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New Calgary Flames prospect Hunter Brzustewicz could a steal in the Elias Lindholm trade
By Ryan Pike20 days ago
The Calgary Flames made a trade on Wednesday night, swapping pending unrestricted free agent centre Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks in return for five assets: forward Andrei Kuzmenko, a 2024 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick, Finnish blueliner Joni Jurmo and offensive-minded Kitchener Rangers defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz.
Based on the scouting reports, Brzustewicz may be the steal of this trade when all is said and done.
A product of Washington Township, Michigan, Brzustewicz (pronounced “Brew-Stehv-itch”) is listed at 6’0″ and 190 pounds, and he’s a right shot defenceman. A November 2004 birthday, he was selected in the third round of the 2023 NHL Draft by the Canucks. (His younger brother Henry is in his first season in the OHL with the London Knights.)
Brzustewicz has had a really interesting progression through the hockey world. He grew up in the Detroit area, and played several seasons in some local programs, eventually spending his 16 and 17-year-old seasons in the United States National Development Program system. (He captured a silver medal with Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships in 2022.) He was a sought-after NCAA recruit, but he ended up signing with the Kitchener Rangers instead.
In his 18-year-old (draft eligible) 2022-23 season, he had 6 goals and 57 points in 68 games for the Rangers. So far this season, he’s become even more dangerous offensively, with 8 goals and 69 points in 47 games so far this season.
There are a few things we really like about Brzustewicz’s profile. First off, we love that he has a high level of all-around skills. Brzustewicz is a capable defender, a good skater, has a decent shot and sees the ice well. He doesn’t have a weakness in his game and happens to play a position of value as a right-shot defenceman.
A good way of describing Brzustewicz’s puck-moving ability is to say that he is deceptive with his passes. He does an excellent job looking off a defender in the offensive zone or at times just making a no-look pass that often lands directly on a teammate’s stick in a dangerous position.
Dobber Prospects’ Cedrick Blais-Turcotte had this assessment back in October:
Despite finishing eighth in points among all defensemen in the OHL last year (57 points), Brzustewicz was initially projected to be a second-round pick. However, he ultimately fell to the 75th pick in the draft. Past injuries and inconsistent performance were the primary factors contributing to this drop in the draft. In the first five games of this season, Brzustewicz has been on fire, recording two goals and five assists. He has a real opportunity to become an outstanding offensive defenseman in the NHL if he can improve his consistency.
Austin Broad of Future Considerations wrote this prior to the 2023 NHL Draft:
An elite offensive defender, Brzustewicz can drive play from the backend like no other draft eligible from the OHL. His two-way game needs some work, but his ability to create offense and run Kitchener’s powerplay make him an entertaining player that garners eyes every time he steps on the ice. At the very least he is going to be a specialist and put up points, but if he can improve his defensive game I think he can be a mainstay in the NHL for a long time.
When we broke down the Flames’ defensive depth chart a few days ago, it became pretty apparent how stark the Flames’ depth was in that position. Yeah, the Flames had Jeremie Poirier and Etienne Morin as offensive options, and Yan Kuznetsov and Ilya Solovyov as potential shutdown bodies, but they needed more.
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Well, Brzustewicz is more. He’s having a heck of a season and he’s found a bit more consistency in his game than he had this time last year. If he can keep improving, he could turn into a really exciting young player at the pro level.
Right now, Wednesday’s transaction is known as The Lindholm Trade, and it’ll probably be called that for awhile. But the way this young blueliner is trending, it may end up being called The Brzustewicz Trade when all is said and done.
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