If I was asked to identify a sleeper prospect in the Flames organization, I’d probably choose T.J. Brodie. A fourth round pick in 2008, I knew next to nothing about Brodie before watching him in his first Flames rookie training camp (one that featured a rookie tounament between Oilers, Canucks and Flames kids).To tell the truth, I wasn’t even really looking for him on the ice when camp began.
He managed to impress the hell out of me during that limited viewing. Highly mobile, Smart and poised with the puck, Brodie stood out almost every every shift of the exhibition games I saw. He instantly jumped to the head of the line of Flames prospects, at least in my estimation. He justified my admiration the very next season, scoring 12 goals and 50 points in just 63 games for the Saginaw Spirit, a 20 point improvement over his draft season.
That was 2008-09. This year, Brodie began the season as the Spirits #1 defender and scored at a better than point-per-game pace through the first 19 games (4 goals, 23 points). At that point he was acquired by Bryan Cameron’s Barrie Colts and took on a more defensive role with his new club. That didn’t stop him from posting career best totals in terms of assists (49), points (55) and plus/minus by the end of the year though (+33). For the second straight year, Brodie finished inside the top 10 in OHL scoring by defenders, this time finishing sixth.
For more qualitative information on Brodie, I once again called on Brock Otten to share some of his observations.
1.) Brodie has been amongst the OHL defensive scoring leaders the last couple of seasons. Why do you think he lasted until the fourth round in 2008?
Kent, the answer to this question probably lies with the reasoning any draft player falls to a certain degree. I’m not an NHL scout, so I’m really not sure of the answer. In his draft season, Saginaw had a really solid team that also included two other top quality draft prospects on the blueline; Adam Comrie and Nick Crawford. Brodie doesn’t have ideal size for an NHL blueliner and he’s come a long way defensively in his time in the league. Maybe there were concerns over the type of role he’d play at the next level? Could have been a lack of exposure too. His draft season was really his OHL rookie season. Maybe scouts hadn’t gotten a good enough read on him?
2.) On a related topic, Brodie seemed to take a big step forward after his draft season. Was it simply a matter of an increased role or was it more maturation/improvement?
I don’t really think it was an increased role. He was already playing a pretty large role in Saginaw his draft season. I think it was more a case of maturation as you mentioned. Stronger, better conditioning. Playing in his 2nd full OHL season, he probably had an increased self confidence too, which allowed him to take more chances offensively in order to put up better numbers.
3.) Brodie is listed at just 173 pounds. Do you think he’ll have to bulk up in order to be an NHL defender?
In order to be a successful NHL defender, absolutely. Brodie is a quality two way defender and is intelligent, but in order to handle forwards off the rush and along the boards, he’s going to need to bulk up a bit. Hopefully that doesn’t negatively affect his skating and mobility.
4.) Originally considered an "offensive defenseman" with issues in his own end, Brodie is actually a +50 over his junior career, including a +33 rating this season. Were there incremental improvements in his defensive play over the years as the stats suggest?
Oh yeah. For sure. Brodie is now a very capable two way defender. In Barrie, he actually took on more of a "defensive" role, thus the decreased offensive production after transferring to a better team. He’s learned to use his mobility defensively and is solid in defending off the rush. He anticipates the play really well too and gets his stick in passing lanes. The best thing about Brodie’s defensive play is how quickly he can turn a defensive struggle into an offensive breakout. His acceleration and puck presence under pressure is very good and this allows him to skate out of trouble. Quite often he’ll win a loose puck battle in his own zone and skate it out, rather than just use the chip play. That’s a valuable skill to have in your defenseman, especially with how quick the NHL game has become.
5.) Brodie impressed me with his mobility and poise with the puck when I saw him during a Flames training camp. Are those his greatest strengths?
Yeah, I’d say so. Just like I mentioned above, he’s an excellent piece in the transition game and is able to get the puck up ice very quickly whether it by carrying or by pass.
6.) What would you identify as his weaknesses?
I’d say for him to work on his shot from the point in order to help him become a more rounded offensive player. He actually scores a lot of his goals by jumping up in the rush or by dropping down low in the offensive zone. He needs to work on getting it to the net consistently and increasing the velocity on it. Defensively, he’ll need to get bigger and tougher in front of the net to handle NHL forwards. He’s not a bad defender in coverage, but there’s always some room for improvement.
7.) What do you see his potential role in the NHL as? Third pairing PP guy? Second pairing all around defender?
I’d say second pairing all around defender. I’m not as sure his offensive production carries over to the NHL as much you’d hope, but he could develop into a dependable two way guy. I’m not one for comparisons, but there are a lot of parallels (from what I remember) between Brodie now and when Jordan Leopold was about to break into the Calgary Flames system. Hopefully, Brodie turns into a more consistent player than Leopold did.
Thanks again to Otten. His OHL Prospects blog is a must-read, especially at this time of year.
Although the Flames have a number of notable defensive prospects (Pelech, Erixon, Seabrook, Negrin), Brodie has some of the best overall junior stats amongst them and has a development line with a steady upwards slope. He’ll no doubt make his professional debut in Abbotsford next year where we’ll get a better read on whether his lack of size/bulk are legitimate concerns or not.