The numbers alone were enough to convince Anaheim that left winger Brayden Tracey was a worthwhile first-round selection at 29th overall in 2019. After all, Tracey scored 81 points, including 36 goals, in 66 games as a rookie with WHL Moose Jaw.
The Ducks saw more when they scouted the 18-year-old Calgary native, though. Much more. His skills were difficult to miss, of course, and it was easy to project him as a standout NHL player once he physically matures. Scouting and drafting are inexact sciences, to be sure, but what the Ducks liked most about Tracey was his high hockey IQ, his ability to anticipate what’s coming next on the ice and his capacity to make things happen.
Tracey returned to Moose Jaw after attending the Ducks’ training camp, and Anaheim expects him to spend the season there, honing his skills and developing. But it’s anticipated he’ll be in Anaheim sooner than later. “When you scout junior or college games, you see guys scoring and dominating a lot of times because they’re bigger and stronger,” said Todd Marchant, the Ducks’ director of player development. “When you get to the NHL, everybody’s big and strong.”
So why do the Ducks believe Tracey can be a difference-maker at the NHL level? “It’s hard for us to teach hockey sense,” Marchant said. “You either have it or you don’t. We can help develop your skills. We can help you get bigger and stronger. Hockey is a read-and-react game. Other sports, you see more set plays. We don’t have that in our sport.”
The Ducks are waiting and watching to see if Tracey takes the next steps in his career. The team is in the midst of a turnover, and they expect Tracey – and several other top prospects – to form the next core group of the roster as the franchise attempts to regain elite status in the NHL. “He’s a quiet kid, kind of shy,” Marchant said. “But get him on the ice and put a puck in front of him and things change.” – Elliott Teaford