It’s a bit strange to think that Bryce Van Brabant has only played two fewer NHL games than Emile Poirier. Think about that for a second, it seems… impossible, especially given the fact that Poirier has 44 more AHL points than him (in only three more games).
However, let’s cast our minds back into the deep, dark recesses of the 2013-14 Flames season. There we will find the answer as to how he was able play a few games for the Flames given his ultra-low NCAA profile. In fact, we have a video of his first NHL shift after the jump.
Oh, also, we will discuss how he did this season in Stockton. But you should read just to see this kid’s first linemates.
I know this has nothing to do with Van Brabant’s season but yikes, doesn’t this feel like a century ago? Rob Kerr? Kevin Westgarth? Chris Butler (#44) who played 82 freaking games that year?! Did that all really happen? I cannot believe that was only two years ago. Wow.
Anywho, that was a part of BvB’s brief six-game stint with the Flames which saw him register no points, four shots, two penalty minutes, and a minus-one rating. After that, Van Brabant has spent the past two full seasons in the AHL without a subsequent call up. Van Brabant is also a pending restricted free agent this summer, so keep that in mind as we look at how his season went.
This past season, Van Brabant registered seven goals and nine assists in 62 games for the Heat, one of only five Stockton players to play 60 or more games this season (Hamilton, Poirier, Elson, and Agostino were the others). BvB’s 16 points was an improvement, by a single point, over his first full professional season when he scored 15 points, so we aren’t exactly talking about Mike Bossy here today.
Somewhat concerning is the fact that Van Brabant managed to be a team-worst minus-21 this season. I fully understand that you, the readers, are all very cool and very smart and understand that plus/minus is hockey stat Nickelback, but that strikes me as… sub-optimal.
I am not exactly sure if counting numbers matter a great deal in reference to BvB, as the Flames decided to sign him despite being seventh on Quinnipiac in scoring that season. Regardless, as was mentioned in the twitchy video above, Bryce has the distinct honour of being the first player from his university to play in the NHL, which is genuinely cool and something I would lord over all my classmates forever (and I’m sure he does/will).
The most important numbers for BvB are these: 6’3, 210. That’s the key to his game now and his ticket to getting a call up in the future. Van Brabant is a rugged, physical forward who isn’t entirely hopeless with the puck but won’t be featured in many future GoPro ads.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Again, I must stress, Van Brabant’s value to the Flames, if they consider there to still be some, is his ability to play a physical, up-tempo game in a bottom six role. In the games that I watched Stockton play this season, Van Brabant was certainly noticeable, often in scrums in front of the net and was able to generate scoring chances from his strong play on the wall.
Have a look at how his shot and primary point totals stacked up against players from his peer group in Stockton:
Worryingly, if you’re a fan of the BvB, fellow impending-RFA Tuner Elson (who is one year younger than Van Brabant) outperformed Bryce in both shots/game and primary points/game, outscoring BvB by 14 points total this season in just one more game played. For his efforts, Elson was rewarded with a last-game call to the big club while Van Brabant was left clinging to the memory of his time spent with… *shudder* Kevin Westgarth as a winger.
Van Brabant has three inches and about 20 pounds on Elson, but that’s about it. Both Elson and Van Brabant are geared towards bottom six roles and if the Flames were only going to choose one of them, you’d have to think it’d be Elson at this point. I would be very surprised if the Flames didn’t offer a deal to either player.
But who knows? Perhaps the Flames are hoping Van Brabant can become a leader for the Heat and is rewarded with another deal. The Flames will need capable AHL bodies to have around, and BvB’s size would make him a suitable alternative to the Colton Orrs of the world in terms of physical intimidation. However, with or without a deal this summer, I would guess that Van Brabant’s shot at becoming a full-time NHLer is nearing a close.