’s hard to imagine that the Leafs are excluding a versatile goal scorer from who they are considering at the number 24 pick. If the draft plays out in a very uneventful manner, it’s entirely possible that DeBrusk is best skilled forward available when the Leafs step to the podium.
While everything we’ve heard out of the organization so far is that the Leafs will draft the best player available regardless of position, it is still possible that a winger might be out of luck, especially if one has previously been selected at the number four spot.
Still, looking at the Leafs depth chart, it’s clear that this organization can benefit from significant offensive talents more than any other area and when it comes to finding offense at the 24 spot, DeBrusk is the safe pick.