If we had done this review a year ago, Chris Breen probably would have placed a lot higher on the list. A free agent signing out of the OHL, the towering 6’7" defender became a favorite of then coach Jim Playfair. The big guy was a top-two defender for the Heat under Playfair and was consistently singled out by the bench boss as a kid who was close to make the jump to the big league.
I was always pretty suspicious of those claims myself. Despite being a huge defender (who wasn’t merely a goon) Breen was somehow unsigned and undrafted coming out of his junior career. A guy with that sort of size has to have a least one significant fault for scouts to ignore him so completely.
And he does. Like many other big guys, Breen has problems getting around the ice. His skating and mobility are very real issues, obvious as soon as you slap eyes on him in either practice or game action. He also has limited offensive acumen and isn’t a great puck handler either.
New Abby coach Troy Ward was obviously less enamored of Breen than his predecessor because of these issues and the sophomore tumbled down the depth chart this year as a result. Of course, it didn’t help the kid that the organization signed a whole bunch of capable veteran types last summer, including Clay Wilson, Derek Smith, Brett Carson and Jordan Henry.
*Reminder – The evaluators were asked to rank players, and we sorted the rankings via a simple point scale-number 15 on each list got one point, while number 1 on each list got 15. The criteria for who was included was pretty simple: players the Flames control who are 23 and under (excluding Mikael Backlund, since he’s already a bona fide NHLer).
Corey Pronman also ranked Breen in the top-15, giving him just enough points by this method to squeak in. Of course, there’s a better than even chance Breen will be bumped out once the club chooses a few worthwhile kids in the upcoming draft.
Because he will turn 23 in June, has no offense to speak of and can’t get around the ice efficiently, Breen’s ceiling is strictly limited to depth defender/injury call-up. Obviously his size is a boon to some degree, but the game tends to favor swift defenders with vision and puck skills at the highest levels these days.
Rewind 10-15 years and Breen probably would have had a brighter future ahead of him.