Brayden Tracey was undoubtedly one of the most impressive rookies in the CHL this season. He joined Moose Jaw for the playoffs in 2018, but only played five games. However, he returned to the Warriors as a new and improved player in the fall. Tracey led all CHL rookies in scoring with 81 points in 66 games, won the WHL Rookie of the Year award, and is a finalist for the CHL Rookie of the Year.
Tracey finished the season with more points than fellow CHL forwards Kirby Dach and Peyton Krebs, and only had three less points than Dylan Cozens. All three of those players are projected to go in the top 10 in June. So why isn’t Tracey higher on scouts’ draft rankings?
It seems like the majority of scouts believe Tracey’s point production was a by-product of his linemates. Tracey spent the majority of his major junior season playing with veteran linemates Justin Almeida (PIT) and Tristin Langan (undrafted). As he adjusted to the increased competition in the WHL, Tracey put up a respectable 14 goals and 38 points in his first 34 games of the season.
Entering 2019, his point production accelerated. He began looking more comfortable and confident playing with Almeida and Langan, shot the puck more, and put up an additional 22 goals and 43 points in the remaining 32 games of the season. Tracey finished the season in a three-way tie for the WHL lead in game-winning goals with 11.
Although it may seem like Tracey was dependent on his linemates for offense (only one of his even-strength points was generated without them on the ice), he proved that he could keep up with Almeida and Langan as a first-year major junior player. Not only could he keep up with them, but Tracey was able to flourish alongside them — whether it was feeding them passes, or finishing off plays himself.
The major issue for Tracey here is that Almeida and Langan have aged out of the WHL. The linemates who have contributed to Tracey’s success won’t be around next year when he returns to Moose Jaw. For a player who had 80 of his 81 points generated with Almeida and Langan on the ice, it remains to be seen how Tracey’s point totals will fluctuate without them. However, his skill-set points towards him being able to recover and succeed without them.
Moose Jaw’s season ended with a first-round playoff exit, which allowed Tracey to suit up for Team Canada at the U-18s. Tracey was a force at the tournament (I wrote about it here), a scoring machine on the man-advantage, and surprised many by putting up four goals and seven points in seven games as Canada finished fourth.
Vision and Puck Control
Tracey is an excellent possession player who uses his long stick and frame to protect the puck. His passes have tricked more than a few WHL goalies and defenders this season. He likes to fake the shot and feed his teammates with clean, crisp passes from anywhere. Like his passes, Tracey’s shot is deceptive. He has an effective, heavy wrister that he can change the angle on to fool goalies, but he can also unleash a wicked one-timer from the high slot on the powerplay.
Tracey’s excellent positioning is in large part due to his strong hockey sense and smooth skating. Quick, shifty, and powerful acceleration when he needs it, Tracey skates about as fast as he thinks. His ability to find the open areas of the ice and expose the undefended spaces allow him to score from pretty much anywhere on the ice. Whether it’s from the slot, at the top of the circle, or down low fighting for pucks in the crease, Tracey is unafraid to change up where he produces offense from and is a very versatile scorer as a result.
Although Tracey may seem like a one-dimensional player, he can actually adapt to any system and any role he’s given fairly easily. Tracey’s offense is complementary, meaning he doesn’t have much difficulty helping his teammates put up points and adjusting to different linemates - something that will serve him well next season.
With Almeida off to the pros and Langan too old for junior hockey, it will be up to Tracey to drive offense for the Warriors next season. Whichever linemates he ends up with, he’s proven to be an offensive catalyst this season and will have to prove he can continue to produce with anyone. He did a better job in the second half of the season of not deferring to Almeida and Langan, but he’ll need to take further steps to lead the Warriors offensively.
Height is not the issue here, but Tracey will need to add some more muscle to his 176-pound frame if he wants to be more competitive in battles along the boards, especially once he graduates from junior hockey.
Like any offense-first player, the defensive part of Tracey’s game tends to take a backseat. He’s a reliable back-checker and unafraid to help defensively, but he wasn’t relied on to do that while playing with Almeida and Langan. The Warriors will need Tracey to become more defensively responsible and pay more attention to details when he doesn’t have the puck on his stick.
If a team were to take Tracey in the first round, it probably wouldn’t be sooner than 25th overall. It’s more likely that, despite his showing at the U-18s, Tracey lands somewhere in the early to mid-second round. At the moment, the Colorado Avalanche are slated to pick 47th overall (though that could easily change depending on draft-day trades), which is pretty much exactly where Tracey should go.
Other Scouting Reports
“Solidly built winger who is confident in his carries in the high traffic, and had a 36 goal 81 point season. He is not the finished product and he needs to become a higher pace 60 minute player. Light on his skates and edges, he finds the soft areas and is opportunistic in tracking down rebounds, like he was built to be a greasy area scorer. His rookie WHL season is one where he has excelled with no fear failure. Will need time to round out is development, but clearly his name has been rising on draft boards.” [Draft Site]
“We don’t have him as high as a lot of the lists I’ve seen him on,” said one scout. “That being said, if you go by his tools, he warrants being this high. He’s able to put up numbers, and his skill is really good. Really good. I find he needs other players to do the work for him, if you’re going to be that kind of player, you’d better put numbers on the board, and he does.” [The Hockey News]
“As far as draft eligible forwards go from the WHL, Brayden Tracey might be the best at adjusting to linemates, filling gaps, and playing the system. His individual skills might not top the charts but it’s hard to ignore the type of numbers he is putting up.” [Dobber Prospects]
Other Scouting Reports: