The United States Hockey League has become one of the top developmental leagues in the world. With their first round selection, the Calgary Flames could end up taking a player they’re rather familiar with: Sioux City Musketeers winger Bobby Brink.
One of the youngest players in the entire draft class – he doesn’t turn 18 until July – Brink is a speedy, offensively-minded right handed winger. He’s been playing alongside Flames 2018 fourth round selection Martin Pospisil for much of the past year and so the Flames have likely seen a ton of him this season.
A product of the machine that is Minnesota high school hockey, Brink has been a steady points producer at every level he’s been at and managed to do so without being particularly big – he’s listed as 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. He was a point-per-game player as a 15-year-old and scored at well over that rate as a 16-year-old.
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects provides a good snapshot of Brink’s overall game:
After feasting on the USHL competition this season, Brink was the lone non-NTDP addition to the American squad that the World U18 Championships. He’s looked dangerous alongside Matt Boldy and Alex Turcotte at even strength. Brink finds soft spaces and makes the opposition pay in a hurry. Can read the play quicker than most and boasts the vision and release to act as a dual threat. An elite brain. On the flip side, he owns an ugly stride that lacks quickness or impressive top-end speed. He’ll need to place immense focus on that skill or risks falling behind when he levels up to the professional ranks. He’s off to the University of Denver in the fall.
If you get a chance, Sam Happi at DraftGeek did a great detailed breakdown of what makes Brink so effective in the USHL:
Bobby Brink is a highly skilled player. He can manipulate the puck and make plays in ways that most players cannot. All players, but especially immensely talented players like Brink, are at their best when they have options with the puck. If one of these skilled players only has two options, that’s only two ways that they can put that skill to use.
Happi noted that while Brink is teeny-tiny and is likely prone to losing puck battles because of his stature, he’s also a smart enough player that he picks his battles really well and his hockey sense and intelligence helps his team all over the ice.
In his first full USHL campaign, Brink devoured the competition. Playing on a team that really had one strong line – Brink with Pospisil and 2019 draft prospect Marcus Kallionkelli – Brink was the Musketeers’ best offensive threat on a consistent basis. He was fourth in the USHL in points (second among his age group) and second in goals (first in his age group). At five on five, he was tied for first in goals, led the league in primary points, and was third in total points. On a per-game basis, he was third in points in all situations (behind Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte) and at even strength he was third in goals and primary points behind Turcotte and Cole Caufield).
It’s worth repeating: the players that he trailed offensively all played on the powerhouse U.S. National Development Team. All due respect, but Brink played on the much less stacked Sioux City Musketeers and still put up eye-popping offensive numbers.
Availability and fit
The good news for the Flames is that, aside from size, Brink hits all of the team’s boxes. He’s smart. He’s competitive. He’s an offensive-minded right shot player who’s not a liability in his own end. He’s pretty close to exactly what the team is looking for at this point, and they potentially feel like they know his game inside and out due to him playing so much with Pospisil.
On the other hand, there’s a pretty decent chance he doesn’t make it to 26th overall based on a quick skim of the various draft rankings: ISS has him 21st, Dobber Prospects has him 13th, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 43rd, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 24th, Sportsnet has him outside the first round, The Athletic has him 23rd and 14th, and The Hockey News has him 27th.
But if Brink slides to 26th overall, the Flames should grab him. He’s committed to the University of Denver so he won’t be around right away, but the extra time playing against big-bodied college players (and the lighter college schedule) should help him prepare for the physical rigors of pro hockey.