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Grade the Players: Following a breakout year, Jake DeBrusk’s season fell just a little short

A steady increase in dependence didn’t yield a stronger performance from the 24-year-old forward.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B-

I don’t think any of us are looking for Jake DeBrusk to score ALL the goals. That’s David Pastrnak’s job.

What we SHOULD have expected from DeBrusk was a return to form from the Cup run in 2019, and perhaps to round out his game a little and return to even his rookie form, a season that saw him score 43 points.

Different that year was how he got to such a total: with sheltered ice time and 27 assists. The Cup run season saw similar totals but in the total inverse, where he scored 27 goals en route to 42 points. The virus-shortened season saw him again trending much higher on goals than assists.

So, where is his game supposed to fall? Either extreme, or somewhere in the middle? That’s still a question mark, and one that his play should have been able to answer in an RFA contract year.

Three years on, and it’s now no secret that David Krejci’s right wing is never going to exist. DeBrusk is now expected to be a source of “depth” scoring (in quotes because he’s technically still on the most offensively-minded line on the team).

He can create his own chances, but tends to capitalize on good bounces or bad plays by the opposing team rather than being a reliable pass recipient from DK46, or tends to create turnovers and turn play to the attack on his own.

In fact, you’ll see in his highlight reel at the end of this post that he had many different contributors other than Krejci. He also has a veeerrry tiny office in front of the opposing goalie, and he finds success when he’s sliding through that space uncovered, not planted there like the ghost of Tomas Holmstrom.

This heatmap shows where DeBrusk was expected to score his goals. It held mostly true.

Where there’s been a change in expectations from coaching staff is his defensive zone starts. DeBrusk does take particular joy in being a competitive player, and it shows in his tenacity at the circle. He wants the puck, and does work hard to try and get it.

His other upside is his success on the man advantage, scoring seven in this shortened year. If these aren’t enough to get you to enjoy him as a player, he also had multiple game-winning goals through the regular season and added another playoff GWG for one in each of the last three years. And that SPEED. Man, I wish I had young legs like that again.

Honestly, it’s hard to consider what is the right next step for DeBrusk.

He is still 24; he has the drive and playing style to stay effective, but can he really be more effective? He’s been a consistently productive player throughout his young career... it just isn’t at a lead-player level. They’ve tried him on other lines as “the guy who drives the line” occasionally, with little effect.

It might have been a B+ had he been closer to his prior year total, even as a percentage based on the truncated regular season.

Show Your Work

Jake shows his work better than I could describe, really.
Goal #2 - though it looks a little lazy, he’s the one who makes the initial poke check for Heinen to collect, and Jake settled backwards into the perfect spot to rip it. Impact? Well... they were already crushing the Senators.
- Two sharp-angle, sneaky goals
- Three deflections in front
- Two crease-top jam-ins
- Toss in a couple breakaways for good measure, and that’s a solid highlight reel!


How would you grade Jake DeBrusk?

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