What’s better than winning the NCAA National Championship? Leading the nation in scoring with 57 points in 41 games while doing so. That’s exactly what Bobby "Orr" Brink did this season prior to signing his entry-level contract this week.
Not too bad for a guy some called too small for the college level.
Now set to make his NHL debut, Brink is looking to show Philadelphia Flyers fans what kind of impact he can make as they wrap up the season. Coming off an impressive season with the University of Denver, Brink is ready for the next level.
Standing just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, Brink is undoubtedly undersized for what NHL teams look for in a player but he has proven at every level from the USHL to NCAA that he has the ability to play the game at a high level. His ability to analyze the play in the offensive zone allows him to be a step ahead of the play. Brink is a playmaker at heart who uses his ability to analyze to tactically strike the opposing defense with passes threaded through tight windows or spring a teammate into space.
The NCAA’s leading scorer doesn’t come without flaws, though. Brink's mobility is limited a bit because of a skating stride that could use some work from a technical aspect. A big part of these end-of-season cameos for college players is to give them a taste of NHL action to show them what they need to work on heading into their true rookie season. Brink’s takeaway will likely be that he needs to work on his skating a bit over the summer because, despite the effort not being an issue, his underwhelming mobility often leads to looping turns or being a step or two behind in a puck race.
This isn’t to say that Brink won’t be effective for the Flyers towards the end of the season. In fact, it’s meant to illustrate that whatever impact he does wind up having in the next couple of weeks should be seen as a preview to an improved version of Brink that we could see next fall. Brink brings a lot of elements to the game that should allow him to make an offensive impact this year, improved skating will only make him more dangerous next season.
The first team all-American practiced on the second line and top power-play unit, which is an excellent sign. A player of Brink’s skill level and play style is a much better fit in a top-six role. Having players that are capable of finishing plays Brink sets up with his vision and soft-touch passing ability. At the current stage of Brink’s career, having players capable of moving the puck up ice as a puck carrier will also be a benefit as Brink is an intelligent bumper player and passer in the neutral zone, he still has room to grow as a puck transporter.
The power play could be where Brink truly thrives in the final ten games of the year. Brink sees the ice in a way not many players do. His willingness to alter his frame when passing, be it passing off balance or utilizing the backhand, gives him a difference-making attribute as a setup man with the man advantage.
At 5-on-5, Brink can be equally dangerous. He consistently looks to deceive opposing defensemen by looking them off his intended passing target akin to an NFL quarterback looking off a safety. The Hobey Baker finalist is calculated and in control when the puck is on his stick with his mind constantly on what the next chess move he needs to make is.
Brink is an anticipatory defensive player in his own end. He translates his play reading ability from the offensive game to the defensive game. He keeps his body on the right side of the puck and looks to break up passes and get in lanes, looking to recover the puck and find a teammate for a quick and efficient breakout. As with any undersized player, Brink will need to continue getting stronger for physical battles along the boards but with his 21st birthday coming this summer, there is plenty of runway for that to happen.
The reality of the situation in Philadelphia is that the Flyers aren’t in a position to challenge for a playoff spot as the season winds down. This makes it an excellent environment to allow young players like Brink -- as well as Cam York, Owen Tippett, and Noah Cates -- to get some much-needed NHL experience as well as the rope to make mistakes and not worry about being put in the dog house. The forgiveness that young players need at times when they are trying to get a footing in the NHL can often be hard to come by on a winning team. They need to take advantage of the unfortunate season that they’ve experienced.
At the end of the day, Brink had nothing left to prove in college. The Flyers’ second-round pick in 2019 was a national champion, Hobey Baker finalist, led the country in scoring, and collected a number of other end-of-year awards and honors. He's ready to take the next step in his hockey career.
One could say that he’s on the Brink of being an impact NHLer.