Brisson, Silver Knights readying for big second half |

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

Brendan Brisson took in plenty of high-stakes hockey in 2023, when he was a “black ace” with the Vegas Golden Knights on the way to their first Stanley Cup championship.

Now, as the calendar turns to 2024 and the AHL season quickly approaches its midpoint, the Henderson Silver Knights forward is gearing up for a playoff run of his own.

The pursuer in 2022-23, the Silver Knights are now the pursued. A 6-15-0-1 start eventually doomed the club’s season a year ago. The Silver Knights managed to make something of a second-half push, but they came up six points shy of a playoff berth. This year’s team won seven of its first nine games and remains in the thick of the Pacific Division race entering January.

An offseason overhaul included bringing in head coach Ryan Craig, who had been an assistant with Vegas for the previous six campaigns. In came Adam Cracknell, Grigori Denisenko, Tyler Benson and 2023 Calder Cup winner Mason Morelli as part of a rather significant roster makeover.

And the 22-year-old Brisson is being looked to for a greater role in year two.

The Silver Knights sit one point out of third place in the Pacific as they welcome San Diego to the Dollar Loan Center tonight. The top seven clubs in the division will make the postseason cut, and currently just six points separate sixth-place Henderson from division-leading Calgary.

“All-around it’s just been unreal this year,” said Brisson, who has totaled nine goals and 13 assists in 32 contests. “I’m looking forward to the second half of the season here [to] keep getting better and keep winning games.”

Vegas made Brisson a first-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, but pressure and navigating the highest levels of the hockey world are hardly new to him: His father is Pat Brisson, one of the top hockey agents in the industry and someone with a superstar list of NHL clients to match. Brendan also spent two seasons playing at the University of Michigan, and represented the United States at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

After producing 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 38 games and reaching the Frozen Four in 2022, it was time to turn pro. Brisson headed off to Henderson for a late-season cameo, collecting eight points in seven games to begin his pro career. Then came last season, and while the Silver Knights struggled, Brisson did not, tallying 37 points in 58 games as a rookie.

Brisson’s second pro season has gone to plan. He is tied for second in team scoring and is an important part of a Henderson power play that has clicked at 19.5 percent (26-for-133).

Brisson has also meshed well with his new coach, who immediately joined Vegas in 2017 after retiring from a playing career that included captaining the Lake Erie Monsters to a Calder Cup title.

“You look at his history,” Brisson said of Craig, “and he’s been a leader everywhere. You don’t really see too many guys retire from their playing career and go behind the bench in the NHL right away. He knows how it works up in the NHL, so he’s been doing a really good job of making sure we’re all prepared for how it’s going to be.”

Craig’s task, along with Brisson’s, is to round out the top prospect’s two-way game. Brisson’s touch with and without the puck in the offensive zone is what has taken him this far. Solidifying his work across the ice is what will take him into a full-time NHL role.

That aim has meant a lot of video work. Away from the puck, how can his positioning and support help to create opportunities that can open up his offensive play?

The work had already started to pay off last season. Thirteen of Brisson’s 18 goals came in the second half as the Silver Knights fought for a playoff berth.

“A lot of that came from me being better away from the puck,” Brisson said.

Someone like Craig, an industrious, grinding forward during his own playing days, is a particularly good fit for this project. He managed to play 198 NHL games of his own after being an eighth-round draft pick.

“I feel like we were maybe different players,” Brisson continued, “but a lot of the things that I need to get better on or that I need to keep working on is stuff that he was really good at when he was playing. He’s easy to talk to about that because he lived it, he played it, and in the NHL for six years as a coach he taught it, so it’s pretty easy to him.”

Couple that success with an up-close look last spring at how the Golden Knights conduct their business, and Brisson had a clear objective going into training camp this fall.

“I wanted to show that I’m not just an offensive player,” Brisson explained. “I can do other things. Vegas and the way they play, it’s not like a lot of other teams. It’s very detail-oriented and a lot of play without the puck, wall battles, and the little things.”

And certainly, time around a Stanley Cup run made the need that much clearer.

“It was unbelievable,” Brisson said of being with Vegas. “Just going to the rink, you see those guys get ready for the playoffs, get ready for the games, get ready for practice. Everything matters. Just to see how much detail and effort and work all those guys are putting in the playoffs, it’s great to see and be around.

“Even just going to all the games and really watching everything live, is something you don’t really get to do unless you were part of that black ace squad. I learned a lot. What it takes to win in the playoffs, what it takes to win in the NHL, and ultimately what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.”

Brisson can continue to put those lessons to work now.

“I think [the second half is] the best part of the season,” Brisson said. “This year I think we’re ready for it, and there’s not a team in the league we can’t play with.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button