by Denis Savage
At 6’1″ and 210lbs, the “Big Bear”, Pavel Brendl stands on the brink of the NHL. Drafted 4th overall by the Rangers in the 1999 draft Brendl has continued to linger atop the Ranger prospect list with fellow 1999 draft pick Jamie Lundmark. Playing in the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen he continues to tear up the league posting impressive scoring numbers. At 20 years old he has continued his pace for a goal a game average during his 3-year junior career.
Coming from Opocno in the Czech Republic he was selected by Calgary in the CHL import draft in the 34th spot, a true steal as Brendl wound up earning rookie of the year honors for the Hitmen and leading them to the Memorial Cup Finals. Pavel also won the scoring title in his rookie campaign for the Hitmen. In the next 2 years Pavel continues with his torrid streak of putting up points. His work ethic has been questioned due to his lack of defensive prowess, but hoping to lay that to rest, Pavel requested to be put on the fourth line down the stretch for Calgary this past year to work on that aspect of his game.
Brendl possesses a hard, accurate shot that often finds its intended target. This precision also helps in his passing game as he has pinpoint accuracy on finding his teammates. Pavel has great vision on the ice feeling his linemates whereabouts, and knowing where the puck will wind up next based on the play. His skating is deceiving, as he is not known as a burner, yet, he has had many breakaways based on offensive positioning and a strong stride. He is not afraid of crashing the net and holding his own position in front of the crease. This balance makes it hard for opponents to take him off his feet and he often shields the puck well when carrying it through the zone. Brendl exceptional stick handling aids his wrist shot in accuracy and power. He is a game breaker who can explode at any time.
|There are still many questions on Brendl, but his talent seems assured
While Brendl will have to continue to work on his defensive game it is not nearly as bad as advertised. His attitude and work ethic being criticized in the past Pavel has grown and worked towards his defensive limitations by the request he put into Calgary to be on the fourth line. In fact, he tried to focus too much on it last camp and was sent back to the WHL for not showing enough scoring. Of course he has to learn how to balance that out and he is definitely an offensive machine who may never be a great defender. He does have the tools to backcheck and play a physical game but thus far he has only played physical in the offensive zone such as taking a hit to make a play. If he can translate that into defensive zone awareness, instead of lingering along the blue line waiting to turn into offensive mode, he will become a great all-around player.
While many believe this could be the year for Brendl to join the Rangers, this year Brendl will wear #8 for the Wolfpack. Making the jump from juniors often makes for a very hard year of NHL life. The Rangers have provided the Big Club with enough depth to let their younger players’ time to develop another year in the AHL and possibly bond into a great line. He may end up on one of the best lines to ever skate through the AHL. The pipeline of future NHLers’ is set to be stocked in Hartford. There is no need to rush our best assets. Looking at other teams maybe we have begun to learn that patience and proper instruction is the key. Brendl will be poised for insertion among the top lines in 2002. Then he will be ready to make his explosion on the scene.