Brushett finds a home in Powell River
Well-travelled junior player from Quebec chasing down BCHL scoring title with the River Kings
Ryan Brushett is a resilient sort.
The Powell River Kings forward is trying to reel in Victoria Grizzlies forward Alex Newhook in the race for the scoring title down the stretch drive in the BCHL regular season.
The Kings are the third team in the league Brushett, a 20-year-old from Verdun, Que., has played for and the seventh Junior A roster he has been on — if you count his short stints with two Alberta teams this summer before being traded back into the BCHL with Powell River.
In his first 108 regular-season games in the league, spread over a season each with the Vernon Vipers and Surrey Eagles, Brushett compiled 31 goals and 75 points. Through 49 games this season with Powell River, he has 35 goals and 73 points.
Newhook, 18, projected to be a first-round pick for June’s NHL draft at Rogers Arena by many pundits, has 81 points, including 29 goals, through 46 games this season.
Victoria (31-16-0-3) is two points up on Powell River (3119-1-0) atop the Island Division with a game in hand. Victoria has eight games left in league play.
“As soon as I got to Powell River, I was welcomed with opened arms,” said Brushett, who is slated to play next season for the University of Nebraska Omaha, an NCAA program whose most celebrated alumnus is Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel.
“I just get along with the guys here and it’s always fun when you come to the rink and I’ve learned a lot.
“Obviously every year has been different. Every year brings different challenges. This year, I’ve been enjoying the process. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had some adversity, but we’ve tried to get through it as a group.”
Brushett’s rights were dealt to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs and then the Grande Prairie Storm over the summer, but he was adamant about playing his final year of junior eligibility in the BCHL.
Grande Prairie dealt him to Powell River Sept. 7 for future considerations and Kings general manager and coach Tyler Kuntz remembers thinking at the time his team had brought in a top-six, point-agame forward.
Brushett has obviously shot well past that.
“He’s been so great to coach. He got here and right away said, ‘Just tell me what you need me to do,’” said Kuntz, who was hired by Powell River in the off-season and whose resume includes a stint as an assistant with the Vancouver Giants and as bench boss of the UBC Thunderbirds.
“He’s a hockey nerd. He loves learning about the game. He loves working on his game. He’s hard to knock off the puck. He might not be the best skater, but his hockey IQ is very good and he always finds a way to get the puck on his stick with the game on the line.”
The Kings have excelled despite losing forwards Ben Berard (back) and Matthew Fawcett (shoulder) early in the campaign. Berard, a 29-goal man last season, had 10 goals in 12 games when he was sidelined, while Fawcett had 20 points in 21 games.
Brushett, a six-foot, 175-pounder, started his junior career in the United States Hockey League in 2015-16, splitting time between the Sioux Falls Stampede and Bloomington Thunder. He was the leading scorer on a Lac St.-Louis Lions midget team in 2014-15 that also featured forward Joseph Veleno, the Detroit Red Wings firstrounder who was part of the Canadian world junior entry.
Powell River Kings forward Ryan Brushett is breathing down the neck of Victoria Grizzlies star Alex Newhook in the race for the BCHL scoring title with 73 points in 49 games. Newhook has 81 points.