SportsNet- It’s literally been decades since we’ve seen a player get selected in the sixth round of the entry draft one year and make his NHL debut the next – at least until the 19-year-old winger stormed on the scene with the New Jersey Devils these last few weeks.
While we might easily point to Bratt’s size (five foot 10, 175 pounds) or his circumstances (playing in Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier league) as reasons for why he was previously overlooked, the teenager points at himself.
He readily admits that he struggled with focus and preparation in the past. He would get anxious and overthink things. There was very little consistency in his play.
“Last year was a pretty tough year for me,” Bratt said in an interview. “It was tough for me to be confident on the ice and I was always nervous before games. So I never performed at my highest level. I didn’t know how to make myself ready for the next day and that’s something that I worked on a lot this year to play on my highest level every night.”
Bratt credits the decision to start working with mental coach Andy Swärd as the moment where his potential was truly unlocked. Swärd’s client list includes athletes in various sports, including a handful of Swedish Hockey League goalies, and his message immediately resonated with a player who had scored just 14 goals in 94 games for AIK over two seasons.
“He makes me feel very comfortable,” said Bratt. “He’s a very well-known guy in Sweden. He’s a great guy and he’s one of the biggest reasons I’m standing here.”
Honestly, the only thing that makes less sense than a 6th round pick from a year ago making the roster and working his way up to the top half of it while amassing six points in the first three games of his career is that 6th round pick ever having dealt with a lack of confidence. It's straight from the workhorse's mouth so I guess I have no choice but to treat it as the truth, but before five minutes ago I would have been more likely to believe that Jesper Bratt had six nipples and a goddamn tail than a self esteem issue. The kid has been an absolute terror to each and every professional power play he has faced thus far, and he's one summer removed being unsure of himself?
Metaphorically speaking, going from being a role player in some random (bush) league in Sweden to taking the NHL by storm is the developmental equivalent of been a wallflower at homecoming to finger banging the hot chaperone in the middle of the dance floor at prom. Assuming puberty didn't just randomly hit him about 4 years too late, this unforeseen boost in big dick syndrome is radically uncharacteristic of any 175 pound Swede.
Now, all the credit goes to Jesper Bratt for having the endless potential that needed to be unlocked like throwback uniforms in a video game, but who is this goddamn gatekeeper and why is not already employed full-time by the Devils? Pretty sure the 18 year old first overall pick who - for the first time in his young career - looked mildly overwhelmed last night could benefit from the services of Andy Sward and his mental wizardry. Shit, Jesper Bratt basically became Henrik Zetterberg overnight so who is to say that this Swedish witch doctor couldn't tap into Nico Hischier's inner-Pavel Datsyuk after 5 minutes on a leather couch? I've been pushing for Damon Severson to start playing like his proverbial nuts dropped for years now, and we're just going to leave hockey's Mr. Miyagi coaching up players who are destined for SKA (KHL) when the S-K-Y is apparently the limit in New Jersey?! The guy who made the following play happen was apparently sitting in some 8 square foot locker room cringing at the idea of touching the puck a year ago. They better get his shrink to the states so this team can blow up, and I mean STAT(S)...