Jacob Bryson has his sights set on Buffalo, in more ways than one.
Long-term, the Buffalo Sabres' fourth-round pick in 2017 projects to be a promising prospect on the backend. In the short term, the junior defenseman at Providence College believes his team can win a national championship at the Frozen Four in Buffalo this spring.
The Friars came within a game of reaching the semifinal round last season, falling 2-1 in a quarterfinal matchup with Notre Dame. Bryson remembers the scene in the dressing room afterward.
"I know how everyone felt in the room, especially the seniors that are leaving," he said by phone Thursday. "You kind of see the expression on their face and learn that, as you get older and go through years of college, you don't want to be in that same situation.
"… I think a lot of the juniors, sophomores and freshmen from last year really felt that. I think this year with the team we have, we're definitely capable of not only making it to the Frozen Four but winning a national championship. That would be such an amazing feeling."
If the Friars do reach the pinnacle of college hockey, Bryson will have something to do with it. He was approached midway through his sophomore season by his coach, Nate Leaman, about serving as an alternate captain. This year he's been elevated to co-captain with junior forward (and Penguins prospect) Kasper Bjorkqvist.
Leaman says that Bryson's play was the driving force behind his co-captaincy - he scored 25 points (4+21) and was named a second-team All-American - but so were his actions off the ice. The Providence coach said Bryson's leadership qualities were apparent even going back to the recruitment process.
"My first impression of him was, he's a Friar," Leaman said. "Really, that's what you're looking for when you meet kids the first time. Are they going to fit in with our culture? Are they one of you?
"When I first met him, I was really impressed with the family values. I was really impressed by everyone involved on his trip, meeting his parents also. We knew he was a ballplayer, but we really were just checking out what type of kid he was. He checked all the boxes."
With the leadership role comes added on-ice responsibility. Bryson has 14 points in 13 games, tied for ninth among NCAA defensemen. He's the sort of puck-moving defenseman that the Sabres have emphasized brining into the organization in recent years, a potential fit one day in Phil Housley's system.
But for all Bryson's offensive contributions, Leaman is quick to emphasize the other areas of the game in which he excels: breakouts, gapping, playing in his own zone. The next step in his development, according to his coach: "Being the best player in all the big games, every night."
"We play him in every situation, period," Leaman said.
Leaman pointed to a series with UMass in early November as evidence of Bryson's ability in that regard. The defenseman scored a goal and two assists in those games, a pair of one-goal losses. Leaman thought he was the best player on the ice in both instances.
"He holds me accountable for kind of playing on the power play and the penalty kill, things like that, in all those situations," Bryson said. "I think that's an honor as well. I like to be put out there in situations where he can trust me. It's been good. I've added more aspects to my game playing different positions and I think with the trust from Coach Leaman, it's been good so far."
Photo credit: Rich Gagnon
|Skater ||Position ||Team (League) ||GP ||G ||A ||PTS |
|Christopher Brown ||F ||Boston College (NCAA) ||10 ||1 ||3 ||4 |
|Jacob Bryson ||D ||Providence (NCAA) ||13 ||3 ||11 ||14 |
|Ivan Chukarov ||D ||Massachusetts (NCAA) ||10 ||0 ||1 ||1 |
|Marcus Davidsson ||F ||Djuragardens (SHL) ||20 ||2 ||10 ||12 |
|Casey Fitzgerald ||D ||Boston College (NCAA) ||10 ||0 ||3 ||3 |
|Vasily Glotov ||F ||Cincinnati (ECHL) ||19 ||4 ||12 ||16 |
|Miska Kukkonen ||D ||Tappara U20 (Mestis) ||21 ||2 ||5 ||7 |
|Oskari Laaksonen ||D ||Ilves (Liiga) ||24 ||3 ||10 ||13 |
|Linus Lindstrand Cronholm ||D ||IK Pantern (Allsvenskan) ||15 ||1 ||4 ||5 |
|Brett Murray ||F ||Youngstown (USHL) ||18 ||6 ||11 ||17 |
|Philip Nyberg ||D ||UConn (NCAA) ||14 ||0 ||2 ||2 |
|Matej Pekar ||F ||Barrie (OHL) ||25 ||10 ||19 ||29 |
|Mattias Samuelsson ||D ||Western Michigan (NCAA) ||12 ||3 ||2 ||5 |
|Linus Weissbach ||F ||Wisconsin (NCAA) ||6 ||2 ||6 ||8 |
|Maxwell Willman ||F ||Boston University (NCAA) ||9 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|William Worge Kreu ||D ||Linkoping J20 (SuperElit) ||7 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Goaltender ||Team (League) ||GP ||W ||L ||OTL ||SOL ||GAA ||SV% ||SO |
|Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen ||Sudbury (OHL) ||20 ||13 ||5 ||1 ||1 ||2.65 ||.919 ||1 |