Rick Nash isn't the only No. 61 in the Blue Jackets organization who has gone on a scoring binge lately. But like Nash, No. 61 for the Drummondville Voltiguers is a first-round draft pick who ignites an offense every time he takes the ice.
Derick Brassard, whom the Jackets nabbed with their first selection and the sixth overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, is thriving in his sweater right now. Finally healed from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him for most of the year, Brassard has torched the opposition of late. He has raked in 5-16-21 in 11 games for the Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), including 2-2-4 this past weekend. In the two previous seasons, Brassard tallied a combined 69-123-192, highlighted by a staggering 44-72-116 last year in only 58 games–that's two points a game.
"I just go every day to the rink, and I’m happy to practice and play," Brassard said.
The 19-year-old phenom may have the numbers–to go along with skilled, fast skating and a tremendous "defensive instinct" – but his dedication, intelligence and understanding of hockey’s finer points are what impress scouts the most.
"He's so dedicated to the game … this kid can't miss," Columbus scout Denis LeBlanc said. "He can tell you 'this guy's going to do this' and 'that guy's going to do that.'"
LeBlanc added that Brassard is a true student of hockey, as evident by how many games he watched while he was injured. But without question, the former first-rounder much prefers being watched over watching.
"The first and second games back were very tough," Brassard said. "But I'm very happy to be back for the end of the season and to ready for the playoffs with my team. Every game, I'm getting healthier and stronger."
LeBlanc said much of the same about the young star: "Down the road, you know that you can't hold him (back). He’s like a bomb. You’re not going to have to kick him and say 'let's go, kid.' That's not how he is."
With the importance of quick forwards in today's NHL, players like Brassard are valuable commodities. LeBlanc said that the Quebec native's greatest strength will be his ability to create scoring chances for others, and his numbers reflect that.
"His passing skills are great for that level," Blue Jackets scout Gerard Gallant said. "He's just a great passer and a playmaker.
"He also can put the puck in the net, but he’s more of a setup guy than anything else."
Brassard likes to play with aggressive goal scorers that he can feed the puck to.
Gallant, currently scouting in Ontario, had a chance to watch Brassard in a game where he dished out three assists and "looked like he never missed a beat," even though he hadn’t played most season. Gallant also observed that though the budding star is listed at 175 pounds, he has probably added 10-12 pounds of muscle mass without losing a bit of quickness.
"He's quick, he's on the puck all the time and he's got good skills," Gallant said. "You don't have to be a 6-foot-5 guy anymore (to be a good forward)." Additionally, Gallant said Brassard’s game is "progressing the way we expect him to."
Brassard and the Voltiguers have three games remaining on their regular-season schedule before they head into the QMJHL playoffs. Regardless of the significance, those in attendance for games won't have any trouble spotting Brassard – not just because he's probably going to contribute to a goal, either.
"He's a hard-working kid, and he's having fun on the ice all the time," Gallant said. "I talked to a couple of fans in Drummondville, and they love the kid. He's a fan favorite, not just because he’s their best player but because he has a great attitude."
In Leblanc's observation, the way the youngster carries himself while warming up and practicing separates him from many others.
"You go to a game, and you’re going to know right away … that's Brassard (even without seeing his number). You're not going to have to ask where he is on the ice. You get to the rink, and you go, ‘Yep, that's him.'"