Though he’d seen his stock rise leading up to the 2015 draft, Jake DeBrusk was supposed to be a late first-round pick who was years away from making the NHL. That’s what he the scouting reports said, and that’s the path he came to expect.
“I kind of thought I was going to be a two-to-three-year [wait] for the NHL; that was my projection and what I was told anyways,” DeBrusk said Wednesday.
As it turned out, DeBrusk ended up being the second left wing drafted when the Bruins selected him 14th overall, ahead of higher-billed prospects. So what happens to one’s expectations for their development when they’re told they’re one thing and end up being another? Do they expect they’ll reach the NHL sooner? Do they expect they’ll be better?
These kind of questions are interesting in the case of DeBrusk, as he is now entering his second training camp. Assuming he doesn’t make the Bruins, he is eligible to play in the AHL. This is now officially his job, and the days of making a quick impression and then heading back to junior for the year are over.
“[Last year’s camp] was one of those things where I just wanted to learn as much as possible and things like that,” he said. “Now it’s [still] learning, but it’s one of those things where I feel I’m striving for a job and I’m motivated to do it.“
DeBrusk was not happy with last year’s training camp, one that saw him flunk his conditioning test along with fellow first-round picks Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn. He was realistic in thinking he wasn’t expected to make the team, but he came away disappointed in what he showed the Bruins.
“I kind of thought last year, just try to get maybe into a game or things like that, but I didn’t know how the process worked or anything like that. It shell-shocked me, to be honest,” DeBrusk said. “It didn’t go so well and that’s one of the things I learned a lot from. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes as much as your wins.”
Now, after a WHL season that saw him miss time due to injury and get traded, DeBrusk wants to leave the Bruins with a difficult decision when it comes to roster cuts. He was more than a point-a-game player last season after his trade to Red Deer, putting up 56 points (20 goals, 36 points) in 54 games. He’s also bulked up to 187 pounds after aiming to finish the summer close to 190.
The most likely destination for DeBrusk is Providence, but the B’s failing in their efforts to get left wing Jimmy Vesey leaves the door open a crack that he could steal a job. With the CHL-NHL transfer agreement no longer blocking him from being a pro, DeBrusk is glad that he’s not in an all-or-nothing situation, but his primary objective is to show he’s closer to the NHL than people thought he’d be at this point.
“Even with the [rookie] games, I felt way more comfortable and just back to myself,” DeBrusk said. “That’s when things are going good, and that’s the best kind of hockey I play, is when I’m feeling like this. I’m just looking forward to continuing it on and strive for that Bruins squad.”
And that’s how you write about a guy without mentioning his testicles once.