While some teams prioritized winning over NCAA players, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed the OHL’s goal-scoring leader in an absolute steal of a pickup. Let’s get to know Justin Brazeau:
The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed North Bay Battalion Captain and OHL goal-scoring leader Justin Brazeau in a remarkably quiet coup on Thursday. The Leafs, who are going to need scoring depth from cheap wingers, will send Brazeau to the Marlies on a two-year deal ahead of their Calder Cup run in a smart, sensible, and complain-proof move.
Brazeau has been simply electric, lighting up the OHL. The 21-year-old has managed 61 goals in 68 games this season, adding 52 assists over the season as well. His 61 goals is good enough for first in the OHL this season, and his 113 points left him in second place for overall points.
His biggest asset appears to be a more-than-solid shot that is responsible for his terrific season this year. Outside of his wrister, Brazeau appears to have good hockey sense and gets himself in good goalscoring positions. His shot helps him finish, but positioning is massive for him.
Undrafted and back in the OHL to continue his pursuit of the NHL dream, Brazeau has steadily and exponentially improved over his four seasons of junior hockey.
His first season saw him play 65 games with the Battalion tallying just 6 goals, 7 assists, and 13 points. It’s a far cry from his 2018/19 season but shows why he didn’t attract too many headlines immediately.
His second season in 16/17 saw him more than double up his freshman point total with 22 goals and 15 goals, good for 37 points. Brazeau continued to grow in 17/18 with another doubling of points. He totaled 39 goals and 36 assists for 75 points.
If Brazeau’s story shows us anything, it’s that forecasting skill and player development can be a craps shoot sometimes. As for the Leafs, Brazeau offers two massive boosts to future Leafs’ teams: size and scoring ability.
As good as his shot is, Brazeau tips the scales at 226 lbs and measures a whopping 6’6″. As Mike Babcock says, ‘you can’t teach size.’ He would offer the Leafs some potential grit and physicality with his size alone, although don’t be expecting Brazeau to skate around gooning the opposition – goals are his first priority.
His skating is apparently the weakest aspect of his game, but he has continued to focus on improving it and much like his points totals, has done just that. Comparables are hard at this level but you’d hope a player with his size and goalscoring could emulate the likes of a Rick Nash, albeit highly unlikely with how awesome Nash was.
Don’t buy into the Gauthier comparisons though. The lazy lines being drawn between the two players are based on size alone and skating, not on play style, draft class, or anything of substance. I mean, the players don’t even play the same position!
Regardless, Brazeau will slot in with the Marlies for a Calder Cup run and will get a chance to win a spot on the Leafs team come September. No complaints here on this move, just praise for Dubas intelligently adding to the team depth!