A former first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection Draft, Brett Harrison is a player scouts have had their eyes on for a long time. A big body that can play down the middle of the ice, Harrison is a kid that brings a ton to the table but has scouts shying away from a first-round grade because of a perceived lack of speed.
What makes Harrison so intriguing as a prospect is that he has all the tools to be an impact player in the NHL—if he is able to strengthen his skating just a little bit. He’s one of the youngest players in the draft and only recently started focusing on hockey full time. As a result, Harrison is more raw than others in the class, but he should be expected to have a steeper development curve than others drafted around him.
Expected to take a big jump this season in the OHL, Harrison is a prospect that has had his development de-railed by only playing a handful of games in the last year and a half. While he was likely working on his weaknesses, Harrison has not been able to show them off outside of a few games in Finland and the U18 world championship tournament.
He is a player who uses his strength and intelligence to score goals, create turnovers and play with an edge — there is a lot of Pierre-Luc Dubois in his game.
Harrison is going to be a big part on a very good Oshawa Generals team next season and is the type of player that is likely to fall into the 40 to 50 range in the draft and then instantly follow it up with a breakout season.
The most impactful tools in Harrison’s arsenal are his size and instincts. Nearly all of the 21 goals in Harrison’s rookie season came from right in front of the net, whether down low or in the high slot.
He is a player who uses his size to battle for position in front of the net while consistently putting himself in favorable positions to gain an advantage on defenders. Hovering around the slot, Harrison is always looking to find a hole to gain a little space to either accept a pass or crash the net when his linemate takes a shot.
Tyler Tullio ('20) picks up the loose puck, skates up the ice and completes a cross ice pass to Brett Harrison ('21). Harrison with a backhand shot goal. pic.twitter.com/vKb3UGGHJR— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 25, 2020
Harrison is a finisher that does his best while playing on the line with a pass-first playmaker. He uses his size to get open and has a great shot to finish off the play. While he scores a lot from close to the crease, Harrison has a knack for finishing on the move — particularly as the finisher on an odd-man rush or as the trailer in the high slot.
He has a deceptively strong shot that he can get away quickly from the slot. Combine that with a great rebound tracking ability and Harrison is the kind of net-front presence that greatly improves the efficacy of a playmaking winger.
Not only does Harrison score from in front of the net, that’s where 70% of his shots come from as well. He knows what his strengths are and doesn’t try to do too much in the offensive zone.
On top of the offensive ability, Harrison is a very strong two-way forward. You can see the strength of his hockey IQ on the defensive end as well. He is very strong positionally in his own zone, helping defenders down low and using his size and strength to disrupt and contain opponents on the cycle.
He can play both wing and center, but it’s his two-way capability and responsibility in the defensive zone that could lead him to be an effective middle-six center in the NHL.
The one thing preventing Harrison from being picked in the middle of the first round is a lack of speed. A slow first step can sometimes make it hard for him to lead the rush through the neutral zone. As a result, he’s not the strongest transition player, but the silver lining is it often allows him to be the trailing man on an odd-man rush — a position that allows him to take advantage of his great shot.
That said, he’s far from a weak skater. He is next to impossible to knock off the puck, and once he gets to his top speed, he is more than adequate going north/south. It’s the quickness and lateral movement that needs work. With the right developmental program, i’is something that can easily improve.
Having still not played a full season in junior, Harrison’s numbers — like most other CHLers in the draft — need to be taken with a grain of salt. After putting up a very nice goal total as a rookie in Oshawa, Harrison went over to Finland during the pandemic. Playing in its U20 league, Harrison was dominant through seven games before getting a very brief call up to the top league.
One of the youngest players in the draft, Harrison is going to take some time. He will go back to Oshawa to play another two seasons in junior before making the leap to the pro level.
Along with being very young, what sets Harrison up to have better development curve than many in the draft class is the fact that he has only recently started to train for hockey full time. Up until a few years ago, Harrison’s time was split between hockey and high-level baseball. Now focusing 100% of his attention on the ice, he is a player that could see a jump in his skill level — particularly as he matures physically.
He’s a smart player with the physical attributes and play style to be successful in the NHL. With dedication to getting quicker on the ice, there’s no reason to believe Harrison can’t turn into a very good middle-six forward down the road.
Where He’ll Be Drafted
Harrison is likely to hear his name called early on the second day of the draft. That said, given his projectable size and high potential ceiling, it’s conceivable that a good team could grab him late in the first round—particularly an organization that is confident in its development system and that can afford to wait on a potential home run pick.