TJ Brodie just continues to exceed expectations.
The fact that he’s even made it to the NHL as a 4th round pick is nothing short of amazing. Well, not only is Brodie an NHLer – but lately he’s been playing his way into top-pairing status.
While we at FlamesNation have always been bullish on Brodie and his chances at an NHL career, I don’t think I ever would’ve guessed Brodie would be playing top-pair minutes at any point in the future. Regardless if he played on the top pairing post-Bouwmeester because of necessity or ability (a little of both), the fact that he didn’t look completely overwhelmed is a good sign.
The underlying numbers don’t quite line up with the visual evaluation, but as we explored in Brodie’s WOWY that’s likely more to do with his moving up and down the lineup more than everything else skill-wise. We’ll probably be able to take a little more from next year’s results, as his role should stabilize a little. That said, he has led the Flames blueline in possession over the last two seasons. In his rookie year, the difference between Brodie on and off the ice in terms of team-wide shot differential was one of the widest in the league.
Personally, I think Brodie’s best skill/asset is his calm skating. His feet are calm and he takes long strides. He also has great first pass ability – I’d bet many of the Flames’ controlled zone entries down the stretch were started by Brodie’s stick. We know for a fact that Brodie’s scoring chance numbers were unreal the entire season. Games where he out chanced the opposition by a wide margin – even when much of the team was underwater – were the norm, not the exception.
He also has some offensive upside, but that’s started to take a back seat to the defensive game ever since he arrived in Abbotsford. He’ll probably be used on the 1st PP unit next year though – at the very least, his PP time will increase sans Bouwmeester – so that’ll be a good place for him to collect some more points.
It’s hard to say where Brodie will eventually settle in. Every time I try to pin down Brodie’s ceiling, he just blows past it. Last year, I said he’d top out at a #3 PP-QB. The year before that, I thought 4/5. Year before that, I thought him to be a good bottom pairing guy. This year? I’m saying a 30-point #2 guy.
This year, he finishes ahead of Sven Baertschi simply because he showed more this season at the NHL level. Really, the two are pretty much interchangeable depending on what you value more – a first line winger or a top-pairing defender. Hell, I had Sven 1st until like last 5 games of the season.
The Flames’ current prospect pool is probably underwhelming to most fans, simply because of the lack of high-end ability. Sure, many of the prospects here are going to top out at 3rd liners or 5th defensemen (maybe) – but those guys are important. Having a good bottom half of the roster gives you more opportunity to shelter the top half, which leads to better results. There’s a lot of guys with two-way, tough-minutes potential here.
Hopefully, the Flames can add to their number of high-end prospects tomorrow.