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From 'undersized' to elite, DeBrusk emerges as one of draft's top prospects

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets
Ryan Gropp (left) & Jake DeBrusk (right) await their turn during fitness testing at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Back then the scrappy winger was an undersized long shot. Too small, some argued, to make it as an impact player at that level, let alone in the NHL years down the road.

That was way back in 2011. Jake DeBrusk – the 137th pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft – knew he had some work to do.

“I was a pretty small kid at the time,” he said. “One of the biggest reasons for my development was a bit of a growth spurt...”

It was actually rather significant, sprouting more than five inches in the calendar year surrounding the draft. Following the most recent calculations at the NHL Scouting Combine, the left-shot
sniper now stands at 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds.

“If you’d asked me three years ago if I’d be here, I don’t know if I would have said yes, to be honest,” said Debrusk.

“It’s been pretty surreal.”

In 2012-13 DeBrusk represented the South Side Athletic Club in the Alberta Midget Hockey League, potting 25 goals and 52 points 34 games en route to being named to the League’s First All-Star Team. Though it’s impossible to compare the pressures of pro hockey with Edmonton’s minor-hockey program, his nose for the net was beginning to show. He debuted for the Swift Current Broncos the following season, posting an encouraging stat line (15-24-39) as a rookie turning 17.

Credited with a goal-scorer’s mindset, a determined DeBrusk more than doubled his production from the previous year, pacing the Broncos in goals (42) and points (81) in 72 regular-season contests. His body filled out, he was a force in the blue paint.

Having officially entered the conversation as a potential first-round pick, DeBrusk will have at least 15 family members accompanying him to the draft later this month. Jake’s father – “my hero” – Louie will absolutely be among them.

Louie played 401 regular-season games over 12 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks. Retiring in 2003, the elder DeBrusk is
now an analyst on Sportsnet’s NHL broadcasts.

“I’ve been asked about him at least once an interview,” laughed Jake, who was once again prodded about their increasingly famous father-son bond. “A lot of people have some funny stories about
him – that they’ve been roommates with him, played with him. It’s been a pretty cool
experience and I’ve heard lots of good things about my dad, for sure.”

Totalling 115 career fights at the professional level, Louie made a name himself with his fists. Jake isn’t quite that feisty, his hands of the softer variety.

“When I was little my dad used to say that scoring goals was a lot more fun (than fighting). Even when you play in the NHL as an enforcer, you’ve got to be a pretty good hockey player. The tips
he’s given me have helped me in a big way.”

DeBrusk met with 29 teams at the Combine. The only club that didn’t arrange an interview – the Los Angeles Kings – met him earlier this year.

“I gave it my all and had fun,” he said. “I was myself and that’s all you can do.”

-- Ryan Dittrick,

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