Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Brendan Brisson saw what it took to make it in the NHL during unique sleepovers growing up.
As a kid, the 18-year-old center had the chance to share a home with several NHL players. Clients of his father, agent Pat Brisson, would often stay at the house, making it easy for the prospect from Manhattan Beach, California, to observe their routines and pick their brains.
"John Tavares, when he stayed at our house when I was younger, he was always super professional about anything," Brisson said. "This was probably when he was my age, so just like back then thinking about it, he seemed way bigger and way more mature than he actually was. The way he carried himself off the ice, away from hockey too, always opening the door, saying 'Thank you,' and, 'Please.'
"With the hockey stuff, we have a little shooting yard outside and he was always ripping pucks, always drinking protein shakes. His will to get better."
Brisson similarly reflected on his time around Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon.
"This was when he was like probably 18, his rookie year," Brisson said. "Came down to L.A. to train with [Sidney Crosby], so they were training there. He was shooting pucks in the backyard once and they were coming back at me, hitting the net and coming back, and I was scared. Me and my little brother, Jordy, we were scared of them. Just like, they were always getting better and holding themselves to a higher level."
Brisson, who is 5-foot-11, 177 pounds, said he'd like to emulate Tavares, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain, and MacKinnon, as well as Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, in the NHL. His first taste of the League could come at the 2020 NHL Draft, where NHL Central Scouting has him No. 31 in its midseason ranking of North American skaters.
After scoring one goal in six games with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League last season, Brisson was second in the USHL this season with 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) while helping Chicago finish with the best record in the USHL (41-7-1-0)
Those numbers impressed but weren't the focus for Brisson.
"I want to work on my defensive zone play without the puck so I can get it back quicker and play more offense," Brisson said during the USHL Fall Classic on Sept. 29.
Before the 2020 BioSteel All-American Game on Jan. 20, Brisson said he had made strides.
"Just working with the Steel staff back in Chicago, defensively, being more of a two-way center," said Brisson, who is committed to play at the University of Michigan next season. "So just those areas of the ice make me get my offensive skill faster, getting the puck back. Just being more comfortable in the D-zone, getting the puck faster and just me and my linemates creating what we create in the offensive zone."
Greg Moore, who coached Brisson with Chicago before leaving to coach Toronto of the American Hockey League on Dec. 1, thought Brisson would figure out the defensive side of the game in time. But in the meantime, Moore said Brisson's skill separates him from others.
"He thinks outside the box," Moore said. "Sometimes I'm watching him and I'm like, 'No, don't … OK, that was amazing.' Allowing those players to kind of run with their game and be creative and do some different stuff, but then hold them accountable as well for the defensive side of stuff."
At the Fall Classic, Brisson said there was no way to ignore the draft but his focus would be on improving while also appreciating his potential future.
"Just going game by game, practice by practice," he said. "Just trying to get better every day. … Being kind of undersized, underdeveloped growing up, it was always a challenge. But I still always stuck through that. Once I grew a little bit, the game started to easier for me. I always had a love for the game."
Photos Courtesy: Chicago Steel
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