Warriors star focused on his game, not draft
Brayden Point gets a lot of attention in the WHL, which makes it surprising how easily he can be overlooked.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Brayden Point, right, from the Moose Jaw Warriors looks to make a pass in front of Regina Pats defenceman Colby Williams.
The Moose Jaw Warriors centre is the centre of attention for opposing teams, but he hasn’t gotten a lot of respect during his draft year.
In the NHL’s Central Scouting Service’s November players to watch list graded Point as a B: a second or third round pick.
The BMO Top Prospects Game will be played in Point’s hometown of Calgary on Jan. 15. He wasn’t amongst the 40 players named to the game last week.
“I’m a little disappointed. It would have been cool to go to, but there are a lot of great players who also deserve it,” said Point who isn’t worried that a Prospects Game snub is a sign his draft stock may be sliding.
“It just takes one guy to like you so I don’t worry about it too much.”
His head coach, Mike Stothers, isn’t worried that Point will slip between the cracks on draft day.
“There’s so many good hockey minds out there looking at him,” said Stothers, who was a first round pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. “They’ll look beyond the, I guess, lack of height and see a guy who has unbelievable vision and hockey sense. His hockey sense is unreal and kids like that just don’t come along. It’s off the charts. There’s room in the game for guys like that.”
Beyond worrying about his own draft status, Point is also the centre of attention when the opposition are devising a game plan against the Warriors.
“It’s hard for a guy like him. The opposition’s focus is: ‘stop Point.’ He’s always seeing either the top defencemen or the top lines — or all five. It’s hard, but he’s finding ways to figure it out and make some contributions — as all good players do,” said Stothers.
Much like the Warriors, Point’s season hasn’t been what he had hoped for so far. He has 13 goals and 30 points in 36 games so far this season. Those numbers aren’t bad and with four goals and four assists in the last five games he seems to have found his game.
“As a team we’ve had some ups and downs and personally I’ve had some ups and downs as well,” said Point. “I think I’m ending (the first half of the season) off pretty well and hopefully I can continue that (Tuesday in Prince Albert) and then after the break.”
Stothers knows better than anyone how hard Point works and the high standards he holds himself to.
“He got off to a slow start — for him — and struggled at times — for him,” said Stothers. “His game is getting much, much better and he’s looking like the Pointer of old. He pretty much has the puck the whole time he’s on the ice; making things happen.”
Point was on the ice for all five of the Warriors goals in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Kamloops.
He started his season by being named the most valuable player in the final of the Memorial of Hlinka under-18 tournament as Canada beat the United States 4-0. Point was hoping to use the Hlinka as a springboard to a strong start to the WHL season.
“I may have put too much pressure on myself. I might have been gripping my stick a little too tight,” admitted Point. “Pucks weren’t bouncing my way a little bit. I’ve settled down and I’ve gotten more comfortable.”
Point is never less than diplomatic, but he is also incredibly driven and a relentless worker. He’s the last guy off the ice at Warriors practice most days and Stothers is confident he’ll channel any disappointment from missing the Top Prospects Game in a positive manner.
“The thing with him is that he’s so competitive and I know (lack of success) eats at him,” said Stothers. “That’s what is going to make him a difference-maker. He’s going to play. He’s going to make a contribution to whoever he goes to (in the NHL). It might take some time, but he will.”
Point has grown three inches to stand five-foot-nine since the Warriors drafted him in the first round of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, but he still only weighs 160 pounds.
Stothers has told him not to dwell on things he can’t control — whether that is the NHL draft or his own genetics.
“He can’t control his height and his weight. He’ll fill out more. He’ll get stronger. Genetics will determine how much bigger he’s going to be. He can’t help that,” said Stothers who called the draft “the elephant in the room” for draft-eligible players.
Point said he’s taken it to heart and is trying to not dwell on the draft and focus on his own play every night and the success of the team.
“It weighed on my mind more at the start of the year than it does now. I think I put that aside a little bit,” said Point. “I’m trying to focus on my game and not the big picture. I’m trying to do what I can do to help the team.”