There is a New Jersey Devils rookie taking the NHL by storm, and it’s not Nico Hischier. Jesper Bratt has burst onto the scene early in the NHL season and is making a name for himself. At the beginning of every NHL season, one of the best things to do is watch the rookies. Hockey fans are eager to get a glimpse of players who they hope are part of the future of their franchise. For fans of the New Jersey Devils, the rookie they wanted to see was Nico Hischier. The Swiss star was selected first overall and had put on an impressive performance at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships. Now, Devils fans may be coming out to see Bratt.
The Unlikely Rise of Jesper Bratt
In the summer, I wrote the season preview for the New Jersey Devils. When trying to determine the team’s line combinations, Jesper Bratt’s name did not come up. Now three games into his NHL career, the Devils forward has six points and looks to have earned a permanent spot on the big club. So exactly who is Jesper Bratt?
Before the NHL
Bratt is from Stockholm, Sweden and played his hockey for AIK IF hockey club. Prior to his NHL draft year, Bratt put up 17 points in 48 games. While the numbers do not jump off the page, Bratt achieved those numbers at the age of 17, playing in the top hockey league in Sweden.
The New Jersey Devils selected Bratt 162nd overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft. Bratt returned to AIK IF after being drafted. He recorded 22 points in 46 games and ranked 7th on the team in scoring. In fact, he wasn’t even the highest scoring 18-year-old on his team. Fredrik Karlstorm, a 2016 third round pick of the Dallas Stars, had 24 points in 45 games. Not even the top young star on his own team, it may not come as a surprise that Bratt failed to make Sweden’s roster for the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships.
With below average numbers and a failed attempt at cracking Sweden’s World Junior team, it was hard to see Bratt cracking the team. The London Knights selected him 43rd in the CHL import draft. Most thought he would spend the season in the OHL continuing to develop.
However, the Bratt buzz started early, even in London. He appeared in just one pre-season game for the Knights, scoring one goal with a plus-three rating. Next was prospect camp, where Bratt made headlines with a highlight reel goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bratt hype continued into the main camp, with many covering the team suggesting the young Swede had an outside shot of making the team. He lived up to the praise in the pre-season, recording two goals and two assists. His consistency earned him a spot on the opening night roster for the Devils.
How unlikely was it for Bratt to appear in the NHL? Very unlikely.
— Uffe Bodin (@UffeBodin) October 7, 2017
Becoming the lowest drafted teenager to play in the NHL since 1995 shows how remarkable Bratt’s sudden rise has been. Since making the squad, Bratt has done nothing but impress. He has recorded at least a point in all three games he has played in and has two multi-point games. His three-point game came in a big Devils win in his first ever road game. He has played over 16 minutes in every game and seen time on the power play. He hasn’t just made the team, he is establishing himself as an important player. Coming into the season, New Jersey appeared to lack young talent up front. It appears the Devils has found a group of young forwards like Bratt, Hischeir, and 2015 first round pick Pavel Zacha who can grow together.
The story of Jesper Brett is something out of a movie. The long shot draft pick who no one thought could make the team, proving everyone wrong. For fans, seeing all the young talent is one of the best things about the start of the NHL season. The hockey world is starting to realize what Jesper Bratt can do.