5 Questions with Jesper Bratt: Why He Thinks About This Roster “Every Day”

Jesper Bratt #63 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jesper Bratt #63 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Now entering year seven with the New Jersey Devils/in the NHL, Jesper Bratt has elevated his status from part-time hero to prime-time player. That’s what happens when you post back-to-back 73-point seasons, and when you post two seasons like that in succession – you get paid. And the Devils paid Bratt this summer with a shiny new eight-year deal worth 63 (which happens to be his number) million dollars.

Over the past two seasons, Bratt and Jack Hughes have been one of the most dynamic duos in New Jersey’s franchise history, and now GM Tom Fitzgerald rewarded the youngsters’ growth with a veteran winger in Tyler Toffoli. He will be able to create more time and space for them, and then they will probably know what to do with it, but that’s a good thing. And it makes them harder to defend.

“He takes a lot of guys with him on the plays that he makes. On my third goal (tonight), he picks up a tough puck by the wall, rims it (around), and brings guys to the net front with him – that opened up the whole ice for me just by winning the battle vs. his guy and bringing them to the net,” Bratt said of Toffoli’s play that led to his hat trick goal in the preseason against the New York Islanders.

“He makes those plays all over the ice, maybe plays that not everyone sees, but when you play with a guy like that, you notice it all the time. He is an extremely smart guy. I think on the power play, when we start working more on it and get more ice time, it’s going to show even more.”

We spoke with Bratt after the Devils’ 6-5 preseason win to find out more about a guy who suddenly has become a leader and a veteran on a team that is growing top right before our eyes.

Pucks & Pitchforks: Is there any young player who has impressed you or caught your eye during this year’s training camp?

Jesper Bratt: “There are a lot of new guys that have come in and are playing very well. I think (Curtis) Lazar has been playing a lot so far, and he’s been doing a great job. He is a very hard player to play against, which I’ve seen in games, and he works hard in practice. He’s done an amazing job so far. The young guys, too, of course – (Simon) Nemec, Luke (Hughes), and (Alexander) Holtz-y have taken a step. A lot of guys, you can see that they are ready to take that next step and be a part of this team for a long time.”

New Jersey Devils
Alexander Holtz #10 (L) and Jesper Bratt #63 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

P&P: Do you remember what that was like as a young player in training camp trying to earn that NHL spot?

JB: “It starts the same way for everyone. You want to be there for those guys, if there’s anything they need. Obviously, with Holtzy, I have a great relationship and we train together in the summer; over the years, he’s become sort of a little brother to me. It’s been great to see him develop over the years, and he looks ready to take the next step. That’s been fun to follow, and I’m hoping to see more of him here.”

P&P: With a long-term deal finally done, what did you focus on this offseason in your training? Any one thing in particular?

JB: “Everything, really. A lot of really small details in the game, so it’s not just one particular thing; it’s getting all of the small details right. Obviously, game situations are hard to practice without playing actual games. So you play 1v1s or 2v2s, which is something I’ve implemented a lot the past few years; I’ve also talked a lot about maybe summer training with Jack to see how he trains and learn from that and help each other grow.”

P&P: With the core of the team, including yourself, now locked up contractually, do you think about how good this group can be over the next few years?

JB: “I’ve probably thought about it every day, to be honest. That’s the motivation every morning getting up, every workout, going to all the skates, all of the time and effort you put into it…you know what the end goal is possible of being. You see the way we play, the guys that we have in this room…I think we haven’t even come close to hitting our peak. We’re building on that every single day, every single season. We are just going to get better and better. It’s an extremely exciting time to be here.”

Next. Devils Milestones That Will Break This Season. dark

P&P: The team set a bunch of records last season with wins, points, etc – is it realistic to think that can be duplicated, or do you just need to get into the postseason because that is all that matters?

JB: “I dunno, I think our goal personally will always be to break the record again, that’s always what it will be. Whether it’s possible or not – there are a lot of things over a season that will make that hard and difficult. I know you can’t do it every year, but I think we should have that goal. It will be tougher this year because a lot of teams know now how good we are and will put their best performance against us. Our goal will always be to finish as high as we can.”