With the postseason just a few weeks away in the NHL, teams began shopping for unsigned undrafted free agents that developed later in life but have now made an impression.
Many of these players evolve at a universal level, but another player is starting to turn heads as he remains unsigned.
Six-foot-six right winger Justin Brazeau, who weighs 226 pounds and wear skates size 16, has become the main attraction. Playing for the North Bay Batallion in the OHL, he is the captain of the team and dominates the league with a record of 61 goals and 52 assists for a total of 113 points in 68 games.
According to insiders Nick Kypreos and Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet, 6 or 7 NHL teams have had an eye on him. However, it is believed that some teams are hesitant seeing that he isn’t the quicker skater due to his size and could only be dominating now in the junior ranks at 21 years old. The kid has definitely improved; in four years in junior ranks, he went for six goals to 22, then to 39 tallies and now he has 61 goals.
His head coach Stan Butler simply does not know that any NHL team has yet to sign Brazeau to an entry contract.
It is believed that the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vegas Golden Knights are among the teams interested in Brazeau’s services. Here is what Friedman had to say about the giant winger in his latest 31 Thoughts column on Sportsnet:
“The CHL playoffs are getting underway, and one series that will be getting NHL attention is Niagara-North Bay. The underdog Battalion feature an intriguing prospect, undrafted Justin Brazeau. The 21-year-old right-winger scored 61 goals in 68 games, just missing Nick Kypreos’s 62 from 1985-86. “I shut him down in the third period the last few games,” North Bay head coach and GM Stan Butler laughed Tuesday. “I didn’t want him to break Kypreos’s record.”
Brazeau is a big man. Six-foot-six, but a great athlete. Butler, given an opportunity to wax poetic on behalf of his player, launched into a filibuster so good he should be a Member of Parliament. “I don’t know why an NHL team hasn’t signed him,” he said. “It’s starting to concern me, I’m shocked it hasn’t happened.”
One of the problems as he sees it is that Brazeau comes from New Liskeard, Ont., a small town (now amalgamated into Timiskaming Shores) that is a six-hour drive northwest of Ottawa. “You know the theory about it taking 10,000 hours to perfect something?” Butler asks, referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. “Well, Brazeau is 2,000 hours behind any kid from Southern Ontario. He didn’t take power skating, didn’t have a skills coach, none of that stuff. But he’s improved every year, from six goals to 22 to 39 to 61. He’s a great athlete. People can say he’s not a great skater, but he can get from A to B. Just because he’s not pretty because he wears size 16 skates doesn’t mean he’s bad. I know the game is fast, but there is still room for a tall, skilled player.”
Butler also brought up Mark Giordano. “Calgary took a chance on him at age 20, for what, a $25,000 signing bonus? What’s the difference? If you’re going to gamble on an NCAA player at 24, why not this guy at 21?” Several teams will go see Brazeau, and Butler says he’s made a few calls on the player’s behalf. Columbus and Vegas are believed to be among those interested.”