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  • Justin Brazeau emerging into pivotal roles during the Bruins’ home stretch

    Tim Rosenthal March 20, 2024

    Every player’s journey to the NHL becomes unique in and of itself. Few took the unorthodox route to the big leagues like Justin Brazeau.

    Brazeau hardly received notoriety, even after tallying an eye-opening 113 points in 68 games during his final season with North Bay of the OHL in 2018-19. With very few suitors lining up for his services, the undrafted product landed in Newfoundland, the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to begin his professional hockey season in 2019-20.

    His stint between Newfoundland and the AHL Toronto Marlies ended following the 2021 pandemic-shortened season. Another stint between the ECHL and AHL — this time involving the Bruins’ affiliates in Providence and Maine — followed.

    Eventually, Brazeau graduated from the ECHL ranks into a full-time role with the Baby B’s in 2022-23. After his first full year down I-95, Brazeau’s net-front traits and blue-collar skillset drew Jim Montgomery’s attention during his second Boston training camp.

    “In training camp, I remember saying that he’s like a poor man’s Dave Andreychuk,” Montgomery said of Brazeau. “He seems to get to every puck below the goal line. He makes subtle, little smart plays. And you saw his ability. He has a nice touch.”

    Montgomery’s comparison may come across as a stretch. But he highlighted all of Brazeau’s strengths to a T.

    While he didn’t reap immediate benefits following a productive training camp, Brazeau picked up where he left off from his 45-point campaign in 2022-23.

    Within a few months, Brazeau’s development into a rugged, offensive-minded power forward came to fruition. On Feb. 18, the 26-year-old winger finally earned his first NHL contract, signing a two-year, two-way contract with an annual $775,000 cap hit.


    Brazeau made his storybook debut the following day against Dallas in a fourth-line role. He made an immediate impact, notching his first career goal to help his squad secure a needed win ahead of their four-game West Coast trip.


    His production may have taken a bit of a hit during his time on Boston’s bottom-six. But his puck possession attributes and effective checking game along the front of the net provided the Bruins with an element they long coveted during their transitional centennial campaign.

    “I think I’m just getting confidence every game I play,” Brazeau said. “I think the league almost slows down a bit when you get that confidence, and you can make plays with pucks yourself.”

    Brazeau isn’t only making plays. He’s also affecting outcomes in ways that don’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet.

    “He has been very consistent, I felt,” Montgomery said. “There’s only one game where I was not happy with his play to the standard that he’s shown us.”

    Montgomery didn’t recall the specific game where Brazeau encountered his first setback. The blip didn’t hinder Brazeau’s standing in Boston’s lineup.

    Brazeau appeared in every game since his promotion from Providence. Over the last month, he’s seen his duties increase from fourth-line grinder to a net-front role on the secondary power play unit and occasional stints on the middle six.

    “We thought eventually, if situations arose, that he might get there because he’s a really good net-front power play guy in the American League,” Montgomery said of Brazeau’s presence on Boston’s second man-advantage unit. “You can see why. He screens well, he deflects pucks, and he can make little plays in tight. His hockey sense and his offensive acumen is really good in those areas.”

    The Bruins witnessed Brazeau’s net-front habits again on Tuesday. They only generated two power-play chances against the lowly Senators. Still, they made the most of their limited opportunities, with Brazeau crashing the net twice to tally his first career NHL multi-goal performance.

    “I’ve done it my whole career and my whole life,” Brazeau said of his work along the crease. “So that’s where I feel the most comfortable, and that’s where I like to go.”

    Brazeau’s feel-good story resonates quite well with a passionate fanbase.

    Brazeau could’ve called it quits after four seasons full of twists and turns in the minor leagues. Instead, he persevered and finally got to realize his dream.

    Within the last few weeks, Brazeau provided multiple timely contributions at a pivotal point of the season. That means something for a player who admittingly hasn’t seen much teamwide success during his junior and pro hockey career.

    In turn, Brazeau transitioned from an NHL longshot into a potential nightly regular ahead of his first potential postseason experience.

    “It’s a lot of fun,” Brazeau said. “I haven’t played too much winning hockey. So it’s nice to be a part of it and hopefully to continue to be a part of it down the stretch here.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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