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Golden Knights select Brendan Brisson in first round of NHL draft

Updated October 7, 2020 - 6:31 am

DEER LODGE, Mont. — Brendan Brisson grew up with a front-row seat watching how some of hockey’s biggest stars honed their craft.

Whether it was Nathan MacKinnon shooting 500 pucks after a workout or Sidney Crosby training during the offseason, those experiences taught Brisson what it takes to make it in the NHL.

“It really wears off on you as a kid,” said Brisson, whose father, Pat, is one of the pre-eminent agents in hockey. “You kind of look up to them as superheroes.”

Brisson had his own moment in the spotlight Tuesday when the Golden Knights selected the skilled forward 29th overall in the first round of the NHL draft.

The New York Rangers nabbed left wing Alexis Lafreniere at No. 1 overall.

The draft continues with the second through seventh rounds Wednesday. The Knights, who set up their war room at owner Bill Foley’s Rock Creek Cattle Company, have picks No. 68 (third round), No. 91 (third round), No. 184 (sixth round) and No. 215 (seventh round).

“One of the thing that excites us is just his trajectory,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said of Brisson. “He’s really shown improvement over the two years when our staff, who their job is to project who’s going to be the best players three to five years from now, they’re really excited about how high his ceiling will be.”

Brisson’s father represents several other star players in addition to MacKinnon and Crosby. His client list includes Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault and Nicolas Roy.

Brisson, who turns 19 on Oct. 22, is a freshman at Michigan and held his draft party in a meeting room at Michigan Stadium with his Wolverines teammates and close family members.

“When I heard my name selected by Vegas, the Knights, I don’t even know the words that can describe the way I felt,” Brisson said. “Honestly, my whole body went numb. I’m looking forward to waking up next morning, getting better and hopefully become a Golden Knight, wear the Golden Knight uniform soon.”

Brisson grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, and is the fifth player from the state to be taken in the first round since 2007.

Brisson attended powerhouse prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota, but Knights assistant director of player personnel Bob Lowes noted that Brisson wasn’t a “special player” at that point.

“He was good, but just continued to get better,” Lowes said.

Last season, Brisson played juniors for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League and skated with several top prospects.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 179-pounder led all first-year, draft-eligible players in the USHL with 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) and helped the Steel run away with the conference lead before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also was the top scorer at the Junior A Challenge in December with 12 points in six games for Team USA.

“He has the scoring ability as well as playmaking ability. He drives offense,” Lowes said. “When the game is on the line, he really puts his game to another level, and he’s a difference maker.”

Brisson was ranked No. 20 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and is listed as a center, though McCrimmon said he plays primarily on the wing.

He is part of a loaded freshman class at Michigan and will be in no rush to turn pro. The Knights retain his rights for four years.

Michigan will begin its season as early as Nov. 13, the Big Ten announced Tuesday.

The Knights had Brisson ranked in the top half of the first round on their draft board despite concerns about his skating, and McCrimmon said he also entertained offers to trade down.

However, teams selecting in the 20s went well off the board in at least two instances — notably Shakir Mukhamadullin to New Jersey and Yegor Chinakhov to Columbus — allowing Brisson to fall to the Knights.

“We had some picks that helped us get to the point where we picked a player that we had ranked considerably higher,” McCrimmon said. “That part was positive.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.