2005 Prospects: Brule casting his own shadow

By Aaron Vickers

“I don’t know. I don’t really know what’s going on in his life. I’m
not trying to live his life. I’m just trying to have fun with the Giants.”

The words echoed through the halls of the Pengrowth Saddledome, as 2005 prospect Gilbert Brule wanted to make one thing clear to those standing around him. He is not Sidney Crosby.

Frustration was building not only for the WHL Vancouver Giants, who had lost their seventh game in 11 tries at the hands of Ryan Getzlaf’s Calgary Hitmen in what was a 7-2 rout, but also in the young man set to lead the organization through the 2004-05
Western Hockey League season. Four games in five nights wore on the
youngster, as both the mental and physical aspects of junior hockey
took its toll on the consensus No. 2 selection in the 2005 NHL
Entry Draft.

On several occasions, the North Vancouver, BC native
Reiterated, “I’ve never compared myself to him, I just try to do my own thing.”

It was difficult at times to tell whether or not the frustrations of
the 17-year-old came from the fact that his Vancouver Giants squad had
fallen victim to their schedule, or that the name of ‘The Next One’, as
Wayne Gretzky put it, came up once again.

Crosby, a member of the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic, has been the consensus top choice in the upcoming draft for nearly three years, and has been
placed under a microscope by not only the media, but by other players,
coaches and fans alike. The attention that Crosby
has received has been so intense, that he could very well be the most
anticipated prospect to come out of Canada since Eric Lindros was
selected by the Quebec Nordiques in 1991, or even more impressively,
‘The Magnificent’ Mario Lemieux, the first selection from the 1984
draft.

Out west, however, there is a much quieter approach for Brule. This may
be puzzling for some, not only because Brule as well is a unique talent
with immense potential, but because both Brule and Crosby share the
same representation, IMG. While the media is buzzing about the phenom
down east in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the west coast buzz
has been low.

In fact, it’s been so quiet around Brule, that despite being third in
the league in scoring with 25 points in 18 games, wasn’t
announced among the first round of players scheduled to skate for the
Western Hockey League on one of two squads against Russia in the
CHL/Russia Challenge, set to face off later this month, in what will
undoubtedly be an audition for Red Deer Rebel and Team Canada Head
Coach Brent Sutter.

Not being named didn’t phase the youngster, who didn’t show a lot of
emotion in not being named.

“If I’m named to that team that’s good, but if I’m not I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in my life,”
explained Brule, who registered 60 points in 69 games last season.

“I’m just going to focus on my team and what we’re doing.”

And it is the focus of their leader that has the Vancouver Giants
sitting tied for second in the Western Conference in points at 22,
sharing the position with the Kelowna Rockets, Kootenay Ice and Everett
Silvertips. In fact, from what Brule himself will tell you, it
seems that the only thing the 5’11” 180lb center is focused on is the
task at hand – the 2004-05 WHL season.

“My personal goal is to do my best out there and help my team as much as possible.”

No mention of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. No mention of a potential
roster spot on the Canadian Junior Team. Just a simple team-first
attitude, and certainly no thoughts about being bigger then the team.
Make mention of the 2005 Top Prospects Game, though, and Brule lights
up. It may be another showcase for some top CHL prospects, but to Brule, it will be a chance to put on yet
another show in front of his hometown crowd in Vancouver.

“The prospects game is going to be really fun and
it’s going to be jam-packed in the Coliseum,” predicted Brule, who will
have the opportunity and advantage of playing in his own rink. “It’s
going to be a good time. I think I’m going to get a lot of support from Giants fans, as well as being from Vancouver. I’ll be happy to play in that game.”

The support the fans have given their hometown hero has not gone
unnoticed by Brule either. While there may be excess strain on him to
perform at a high level every night, the pressures of playing at home
have yet to show strain, something that has Giants Head Coach Don Hay
impressed.

“I think that being a local boy from Vancouver, there’s always a lot of attention on him,” began Hay, who knows a little something about that kind of pressure, coaching for his hometown Kamloops Blazers for a span of nine seasons. “I think he’s handled it well. I think
he’s doing a pretty good job.”

The praise from Hay certainly didn’t stop there.

“He’s a very competitive young man, a very skilled young man,” Hay
continued of Brule, who is set to turn 18 on January 1st. When you combine the two it makes for a really strong hockey player.
He’s doing well. He’s battling every night.”

Just as any young player, though, Brule is learning that he is part of a whole, and that the team, like each individual player, experiences ups and downs as well. A sign of maturity, it appears as though Brule’s main objective is to dictate the mood of the team, not to let the mood of the team dictate how he plays.

“Not to get down on the team when we get down,” was Brule’s reply when asked which facet of the game he felt he needed to improve most on.

While Brule works on his individual play, he’s certainly going to
improve those around him – the mark of a truly great player.

Much like last season, when no one considered Evgeny Malkin the
consolation prize for the Pittsburgh Penguins losing the Alexander
Ovechkin sweepstakes, Gilbert Brule will not be an afterthought in the
2005 NHL Entry Draft. He will not be in Sidney Crosby’s shadow, he’ll be too busy casting his own.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.