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Brett Brochu is at the crossroads of Perseverance and Determination.
A small goalie with big dreams who won 32 games this past season for Dale Hunter’s London Knights, breaking John Vanbiesbrouck’s OHL record for rookies, and yet nobody called his name at the NHL draft two months ago.
There were 19 goalies picked, including Dylan Garand (Rangers, fourth round) and Devon Levi (Florida, seventh round), both at the Canadian world junior camp with Brochu. Also former Oiler Finnish goalie Jussi Markkanen’s son Juho (Los Angeles, fourth-round), born in Edmonton in 2002, got drafted. But crickets for Brochu.
Ottawa 67s Will Cranley (2.81 average, .894 save percentage in 21 games) but 6-foot-4 on a powerhouse team was picked by St. Louis Blues, while Brochu (2.40 avg, .919 save percentage in 42 games) but 5-foot-11 as a 17-year-old on a Knights’ team, got no love.
All Brochu has heard is he doesn’t fill enough of the net.
He does look a lot more like Nashville’s fine Juuse Saros than Dallas’s Big Ben Bishop, an inch under six feet and putting on 25 pounds of muscle this summer still only hits 176 on the scales. But this unsung teenager, a kid who was playing Junior C in Ontario before the Hunters (Dale and brother Mark) gave him a chance, has a legitimate shot at being one of the world championship goalies with Garand, Levi, Taylor Gauthier and Tristan Lennox all in the mix.
Brochu has never been part of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. He’s never played on their U17 or U18 teams internationally, but, “I know what I’m capable of, I guess it’s a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong.”
He fell into goaltending because he had no choice.
“I have five cousins, all boys, and I’m the second-youngest, so when we’d play I would always get thrown into net in road hockey. I fell in love with it. I’ve seen picture where I wasn’t wearing any chest protector, just the pads and gloves, though. I’m sure it didn’t feel great (shots),” he said.
“I feel bad for my parents (being a goalie). It’s expensive, but I loved getting new pads. Growing up we had a shed (by the house) with some synthetic ice. My dad would rip pucks at me. He never played hockey but he’s got some meat on him.”
Brett doesn’t, but he’s soldiering on.
“A lot of people have told me it (size) was why I didn’t get drafted,” said Brochu. “You can believe whatever you want. Maybe if I had done more and changed their (scouts’) minds more, if we had playoffs (cancelled). But I don’t see my size is an issue. Helps me be different than other goalies.
“I like watching Carter Hart, a lot. And Saros, he’s only five-foot-10 and a half. I love him. I watch a lot of smaller goalies to see how they are because I play the same style. I’m not 6-foot-8 like Bishop.”
Brochu is strong on his angles because of his size.
Again, he would like to be the average NHL goalie (6-foot-2), but he’s not.
And, Garand is only an inch over six feet and Levi exactly that height. So, not big.
But, Brochu didn’t get his dad or mom’s genes.
“In Grade 9, I was only five-feet tall. On draft day in the OHL I was 5-foot-7 and 115 pounds,” said Brochu, who was picked in the sixth round by London after playing minor-midget for Chatham-Kent, where he stole a ton of games with his acrobatics.
“The Knights goalie coach (Daren Machesney) really vouched for me.
“Growing up it’s always been a battle to get myself into certain situations … everyone’s told me I wouldn’t be able to play at higher levels because I was small or not good enough. I grew up a lot smaller than I am, even now. I was always five or six inches shorter than other guys.
“Actually my dad is 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds and my mom is 5-foot-8, not too small for a woman and my brother is over six-feet tall. What happened to me? Maybe I’m waiting on another inch. Five-11 is what it is, you only have one job and that’s to stop the puck.
“I was low 150s when I left London (March). When people come into the crease you can’t really hold your ground at that weight. My dad Mario owns fitness centres, so I had all the equipment to work out (pandemic). He’s always been on me to get in the gym, helps that he pushes me. I was lucky to have a gym.”
Brochu was just part of the goalie mix in London as an OHL rookie, a 17-year-old who had played Junior C in Ontario the year before.
“I got cut from four Junior B teams at home so I went to play in Dresden. That was a blessing in disguise, the age is up to 21 years old there,” he said. “It’s good to play wherever you play, doesn’t matter what level. If you do, somebody will notice you and the Hunters love watching hockey and they were watching me even it was Junior C.”
Last year in London, he was 32-6 with the Knights. He won 19 of his 20 starts in 2020 before the OHL season was scrapped because of COVID, with Hockey Canada finally noticing.
SUPERSTAR NOT COMING
Hockey Canada announced Thursday, Alexis Lafreniere will not be joining the team for the upcoming world juniors.
Team Canada was hoping the first overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft would be released by the New York Rangers for the tournament.
“After ongoing discussions with the New York Rangers, Hockey Canada has been informed that Alexis Lafrenière will not be released to represent Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton,” said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada senior vice president of national teams. “Although we are disappointed Alexis will not be able to join our team for world juniors, we understand and respect the decision made by the Rangers.”
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