Player: Bryce Brodzinski, Forward, Blaine High School(MN), Omaha Lancers(USHL)
Measurables: 6’0” 197 lbs., Right Shot
2018-2019 stats: Blaine: 23 games, 32 goals 44 assists, 76 points, Omaha: 19 games, 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points.
Brodzinski is the youngest of four brothers, and is set to become the fourth to play Division I college hockey and third to be drafted into the NHL. His eldest brother Jonny broke in with the Los Angeles Kings this past season, the next brother Michael is in the San Jose Sharks minor league system, and his other brother Easton recently completed a successful sophomore season at St. Cloud State. But after an impressive NHL Draft year, Bryce could be poised to be the best of the bunch.
Brodzinski was a bit of an off-the-radar recruit when he committed to St. Cloud State in the fall of 2016. He was not selected as one of the top 100 players in the state of Minnesota to attend Minnesota Hockey’s Select 15s camp earlier that summer. But St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko had a close connection to the Brodzinski family and was willing to take a chance on Bryce. Early this fall, Brodzinski chose to follow Motzko to the University of Minnesota, switching his commitment to the Gophers. That kicked off an incredible senior season of high school hockey that saw Brodzinski surpass multiple other good prospects to be named this year’s Minnesota Mr. Hockey and solidify him as an NHL Draft prospect, despite being passed over in his first year of eligibility last season.
What I like:
The one consistent theme among the four Brodzinski brothers, and Bryce is no exception, is that they are all exceptional at shooting the puck. Brodzinski’s 32 goals in 23 high school games weren’t merely the product of high school goaltending. He has a plus-level shot with a good release that makes him a scoring threat from nearly anywhere in the offensive zone.
-Thinks the game well
A more underrated aspect of Brodzinski’s game is his quick decision-making in the offensive zone. He sees the ice well and knows where the puck should be going next before he gets it on his stick. He has the ability to slow the game down with the puck on his stick and uses deception well to create space for himself. Even though his shot is a huge weapon, he was equally effective at distributing the puck and picking up assists this past year, showing a lot of maturity to his offensive game.
-Strong play in juniors
Judging a player based solely on high school hockey can be tricky. The lower level of play can lead to a lot of false positives where a player may dominate at that level, but can’t translate his skills to a higher level of play. So it is worth noting that Brodzinski was effective in his limited time in the USHL before and after the high school season, scoring 17 points in 19 games for a team that didn’t score a ton of goals on the whole. So there’s at least some evidence that Brodzinski’s skills will translate to higher levels.
What I don’t like:
Brodzinski’s skating ability isn’t necessarily a huge weakness, but it’s not a real area of strength either. He’s got a strong, stockier build, and will likely have to rely on good positioning to make up for some of his athletic deficiencies when he reaches the pro level.
-Second year eligibile
Brodzinski is an August, 2000 birthdate, which means he just barely qualified for the 2018 Draft, in which he went unselected, making this technically his second time up for the draft. It’s worth considering that he is an older player whose reputation was largely built on beating up high school competition, and that is probably enough to scare teams off using a top-60 draft pick on him.
Brodzinski is so intriguing because of his potential as a scorer. He played at center this past year because that’s just where most elite prospects get moved to, but he most likely projects as a wing at the pro level. But when you combine his shooting with his offensive playmaking ability, he’s a player that could hold his own at 5-on-5 and be a legitimate weapon on the power play. He has the upside to a be a scoring line forward in the NHL.
It feels like there has been a bit of inertia in Brodzinski’s draft projections all season because he started the year so far off the radar after not getting a serious look in his first year of eligibility. He jumped 28 spots on the Central Scouting draft list from mid-terms to their final rankings, up to 89th among NA skaters, and even that might still be too low. General consensus seems to be around the fourth, maybe fifth round for Brodzinski, but I think that with the upside he showed this year, he should probably be closer to a third round pick.
Brodzinski will join the University of Minnesota next season, where he should get ample opportunity to step into a scoring role right away. Minnesota lost about half of the goals off a team that was fairly average offensively. Brodzinski should get the chance to show what he can do on the power play right away next season, and hopefully produce points. A best-case scenario is that Brodzinski acclimates right away to the college game, and would be ready for the pros in two to three years.