Considering their only other picks in the draft were in the fifth and seventh rounds, there was a lot of weight on the Penguins’ shoulders when they selected Tristan Broz with the 58th overall pick.
Hockey operations were evidently very confident in their decision. In a year where many prospects struggled to find ice, the Fargo Force forward played 63 total games en route to the Clark Cup Final –
Director of Player Personnel Chris Pryor described to the official team website the thought process behind picking Broz:
“We had a number of viewings on him from a number of people on our staff, so that was advantageous for us. We felt we knew the player pretty well.”
He actually fell nine picks from where the DobberProspects scouting team had him ranked.
In our Final Rankings, Head of North American Scouting Nick Richard said,
“He plays an intelligent and refined offensive game, lurking around the offensive zone to support the play and make himself available in dangerous areas. Broz’s creative playmaking stands out as he can complete difficult passes through layers.”
Upon my first viewings of Broz, I very much agree with that evaluation.
The University of Minnesota commit is tremendously effective on the cycle. He seems to always be aware of where his teammates are on the ice and is able to consistently cut apart defenses with quick, crip passes. Broz possesses great puck skills and uses them to create space for himself.
This is how he generates the majority of his offense – setting up camp on the wall and looking for passes into the slot. Exhibit A:
Even at even strength, when Broz was on the ice the Force liked to set up in the offensive zone and move the puck around. His poise on the puck was key to their ability to suffocate teams’ defense, reflected in his 51.14% even-strength goals-for percentage (Pick224).
Although he is more of a playmaker, Broz does show an ability to finish plays. Although, most of his goals were on half-empty nets and on breakaways.
The main concern that arose when I reviewed the tape on Broz was a proclivity to stick to the perimeter of the offensive zone. It is possible that this was a tactical choice, given how effective he can be quarterbacking play from in deep.
He has the vision to compensate for it, at least at the USHL level. He was even able to create offense on the rush without driving to the net:
However, a tendency to stay away from the high-danger areas of the ice is still concerning. Looking into his advanced stats on Pick224, he did show a lack of ability to drive play.
Although he had the sixth-best points-per-game amongst first-time draft eligibles, around a third of his points were secondary assists. This is mildly concerning but it is worth noting he was the Force’s top scorer, so most of their offense was flowing through him.
During the few times, he did attack the defense head-on and push towards the net, he used his hands to create separation between his man.
His quick hands and creativity on the puck are the keys to his game. He showed flashes of elite skill throughout the year when he was given the time on the puck:
However, he did not consistently show an ability to get to the net using his hands and doesn’t currently possess the explosive skating or physicality to get past defenders, either. Those will likely be the areas the Penguins will have him working on in Minnesota.
The NCAA will be a perfect place for his development considering he’ll be playing against players in their twenties. He will have to learn to play the game with more pace and learn to use his body to shield the puck or he may struggle to adjust.
There is a chance his raw ability and hockey IQ will take him all the way to the NHL, but just imagine how more he will be able to dictate play with a more well-rounded offensive toolkit.
I like this pick from the Penguins. It was indicative of a desire to draft players with the highest ceiling and trust the development program to get him there – which has worked wonders for Pittsburgh in the past.
The Penguins love the college route for their prospects and aren’t afraid to let them stay an extra year or two to really marinate. At the University of Minnesota, he will be part of one of the NCAA’s finest programs and play with fellow USHL stars Chaz Lucius and Matthew Knies.
Although the prospect pool remains shallow in Pittsburgh, Broz’s presence adds another player who has the potential to provide secondary scoring and play on the powerplay – along with Sam Poulin, Nathan Legare, and recently re-acquired Filip Hallander.
Although I have identified some areas in need of improvement for Broz, they are skills that are easily improved with hard work and proper mentoring. The raw skill and read of the game he already possesses are much harder to teach.
Follow Kyle on Twitter @kyle_nw