Bracco is one of the more interesting names on this list. He’s long been considered one of the better offensive options in the system for the Leafs, excelling as a playmaker and power play specialist, but he hasn’t really evolved his game in any meaningful way that would encourage the Leafs to give him a look in the NHL. He’s coming off an interesting year that included a trade request and then an extended personal absence from the team and now as a 23 year old pending restricted free agent, the Leafs will have to make a decision on what they are going to do with Bracco.
In 2015 the Leafs started off the evening right by drafting Mitch Marner. Then we were treated to a bizarre run of picks which led to Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny, Kyle Connor, and Brock Boeser all sliding in the draft. The Leafs were scheduled to pick at 24 and would have been able to select Travis Konecny. The Leafs wanted Travis Dermott so began trading down. In their deal with the Flyers for the 24th overall pick they’d use to select Travis Konecny, the Leafs picked up the 61st overall pick. That was the pick used to select Jeremy Bracco. At the time and in hindsight, just picking Konecny looked like the right call, but for brief moments the Dermott and Bracco combination looked appealing. Now with Dermott likely to see middle to bottom pairing duty, and Bracco on the verge of walking away from the organization for nothing, we can probably certify this as a bad decision.
That’s not to say that giving up on Bracco is something the Leafs should do. The decision to move on from him without return could bite the Leafs. He’s always been billed as AHL Marner, and while he’s got great vision, and creativity, the Leafs haven’t given him the opportunity to show it at the NHL level, or better put, he hasn’t exactly earned it. Bracco moving into another organization that doesn’t have it’s top two RW spots filled with skilled playmakers and has an opening on either of their power play units could be adding this…
Admittedly, that looks appealing and on a cheap contract I’d be open to seeing if he can do that from a sheltered role in the NHL.
Of course, when Bracco does stuff like this, there’s a very real chance that it could go completely wrong, and playing against NHLers instead of AHLers there’s a greater chance that it could go wrong, and there’s also a greater chance that the NHL player will bring it back into the Leafs end and capitalize on it.
And that brings us to the important point that away from the puck, there isn’t a whole lot that Bracco does. As much as people like pointing out Nylander as a perimeter player and being wrong about it, I submit to you that Jeremy Bracco is a guy worthy of the perimeter player label. At 5’9 it’s hard not to blame him for that, but with no defense, no forechecking, and the majority of his points coming from the power play it’s easy to see why the organization is frustrated with Bracco, and while he’s clearly skilled, he doesn’t seem to be capable of usage that isn’t tailor made for him.
Given that the Leafs have no need for a power play specialist and have already been importing wing depth by adding Barabanov and are likely to re-sign Jason Spezza as well, it doesn’t seem like there is much of a future for Bracco with the Leafs and he certainly doesn’t want to be a Marlie. The decision that probably needs to be made here is if Bracco is an asset the Leafs want to get something for. If Toronto qualifies with a contract Bracco they at least have the opportunity to try and get an asset for Bracco, though there is also little doubt they’ve probably exhausted that avenue this season.
The greatest likelihood is we’ve seen the last of Bracco. He’ll be remembered as an enigmatic AHLer winger who right up until the end left us respecting his talent and wishing he could have been more.