Hockey is a physically demanding sport and size can be an important factor in determining a player's success. However, skill is something that cannot be ignored just because a player lacks the typical size one would expect. Many current players like Brian Gionta, Martin St. Louis, and Daniel Briere have carved out long careers of varying success despite being on the short side. For what they lack in size, players can make up in talent, athleticism, and hockey IQ. I believe when drafting a player it's important to look at their track record and how they have performed at the lower levels. To state the obvious, players that have success scoring at the lower levels will be more likely to have success at the pro level than players who never scored much at the lower levels. Brayden Point may be 5'9" but has put up just over a point per game in 144 WHL regular season games mainly as a 16 and 17 year old. Results like that are too impressive to ignore due to concerns about his size.
Who is Brayden Point?
Brayden Point is an undersized Center for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. Elite Prospects list Point at 5'9" and 161 pounds. His WHL profile has him at 5'9" and 160 pounds. While he may be small, he has been a consistent offensive threat at every level he's played at from Bantam to Major Junior hockey. Check out his stats from Elite Prospects:
As you can see from the stats above, Point has been a key part of the Moose Jaw offense. This past season he led his team in every offensive category by decent margin. He finished 13th in assists in the WHL with 55, which was 8 less than Devils prospect Graham Black. If you go back to 2012-13, his first season in the WHL, Point finished 4th in rookie scoring, just behind highly touted 2014 draft prospect, Leon Draisaitl. His +/- rating (-27 last season, -15 the year before) may seem really weak but it's notable that every goalie for Moose Jaw has had a sub .900 SV% the past 2 seasons (2013-14, 2012-13), suggesting that the +/- ratings for the Moose Jaw players are a bit misleading.
When evaluating a prospect, I find it interesting to take a look at their splits to get some insight into how they were utilized and in what situations they excelled. Looking at Point's 2 full WHL seasons below, it is clear that while he was a threat on the power play, he also was efficient at even strength. This past season Point was a 1.26 points per game player and a 0.74 EV points per game player which is important as the majority of a hockey game occurs at even strength. His size, or lack thereof, certainly hasn't hindered him as a junior hockey player.
|Age (as of 2/1)
Point also has some quality international experience. He was tied for 5th in scoring for Canada Pacific at the U17's in 2012-13, earning a silver medal. He earned MVP honors for his gold medal game performance for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August. Recently he competed for Canada at the U18's but only had 2 assists in 4 games before suffering a minor upper body injury. He did earn a bronze medal for his troubles.
What Others Have Said About Brayden Point
Future Considerations had this to say about Point in August 2013:
Point is a spark-plug who plays bigger than his size suggests. He's got a strong work ethic and a motor that doesn't stop. He can play 200 feet, is strong on the draw and shows loads of grit. He makes smart passes and has impressive vision. He's more of a playmaker but can finish, too.
Though this was written prior to the 2013-14 season, the video below will show this report to still be accurate. It's encouraging to read that he has a strong work ethic which helps him against physically stronger competition as well as keep him motivated to keep honing his craft. Having impressive vision is a great asset and would be really welcome to a Devils prospect group that lacks high end upside for the most part.
Red Line Report had this on Point after the CHL Top Prospect Game in January 2014:
Worked well offensively, showing speed and excellent puck control. Made plays off the rush at top gear. Small but elusive, and able to slip through small cracks and duck under pressure. His fine work created Team Orr's third goal, as he made a nice solo dash up ice and snapped off a low wrister that left a rebound Ho-Sang was able to deposit.
Once again another glowing report on Point. Usually I am hesitant to take away too much from showcase game viewings but this seems to fall in line with the other opinions on Point.
Buzzing the Net's profile on Point showcases his confident attitude and gives insight into who he models his game after:
"I’ve heard people doubt me because of my size my whole life," says Point, who turns 18 in March. "I remember they used to say I wouldn’t be able to keep on scoring like I was once I hit the hitting level. Then I didn’t slow down so people would say bantam, then midget and now my next step is the NHL. I don’t let it bother me – it’s more just motivation."
Point isn’t the first undersized skilled forward to come out of Moose Jaw. Former 50-goal scorer Theoren Fleury – who retired at 5-foot-6, 180-pounds – spent his junior days in a Warriors sweater. Although Fleury’s accomplishments do inspire Point, he sees Buffalo Sabres centre Tyler Ennis – who stands 5-foot-9, 169-pounds – as his role model of choice.
I like the way Point comes across in this interview. He seems to be able to take criticism and turn it into fuel to better himself. He seems like a positive person that looks more towards what he can achieve rather than get caught up in people doubting him and bringing him down.
For McKeen's Hockey, Brendan Ross recently wrote this on Point in his draft blog:
He’s not an overly flashy player but he’s very intelligent and has an ability to make accurate instinctual reads in all three zones. Point is quick to jump on loose pucks showing good puck skills and a finisher’s touch around the net. He’s a relentless forechecker and owns all of offensive elements you want in an undersized forward – elusiveness, competitiveness, good puck skills and tremendous patience under pressure.
Point really seems to have impressed a lot of people in the scouting community throughout the year which suggests that he is skilled and consistent. Intelligence, can play in all 3 zones, and can finish around the net - no wonder he put up a ton of points this season and improved his draft stock.
Amongst the various rankings Point is the 31st ranked North American skater by Central Scouting and 17th ranked prospect by TSN's Craig Button.
A Little Video
Here is a highlight package of Point from this past WHL season:
The video mainly features his goals with some assists mixed in but you can see the type of offensive skills Point brings. He looks to drive play and pass to his teammates but isn't afraid to go hard to the net to follow the play, as shown in the 1st goal in the video. He's a smart player that can read the opposition and slip in behind defenders to create scoring opportunities. Point showcases his elusiveness and playmaking skills in numerous clips. For a small guy, I liked the way he battled to get into scoring positions and how well he controlled the puck.
Here is Brayden Point getting to know Devils prospect Graham Black from this past season:
An Opinion of Sorts
Point represents the type of prospect that I hope the Devils target early in the draft - a forward with high end skill. If he was a few inches taller, I think there would be no doubt that he would be selected in the 1st round. There seems to be a strong chance that he will be available at #30 and perhaps even #41. He has the skill set and track record to suggests there is a strong chance he will go on to be a successful pro.
The Devils are lacking offensive quality amongst the forward group for their prospects, outside the likes of Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau, in my opinion. I tend to give Graham Black some leeway given the health issues he's had to overcome, but the fact remains his impressive season came as one of the oldest players in the WHL. I'll need to see what he does in the AHL next year before I have more faith in him. Ben Johnson had an underrated year, racking up even strength points, but doesn't project as much of an offensive threat as a pro. Ryan Kujawinski still has plenty of time to develop and has a lot of talent but can he stay injury free and develop that? Ben Thomson and Myles Bell are going pro but I wouldn't be surprised if their ceiling ends up being 4th liner/career AHL'er. I'm a fan of both Blake Coleman and Blake Pietila but they don't have that high end offensive upside a prospect like Point has. Alexander Kerfoot is a bit like Kujawinski in my opinion since he has plenty of time to develop but has had to battle injuries. I'd personally be surprised if Artur Gavrus ever plays in North America again. Finally, Miles Wood hasn't even committed to playing college over prep hockey for his age 19 season yet.
In the end, I wouldn't be opposed to taking Point at 30 if he's available. His size doesn't scare me off and I think the Devils could use the injection of talent into their prospect pool.
Now that you've read this profile, what's your opinion of Brayden Point as a prospect? Does his small stature make you skeptical that he can reach his potential? Would you be satisfied if the Devils selected him if he was available at #30 or #41? Please leave your thoughts below in the comments. Thank you for reading.