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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Flames Trade Targets: Jake DeBrusk

Welcome to FlamesNation’s “2021 Flames Trade Targets” series, in which our team of writers will take a look at some of the players around the league in need of a change of scenery or rumoured to be on the market.

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft changed the league in many different ways.

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Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel went first and second overall, respectively, to two franchises in desperate need of a turnaround. (Five years later, despite Eichel’s best efforts, Buffalo is still looking).

The Calgary Flames entered the day with the 15th selection in the first round but eventually traded it to land Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Carolina selected Noah Hanifin with the fifth-overall pick but ended up trading him three years later to land Dougie Hamilton from Calgary. Time is a flat circle.

After acquiring pick 13 from Los Angeles (in exchange for future Flame Milan Lucic) and pick 15 from Calgary, the Bruins—who entered the day already with pick 14—set their sights on three players to select in consecutive fashion. Onlookers speculated wildly as to which prospects Boston could nab with its three-straight firsts, leading to this forever-enduring tweet from former CanucksArmy editor Rhys Jessop.

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They did not.

Instead, the Bruins selected Jakob Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn. Barzal went to the New York Islanders at the 16th slot; Connor, to Winnipeg at 17. Kylington fell all the way to Calgary at 60.

At this point, those draft day narratives are nothing if not water under the bridge. Zboril, DeBrusk, and Senyshyn all remain members of the Bruins organization to this day. Senyshyn looks to be turning into a good AHL goal-scorer; Zboril spent the majority of the season playing on Boston’s bottom pairing.

DeBrusk has experienced the most success wearing the spoked “B” on his chest. He’s played 244 games with the Bruins over the past four seasons, scoring 67 goals and 134 points in that span. DeBrusk also has 16 goals and 25 points in 52 playoff games, including two goals in three contests against the Washington Capitals this year.

Prior to the 2020–21 campaign, DeBrusk had posted seasons of 16, 27, and 19 goals in the NHL. He scored just five goals in 41 games this year and saw his shot output decrease from 2.48 per game in 2019–20 to 2.24.

Evolving-Hockey assessed DeBrusk’s play as being worth 16.3, 12.3, and 8.2 Goals Above Replacement in his first three campaigns. In 2020–21, that figure dropped to -0.3 GAR. After averaging over 16 minutes a night in each of the last two seasons, DeBrusk saw just 14:54 per night this past year and was made a healthy scratch on multiple occasions.

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On May 6, DeBrusk spoke to the Boston media about the weight placed on his shoulders as a result of his underwhelming production.

“I’ve been struggling. It’s not fun when you’re struggling,” DeBrusk said. “You try to find little positives and things like that and move on from there. It’s not the end of the world. Obviously, I’d like to do a lot more with what I can do, but at the same time, it obviously hasn’t been meant for me. I understand that my time will come. Like I said earlier, just trying to stay positive. But yeah, the game’s not fun when you’re struggling, man.”

Despite his underwhelming boxcar stats (five goals, seven assists, 12 points), DeBrusk’s underlying numbers remained strong and there’s evidence to suggest he might rebound if given a bigger opportunity.

In 2019–20, he ranked fifth on the Bruins with 1.65 points-per-60 at even strength; this past year, he placed ninth with 1.32. He averaged 0.72 individual expected goals-per-60, slightly down from 0.75 in 2019–20.

DeBrusk is currently in the first season of a two-year extension he signed with the Bruins in November 2020. He’ll earn $4.85 million next year against a $3.675 cap hit.

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The son of former Edmonton Oilers tough guy Louie DeBrusk, Jake hails from the Albertan capital and, in the same media availability, spoke about the importance of his father in guiding him through the NHL.

“I lean on my dad a lot,” he said. “I don’t really lean on too many people outside the game. It’s one of those things where you’re in isolation anyways. There’s lots of people here in the organization. My teammates obviously have been the one’s kind of keeping me going here, so it’s one of those things where you want to do it for them in the room.”

DeBrusk missed two weeks earlier this season while on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. He’s also suffered multiple concussions in his career, including as a result of the hit in the 2019 playoffs that ultimately ended Nazem Kadri’s Toronto Maple Leafs career.

DeBrusk will turn 25 in October and is set to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022. He shoots left, stands six feet tall, and weighs 188 pounds.

What might the Bruins seek in a DeBrusk trade? It’s hard to say. Boston fired the second-most shots at even strength in the NHL this season and allowed the third-fewest. They’re a strong team at all positions.

They also have Nick Ritchie and Brandon Carlo as pending RFAs. David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Mike Reilly, and Sean Kuraly are among Boston’s most notable UFAs in need of new deals. Boston might be able to benefit by moving DeBrusk’s $3.675 million cap-hit for futures if it means they can clear room to extend Hall, for instance.

What, if anything, would you offer the Bruins for Jake DeBrusk? Sound off in the comments!