A tale of two seasons — Jesper Bratt was able to get over an early slump to become one of the New Jersey Devils’ top forwards.
The soon-to-be 22-year-old, who just finished up his third year in the NHL, was used up and down the lineup to begin the season and, somewhat understandably, had a rough going. He recorded just 16 points through his first 40 games.
Nonetheless, it soon became clear that Bratt was a player who benefitted greatly from the firing of John Hynes. After the head coach’s departure, Bratt improved across the board.
He still experienced some struggles and was actually benched in February for inconsistent play. But overall, he turned it all around upon his return to the lineup.
His most productive part of the season came towards the campaign’s conclusion, as he recorded 16 points in his final 20 games. Throughout that span, he shared a line with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev and his CF%, which measures how much a team is controlling the puck, increased to 48.89%. Bratt also averaged 2.35 points per 60 minutes, a mark that actually led the squad.
Surprisingly, this line ended up becoming one of the team’s top offensive threats. In total, Bratt recorded 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 60 games throughout the 2019-20 campaign. He set a career-high in goals and was on pace to set a career-high in points before the season came to a halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Bratt wasn’t always consistent and struggled at times. But overall, his season can be labeled a success. He showed marked progress while the season went on, and that allowed him to finish the year as one of the better forwards within the organization.
He’s a good shooter and his 9.6 goals above replacement were good for third on the team. His performance has shown that the offensive skill is there and that he just needs to work on his consistency.
Bratt even improved defensively as well. He’s struggled in those regards for much of his career — his numbers are mostly in the negative — but was actually one of the team’s best forwards on that end this past year.
Now that the team’s season has concluded, the Devils must figure out what they’re going to do with Bratt, who’s a restricted free agent. There’s room to grow, but he’s proven to be one of the pieces the team should build around if New Jersey hopes to contend in the near future.
What’s most impressive about Bratt is that he’s improved year upon year, so he should be great next season if the trend continues. An example of that: we mentioned that his GAR was good for third on the team this year, which was an improvement from 11th during the 2018-19 campaign.
He’s undeniably earned top-six minutes for next season. Not giving a young, potential top-six two-way winger a good deal is ill-advised.
All in all, it looks like it’s only up from here for the young Swede.