Hello friends, we are officially in our Top Five Prospects of 2018. It’ll be Jeremy Bracco kicking us off! Bracco slipped one spot from last year’s rankings, when we ranked him #4. It wasn’t Bracco’s best season statistically by any means — as we know, the transition to pro ranks can be a difficult one, and it was probably made even more difficult by his bout with mono. Still, there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the young forward.
Drafted 61st overall in 2015 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bracco enjoyed a very productive OHL career with the Kitchener Rangers and the Windsor Spitfires. 2016-2017 was a particularly good season for Bracco, as he capped off his final campaign in the OHL with a Memorial Cup win with the Spitfires and brought home a gold medal at World Juniors, picking up three goals and two assists in seven games for the Team USA squad.
After that impressive end to his junior career, Bracco spent the 2017-18 season with the Marlies, where he of course was a part of a Calder Cup-winning squad. It wasn’t all roses for Bracco though — he had a tough time consistently cracking the lineup. It was, after all, a very good lineup.
|ADAM||JON||RYAN F.||MEGAN||ZIGGY||SCOTT||THOMAS||KAPPY||HAYLEY||RYAN H.||DYLAN||CONNOR||CAT||BOBBY||WYATT||MIKE|
Bracco’s always been an assist machine — even going back to his NTDP days, you’d call him more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. This held true in his first season with the Marlies.
2017-18 SEASON RECAP
Bracco wasn’t as prolific as he has been in years past, but he still put up a respectable 32 points in 50 regular season games and added one more goal in the postseason, where he appeared in four games against Utica.
Remember, it’s hard to make that transition from junior to pros. Bracco went from playing on the top line with lots of ice time against players his age or younger to playing more of a bottom-six role against tougher competition. He did pretty well under those circumstances, and this next year is going to be a telling one in terms of Bracco’s overall development.
AS SEEN ON TV
Sorry about the video quality here, but this goal (his first in the AHL!) is so pretty that you won’t even be thinking about how it looks like you’re viewing it through a thinly sliced potato.
— AHL (@TheAHL) December 9, 2017
Fun Fact: Jeremy Bracco scored this year’s Teddy Bear Goal(TM). Make it rain, buddy. Make it rain.
And here’s Bracco’s postseason goal to open the scoring in Game 1 against the Utica Comets.
IS HIS PROGRESSION WHERE IT SHOULD BE?
Honestly, yes. For a late second-round pick in his first professional season, Bracco acquitted himself admirably. For those of you who like to just look at the basic stats, Bracco’s were solid. I certainly hope by now we’ve moved beyond using plus/minus to evaluate individual players on any serious level, but if you do, I guess you can take comfort in the fact that Bracco was a +6 on the season.
If you’re a Fancy Stat person, here’s a Ziggy Production Snapshot.
— Ziggy (@Ziggy_14) August 24, 2018
If you like charts, here’s this, courtesy of Colin Cudmore’s very nice Tableau charts:
That top right quadrant is the “GOOD” quadrant. (I just wanted to include this because I wanted us all to appreciate how good the Marlies really were this year. Practically the ENTIRE team is firmly in the Good quadrant. Cheers to good goaltending and Kyle Dubas building such a good and fun team.)
At just 5’9″, Bracco is the height that people seem to talk about Mitch Marner at. A talented player in his own right, he’s about the same proportion as Alex DeBrincat, a player one year younger who’s already made an immediate impact on the league. For another player at similar height who also followed an odd development path, journeyman Cory Conacher also plays a similar game.
With the logjam at wing the Toronto Maple Leafs are more or less still experiencing (even with the departure of JVR) and with several guys ahead of him on the depth chart, Bracco will likely see some more time with the Marlies. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that though, especially as you’d expect Bracco to see increased ice time and play a bigger role in the team’s push to defend their Calder Cup win.
He’s already racking up primary points at a top-six rate despite playing more of a depth role this past year, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to expect a jump in point production next season. Assuming Bracco plays more games — let’s say around 70 — it would be nice to see a 50-point season. I know that’s a big jump to ask for, but I really think he’ll benefit from consistent ice time and linemates who will bury a bit more often than, say, Frederik Gauthier. All due respect to Gauthier, of course.
I also think there’s a good shot we do get a glimpse of Bracco in the NHL. Even barring a slew of injuries to wingers, the Leafs haven’t shied away from giving their top-performing AHL guys a shot to show what they’ve got towards the end of the season.
Look, Bracco isn’t a game-breaker, and he won’t be. But he’s a really smart forward with great vision who’s capable of some really incredible passing plays and some finishing ability of his own. He’ll dazzle you when you don’t expect it, and while I know that some people worry about his size, it hasn’t particularly prevented him from succeeding in the past, so I don’t see that it will in the future, either. We definitely haven’t seen the best of Bracco yet in the pro ranks, so I’ll be looking forward to the next few years.