Bobby Brink is one of the most interesting players in this Friday’s NHL draft. He’s one of many players in the first round who has an intriguing skill set but at least one major flaw. And among all those players, the gap between Brink’s obvious talent and equally obvious flaw is perhaps most pronounced.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Bobby Brink’s skating is not good. If you follow the draft, you’ve probably heard that many times about many players. You may even be getting immune to it. But I feel I need to restate it just to be clear. Scouts hate his skating. Hate it. I’ve read reports from earlier in the year where scouts said it was so bad they wouldn’t consider drafting him until the late rounds. That’s obviously an extreme, and in my opinion, incorrect assessment of the issue. But the problems with his stride are noticeable enough that they could push one of the more dynamic players in the draft toward the end of the first round.
As the draft process progressed and public scouts released their lists, it looked like maybe Brink’s skating wouldn’t hold him back as much as it seemed like it would earlier in the process. He’s been regularly ranked in the teens on many public lists and that would put him well out of the reach of the Lightning at 27. But on Monday, Bob McKenzie released his list, which reflects input from several NHL scouts and is consistently the most accurate list that gets released every year. On that list, Brink came in at 26th. That puts him firmly in range for the Lightning.
When looking at potential options at the end of the first round, Brink is one of the most exciting. His skating is a problem. It has to be addressed. But if he can address it, say, with a few summers with Barb Underhill? He might become a steal for someone late in the first round.
He played most of the season in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers but spent some time with the stacked US National Team Development Program that featured a slew of other players who will go in the first round on Friday. He also played on the US team at the U18 Championships. In the USHL, he scored 68 points in 43 games and posted over a point per game with the USNTDP and at the U18s. Impressively, at the U18s, he managed to make an impact despite being on a team with so many top tier prospects.
Bobby Brink Stats
|Minnetonka High||MN State||3||5||2||7||2|
|Sioux City Musketeers||USHL||13||2||2||4||4|
|U.S. National U17 Team||USDP||8||0||2||2||6|
|2018-2019||Sioux City Musketeers||USHL||43||35||33||68||22||Playoffs||2||0||2||2||4|
|U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||5||3||3||6||6|
|2020-2021||Univ. of Denver||NCAA||-||-||-||-||-|
If we dig deeper into his stats, Brink really starts to pop. Using any sort of adjusted scoring measure, he looks like one of the top end offensive talents in the draft. He was obviously the best player on his USHL team and made all of his teammates much better players when he was on the ice. His goals and assists were about even as would be expected for a player of his caliber in the USHL but he showed playmaking ability that should shine through as he starts to play with better teammates.
But Brink isn’t just a one dimensional scorer like some of the other wingers in this draft class. He’s a well-rounded player in the offensive zone who doesn’t get lazy without the puck. He’s always active and looking to make the smart play to support his teammates. Like most players his age, he still has some work to do on his defensive game but unlike lots of players his age, he’s not a liability at that end of the ice. He’s engaged and makes smart plays. Given the energy level he shows in the offensive zone, it seems like with good coaching, he could put that motor to good use in the defensive zone as well.
When I look at the options at the end of the first round, Brink is one of the most appealing. He has a complete game that would make him a lock to go in the top half of the first round if not for his skating. The question for the Lightning is whether they think his stride is fixable. And if it is, whether they think Brink is willing to put in the work required to fix it. If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I’d be thrilled to hear to his name called at number 27 on Friday night.
Smaller player with elite offensive instincts and vision, Brink has become known for his hands, awareness in the offensive zone, and finish. He has the innate ability to make things happen whenever he’s on the ice. He’s proven to be a valuable defensive player, and his high intelligence allows him to anticipate his opponents and position himself accordingly. His skating is the one improvement he needs to make, as it’s a little rough around the edges.
Basically, if you look at any underlying number or draft analytical tool for Brink, he stands out in a big way. If there is one area that might give me pause is that Brink won’t be heading to the NCAA until 2020-21, which would be for his draft plus two year. It isn’t a bad thing but merely something that has to be kept in mind. As he may be a little delayed in turning pro which given needing some time to work on the rough edges of his game may end up being a good thing in the long run.
He’s listed at 5-foot-8, he skates awkward, and he doesn’t look all that smooth and coordinated. His hockey sense is just fantastic, though. He’s an elite passer with the patience, anticipation and overall vision to make unique passes seem routine. I’ve seen him hover around the zone, waiting out options as defenses scramble to figure out what play he’s going to make. Brink has very impressive hands and a good shot, too, but what will get him to the pros is his ability to make plays. He competes and even killed penalties at the junior level. What may hold him back is his skating. He moves with a weird stutter in his stride, and his feet flail.
Brink will take a little longer than some of the other top prospects in this draft to get to his ceiling but that ceiling is exciting. Centres are more often the driving forces on their lines at the next level but Brink’s ability to win back pucks with his stick, get open and break teams down tactically once he has it is a joy to watch. There’s a risk in everyone outside the top-12 in this year’s draft but the reward on a player like Brink is a dynamic puck-handling winger who can involve his teammates when the player is there or do it himself when they are not.